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Three Must-Do Exercises For Targeting Your Audience
Contributor
Written by
Maria Ross
May 2012
Contributor
Written by
Maria Ross
May 2012

A writer friend once told me, "You better be sure you like spending time alone if you want to be a writer. It can get pretty lonely."

Sound familiar? If that weren't true, She Writes would not be the thriving support community that is is!

Writing is extremely personal, solitary, introspective. We sit at our computers with our lattes and our brilliance, sometimes clacking away in a fit of inspired eloquence, surrounded by a vigorous symphony in our head; sometimes, staring sadly at a blank screen as only the chirps of crickets breaks the oppressive silence.

But sometimes, we lose sight of the fact that when we're done, someone else needs to read our work. And this person does not adore us, love us and get us as much as our best friends or our moms.

Now, I'm talking marketable writing here, folks. I'm all about not giving a rat's behind about what others think if you are journaling, writing for yourself or writing as a means of artistic expression.

But if your goal is to sell books, you'll need to keep this anonymous reader in mind at all times - and try to make them not-so anonymous. Here are three exercises you can do to focus on your target readers and write for them.

1. Determine up to three possible markets for your book: Given the genre and themes of your book, which groups of people will be interested in it? If its YA, you already know their age range but perhaps it's just girls, or more specifically, "teen girls interested in fantasy." Segment one or two (or maybe three, but no more) large buckets of people who would be interested in your book. For example, my first book, Branding Basics for Small Business is meant for: 1) small Main Street business owners who are doing everything in the business themselves 2) start-up entrepreneurs and junior marketing staff and 3) solo-entrepreneur service professionals. While marketing executives at larger companies might be interested as well, I didn't write it specifically for them - which meant I needed to assume the reader had little marketing knowledge so I had to define terms, acronyms and concepts that are pretty familiar to many experienced marketers. With my latest book, Rebooting My Brain, the 3 audience groups are: 1) medical professionals who work with brain injury and stroke victims 2) brain injury survivors or their families and 3) women between the ages of 30-55 who enjoy inspirational memoir and tales of overcoming challenge.

 

2. Create a character sketch of your ideal reader: You're a writer, right? This one should be easy! Develop a one-page dossier on a specific reader. Flesh out her name, occupation, interests, family life, hobbies, values and activities. For example: Jane is 35 years old, married with 2 small children. She's a busy, working mom who lives in the suburbs. She enjoys independent film, red wine and spending time with her kids. She belongs to a monthly book club and really enjoys reading historical fiction. She's tech savvy and very active writing reviews on Yelp or connecting with friends on Facebook. Doing this exercise is something I advise my business clients to do with their brands! What it does is help you tailor your writing to an actual person, rather than a generic group of people. You can picture her holding your book (or reading it on her Kindle) either on the bus to work or curled up on the sofa. It will help your writing be more connective to an actual person - plus the added bonus of #1 and #1 is that they help you find some marketing opportunities you may not have thought of before. They can guide which media outlets you pitch for promotion. Also, If "Jane" is on Facebook alot and is very social media savvy, perhaps you can purchase some paid ads on Facebook or start a Facebook page for the book.

 

3. Ask ideal readers to review the drafts: A good friend of mine wrote a contemporary romance novel that leans toward light and humorous chick lit. When she was in final drafts, she selectively chose friends to review: only those women who would indeed buy and enjoy a romance novel. In fact, I was the only one who was not really a romance fan, but since I do enjoy a good chick lit read now and then, she had me give it a whirl to see how far the book leaned in that direction. And I really enjoyed it, even without being a romance reader. This was invaluable feedback for her and informed some of her marketing efforts as a result.

 

Do you have any special tips or techniques for defining your ideal reader and keeping them in mind while you write? Please share in the comments!

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