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Who Is Your Ideal Reader?

bookstore readersUnless we’re journaling or writing a letter, most of us write with the hope our writing will be published and we’ll get paid for it.

It’s easy, however, when you’re focusing on publication to forget who you’re really writing for. Although you certainly have to get accepted by the publisher and/or the publisher’s editor(s), the truth is you’re writing so your writing will be read.

Knowing you’re aiming at getting read means you can, and should, define the ideal reader(s) for the work in progress.

For example, I actually have a mental picture of the ideal reader(s) for this blog, and for this article. The list looks something like this:

  • A beginning or mid-level writer. Although I certainly don’t want to eliminate experienced professional writers, I know that most of the people searching for freelance writing, freelance writing jobs and the like are either wanting to start their freelance writing career or to change it or make it more profitable.
  • Probably 16 years old or older, and the truth is probably mid to late 20s on up is more like it. That’s based on my own experience. I didn’t really get started writing until my mid- to late twenties, and I didn’t get published until I was thirty-two. For the most part we seem to need at least some life experience to get published.
  • Non-fiction writers, including bloggers, magazine article writers, web writers, and book writers of all sorts, including ghostwriters.
  • I’ll have to admit I’ve got some gender bias going too – I know we’ve got some good men reading the blog, but my mental picture of an ideal reader tends to be female unless I work at gender neutrality a bit. Almost a year ago I defined my ideal reader a little differently.

Do you begin to see how this works?

It’s not, come to think of it, unlike building characters in a novel, except here you hope you’re defining real people – the people you expect will read what you write.

Knowing who you’re writing for let’s you speak directly to them. Here I know people are interested in writing on a freelance basis. Since I write non-fiction, I blog mostly about non-fiction, with an occasional nod to the fiction world, often through a guest post. With that in mind I don’t have to try to tell you about plot – I don’t know how to plot. I don’t have to talk about literary magazines, although I’m aware they are out there. I don’t have to pretend I can talk to you about writing for young adults. Instead, I can write about what I know best.

When you know who you’re writing for you automatically know quite a bit about the market – where to find those readers. That means it’s easier to find the magazines, or the right search terms, or the publishers that will help you get your work in front of the right readers.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that editors know who their readers are. You are much more likely to make a sale if your ideal reader matches the readers the editor is working to reach.

So go ahead. Get specific and define your ideal reader and write for them.

How do you define your ideal reader?


Photo by Boni Idem found at http://www.sxc.hu

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Anne:

    You know what? I believe I could find ways to make that work 🙂

    .-= Mark Keating´s last blog ..A no-fuss solar-powered building | ZDNet Photo Gallery =-.

  • Anne:

    My ideal reader? Corporate Communications manager with $500k left in his annual budget who thinks I’m a genius.

    If you find him/her, let me know…

    .-= Mark Keating´s last blog ..US subsidies of oil and coal more than double the subsidies of renewable energy =-.

    • Anne

      Well, Mark, any corp comm manager in the oil or coal industry – ducking for cover – good definition…

  • I like having you as one of my guys. 😉
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..Funky Town =-.

  • Great topic, Anne. It was one of the toughest things I had to determine when I first started writing. And it’s essential because it helps you find your voice.

    In the beginning of my career, I wrote for a faceless friend. I imagined my sister, my mom, my dad or brother sitting across from me. Didn’t work. I imagined girlfriends. Nope, can’t say that to them. Then I imagined what if it were a “perfect” friend who came without a history of your life (I lived in a small town – everyone knew everyone and their histories)? I wrote to that person.

    Now, I write for “you guys.” I write for the audience as though we’ve shared a meal or swapped stories. I don’t have an “age”, but I have an idea of the thread that connects us, be it writing, insurance, or any other topic I’m writing about.
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..Funky Town =-.

    • Anne

      I like being one of your you guys 😉

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