Saturday, February 23, 2013

Defining the Reader Part 2

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After you’ve thought about the qualities of your potential readers, you might want to stake out some of them before you begin to write for them. Here are some more ideas that might help you find out what your readers care about. 

Go out to coffee with a friend or acquaintance who typifies your ideal reader, and have an in-depth conversation with them about the subject of your writing. Ask them what they care about, in terms of your topic. What questions does he or she have? Does he or she have any objections to your position? What problems do they have that your writings might solve for them?  A good idea is to record these conversations (with their permission, of course.)

Or you might want to take surveys of your potential readership.  If you have an email distribution list, or a group of friends on a social networking site, or have joined clubs or other interest groups, ask these same kinds of questions of them.

Social networking sites can be very valuable for finding out what people are thinking. For instance, when I want to find out what my potential readers are thinking about a particular subject, I’ve learned that asking a question in my status line on Facebook or Twitter will bring me many opinions. Or I might ask that same question in a Facebook group that pertains to my subject.

Find out what your potential readers are thinking and wondering about. How will your writing help them? Ask them and find out!

Try to make your ideal readers as real to you as possible. You might want to browse through magazines and cut out pictures which represent who you are writing for, and put those pictures right by your computer, where you’ll see them. Or you can write about your readers – just a paragraph or two about who they are, what they care about, and what you want them to “get” from your writing, and why they would want to “get” it.  Anything that helps you visualize these people will help you write for them.

I sometimes have dialogues (imaginary) with my hoped-for readers. I talk to them as if they are sitting right in front of me. Even if my book is written in the narrative style, I’ll pretend that it isn’t, and address my reader as “you.” This makes them real to me.

Sometimes I even give them names, but don’t tell anybody.

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit


  1. Thanks for the tips, Kim. I haven't gone so far as to name my readers, but I do keep them in mind when writing. Most readers of mystery are savvy enough to pick up on police terminology and procedures, so I remind myself not to insult them by putting in details that they already know. That drove my editor nuts, as she had never edited a mystery, but I convinced her I did not need to do as much explaining as she was asking for.

  2. I love the photo. I really want to name these characters. LOL.

  3. Very good points, Kim. Yours, too, Maryann. Keeping the reader in mind keeps the story relevant to your target audience, which too many writers fail to do.

    Very good post.

  4. I don't (yet) know many people who fit my readership (MG), so I think I might have to chat to parents first. But, certainly, when I go through my final edits I know I will be looking for a beta-reader or two in that age group to ensure my slang is up-to-date ;-)

  5. Good! It was hard for me to project who my readers might be before my books were published, but that's what the agents and publishers want to know in your "marketing platform."

  6. Thanks for this two-parter, Kim. Identifying readers has been the bugaboo in my co-authoring venture. My partner turns out first drafts of horror stories with very midwestern, conservative, wholesome characters. So, my thought all along is that those who are going to relate to the characters are not going to relate to the horror (or even want to be a beta reader because of the horror) and vice versa. Your suggestions are definitely going to be shared with him. :-)

  7. Maryann, Excellent point on knowing your readership (or in general, just plain sticking to your guns on something important to you) when working with your editor.

  8. Helps to know your audience inside and out. Great ideas!

    Morgan Mandel


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