Fiction Writers: How to Find Your Ideal Reader

POSTED ON Feb 13, 2015

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > Marketing, Self-Publishing > Fiction Writers: How to Find Your Ideal Reader

By Cathy Yardley (@CathyYardley)

Last week, editor and author Cathy Yardley shared her tips for finding readers for your nonfiction book. Today, Cathy offers some great suggestions for identifying the audience of your fiction books.

In my last post, I covered how to find your ideal reader for nonfiction authors. For nonfiction, your ideal reader is identified by what problem he’s trying to solve. Fiction, on the other hand, is trickier. You’re trying to discover your reader based on how he finds new novels he enjoys.

You could say his “problem” is finding books that satisfy his particular tastes, especially when he doesn’t have anything new to read – all his favorite authors are between books, he’s read all their offerings, and now he’s forced to search for something else to feed the craving. If you’re a hard core fiction fan, you know just how real this craving can be!

Before you can identify who your audience is, you need to know what you are offering. To do this, answer the following questions:

    1. What genre are you writing?
      A lot of people have difficulty figuring out what genre they’re writing. They may feel like their work “doesn’t fit” into any genre, or is a cross-genre work – say, a romance and a sci-fi, or a blend of thriller and humor.I could go into this topic at length, but bottom line: one genre’s audience will be more open to your book than any other, based on the conventions of that genre. Romance readers are more likely to look for romances that have sci-fi elements than sci-fi readers are to look for love stories, so even if your storylines are fairly evenly based, in this case I’d lean towards targeting romance readers.

      You want to find the core audience that is most likely to enjoy your work. This will be your beachhead genre.

    1. What are you the most passionate about in your story?
        • Why did you write this story in the first place?
        • Do you love intricate world building? Do you prefer a break-neck action adventure?
        • Do you emphasize the mood, atmosphere and setting in beautiful prose?
        • Do you want to explore a particular theme?

      The things you love about writing are usually the things you carry through in all your work. Your audience will respond to that, as well.

      If you write mystery, there’s a big difference between a light mystery with plenty of banter and humor, and a terse, noir-inspired mystery. While some readers might enjoy both, your ideal reader prefers to stick with the style you write. Don’t focus on convincing people to try your book despite their preferences.

    1. Who are some comparative authors and titles?
      Notice Amazon does this all the time with their recommendations. If you had to name a few authors in your genre who either remind you of your work, who you admire (because they do what you’re passionate about extremely well), or who tackle themes you often explore… who would they be? What novels, specifically? More than likely, your ideal reader will already know about and voraciously read these authors.

Next Step: Go Native

Start with a simple Google search for some of your comparative authors plus “fans” or “reader group” or “book blog”. This will lead you to:

    • forums
    • blogs
    • book review sites where there should discussions

Feel free to participate. However, do NOT identify yourself as an author! This is not the time to bullishly force your way into a conversation to shill your wares. This is fact finding only!

Let’s say you’ve written a Dystopian Sci-Fi novel. There are plenty of comparative titles to choose from. You read several, and decide the two most similar are Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson and READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline.

After searching for those titles plus “fan” or “discussion”, you check out in some forums that discuss cyberpunk and sci-fi stories and those stories particularly, to see what readers love (and what they complain about) and to get a sense of who they are:

    • how often they read
    • what else they read
    • what they recommend to each other and why

Because they like the same things you like, you should be able to communicate with them thoughtfully, perhaps even offering up your own recommendations – as long as they are not your book. At least, not at this point, and not in this context.

Final Step: Create a Targeted Marketing Plan

Through your research:

    • you know your genre
    • you’ve found comparative authors
    • you’ve researched your audience

You now know:

    • what they like
    • what they dislike
    • how they find new novels

Armed with this information:

    • You’re able to better niche your genre down to best attract your ideal reader through search via online bookstore, including metadata.
    • You know the keywords they’d use, or how to write the book description to best attract them.
    • You know the smaller book bloggers and forums that feed into the more influential ones.
    • You’ll know where to send review copies.

    • You might submit guest posts about topics and peeves that your target audience will enjoy to (i.e., “Why Are Dystopian worlds either filthy or sterile?” or “Five Best All-Hell-Breaks-Loose Dystopian Movies” ).
    • And, you might offer “Read for Review” copies to targeted groups that allow them.

Once you have the cornerstone, your targeted ideal reader, creating the plan becomes much, much easier.

Above all: Respect Your Reader

Readers aren’t just dollar signs with legs. Marketing isn’t about “making a sale”… it’s about building a readership.

Target the wrong readers by casting the net too wide, or fool them into purchasing your book by being vague and misleading, and you might manage to move some units. But by the time you launch your next book, you’ll be working twice as hard, since you’ll have few repeat customers. Better to slowly and organically grow a group of core fans – your ideal readers – who will then purchase all of your books, because you’re writing just for them.

Yardleyphoto2Cathy Yardley is the author of eighteen traditionally published romance, women’s fiction, and urban fantasy novels. She’s also a developmental editor and writing coach at Sign up for her free e-course Jumpstart Your Writing Career, and receive helpful hints on pinpointing where you might be stuck – and how to get back on track for a successful fiction writing career.


Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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