Approximately two seconds after diving into my book marketing research, I realized that a big buzzword is "Ideal Reader," and, as always, I was left with even more questions like Who are these people? Where do I find them? Huh?
First things first the definition of an ideal reader is the reader to which your work would most appeal.
This is our target audience. So glad we didn't overcomplicate things. But what does the definition and exploration of the 'ideal reader' actually mean for my writing and marketing? After much time on the googles, these are my takeaways.
Writing What You Love ≠ Being Your Own Ideal Reader
My immediate thought was, I'm writing for myself, duh. And that is sort of true. I'm writing stories that I care about, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I am the ideal reader. In my case, yes, I would fall in the center of the Venn diagram, but that's not true for all writers. I loved the example from this post from Well-Storied.com about adults writing children's books. Obviously, those authors aren't their own ideal readers, but they still write what they love. Sigh of relief.
Defining an Ideal Reader is About Focus, not Alienation.
I know that the primary audience for rom-com fiction is women, and that's cool, but I've also talked to a lot of men lately who have said they enjoy a rom-com on occasion, and if one of those awesome fellas finds my book, I don't want him to think it's not for him because it's not FOR him. Defining your ideal reader is about focusing your efforts both in writing and in marketing. It is not about excluding people.
Reader Quality > Reader Quantity
I am revising my first novel, writing the first draft of a second novel, plus I have at least two more ideas that I want to start outlining soon. That means I don't want to have a lot of people read one book. I want an audience of readers who will want to read multiple books. Having an ideal reader and marketing directly to them gives you a better chance of finding an audience who will want to read all of your work.
Ideal Reader Research for Fiction Writers is Kinda Creepy
In most of the research on ideal readers, I didn't really find a "How To" on doing market research on the audience for fiction writers. As all copy and content writers know, there are many market research tools out there, but as they apply to fiction writers (at least in the rom-com, women's fiction, chick-lit spaces), those tools are not helpful. To glean info on my ideal reader, I searched social media for posts about other authors who write in my genre. Then looked at the profiles of the people who made those posts, which meant I spent considerable time looking at profile pages of complete strangers. Not going to lie, it felt a little icky, but I was careful not to interact with those pages (unless they were other authors), saw that there are a lot of very cool people who like this genre, and came up with the following Venn diagram for my ideal reader.
So, yeah. My ideal reader is pretty cool. I hope yours is too.
If you've got any great ideal reader research tips, please drop them in the comments! I'm always happy to learn some new tips and tricks.