Write For Your Ideal Reader

by Anne Wayman

Every writing project has an ideal reader. One way to shape your writing is to imagine that reader.

Better yet, imagine your three ideal readers. After all, one of the most important reasons to write, at least for publication, is to have what you write read. We write for the reader.

Defining your ideal readers accomplishes several things:

  1. Knowing who your readers are helps you focus not only on what you want to communicate, but how you want to say it. For example, you might want to write an article or a book on the effects of spending hours in from of a computer. If parents are you readers, you’ll want a whole different tone than if teenagers are your audience.
  2. Imagining the ideal reader helps with marketing.
  3. When you know your readers, you’ll know how to find them. Knowing how to find the reader is the basis of all your marketing efforts. Although the reader is often obvious when you’re doing articles and short stories for magazines, you may be surprised; if you take a few moments to write about your reader, you may find additional markets.

    For book length manuscripts, knowing who your readers are is an absolute requirement. Tempting as it is to think whatever we’re writing is for “everyone,” that’s just not true. In fact, if you try to write for everyone, or even a broad section of people, the work you produce is likely to be boring and disconnected.

  4. Editors know exactly who their readers are. The media kits from magazine publishers reveal they know, in detail, the gender, age, income and interests of their readers. They know because they ask through reader surveys. In fact, it’s often a good idea to request a media kit from a magazine publisher, just to take advantage of that research. Book publishers and their editors also know their market, which is just another way to say they know their readers. Their research isn’t as available as magazine publishers are, but a book catalog can help you zero in on their targets. Editors love writers who demonstrate, through their proposals, queries and finished work, that they have thought about and identified the ideal readers.



Defining Your Ideal Readers

Using this site as an example, my current ideal readers for this site are:

    No. 1 – female, white, age 20-105+, kids or grandkids, working or retired, wants to work at home, may have been published and is starting to take writing seriously.No. 2 – fairly well established writers, mostly non-fiction, both men and women, ages 35 to 105+ wanting to know how to make more money and build their writing business.

    No. 3 – Writers who are also blogging.

    No. 4 – Writers and would-be writers looking for freelance writing jobs.

I know these are my readers for two reasons… my internet provider (1and1) provides stats that allow me to know where people come from. I get email and I ask, and our forum also gives clues about who is participating.

Notice I said this was my current definition. That’s because I know things always change.

I do exactly the same thing for books… make a list of two or three or sometimes four ideal readers and describe them as best I can. When I’ve got that firmly in mind, I know more about how and what I’ll write, and who I’ll market to… not bad for a couple of hours of thinking.

Tell us how you identify your ideal reader(s).

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

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