How to Identify Your Story's Ideal Reader

When you’re absorbed in the task of writing a novel, it can be easy to forget that the whole point of what you’re trying to do is engage a reader and satisfy his or her expectations of your story.

But if you don’t know who your ideal reader is, how can you possibly write a story that meets (or exceeds) your ideal reader’s expectations?

As a book coach and a developmental editor, I work with a lot of writers who don’t know who their target audience is. So, in today’s post, I’m going to talk about why ideal readers are important, and how to create an ideal reader profile for your next novel. Let’s dive in!




What is an Ideal Reader?

An ideal reader is the ONE person who's going to love your book just as much as you do.

Your ideal reader can be someone you know, someone you made up, or a mixture of both. Either way, he or she represents the type of person who would pick up your book, enjoy reading it, and recommend it to his or her friends. 



Understanding your Ideal Reader can help you:

Write with purpose.

When you know who your ideal reader is before you write, it’ll be easier to craft your story to meet their wants, needs, and expectations. You’ll be able to create characters, plot events, settings, and themes that will appeal directly to your target audience and that will deliver the emotional experience he or she is looking for.

Focus on what’s important when it’s time to edit.

Editing can be overwhelming, but when you know who you’re writing for—and what those readers want, need, and expect from your story—it makes it a whole lot easier to get rid of any characters, plot events, settings, etc. that won’t appeal to your target audience.

Pitch agents.

Agents want to know that you (the writer) know exactly who your target audience is, since this is the first step they need to take in figuring out how to reach them. If you can speak knowingly about your target audience, agents will know you’ve put in the work and thought about the marketplace in which your book is about to enter. This will make the process of finding and pitching agents to represent your book that much easier.

Market your book.

If you’re going the route of self-publishing, understanding your target audience will help you figure out which communities you should be reaching out to and how you can get those people interested in your book. This will save you from spinning your wheels and wasting time and energy getting your book in front of people who aren’t going to enjoy your book even if it is well-written.

Hopefully, you can see that no matter where you are in the process, it’s never too late to figure out exactly who would enjoy your story the most. So, without further ado, let’s go over how to create an ideal reader profile for your next novel!



How to create an Ideal Reader profile:

Figuring out who your story’s ideal reader is doesn’t have to be scary or difficult. In fact, it can actually be pretty fun! And once you understand WHO your ideal reader is, you’ll need to consider what else he or she likes to read, and WHY. These questions will also get you thinking about your story’s  “comp titles”–which you’ll need if you plan on pitching agents. So, here are some questions to help you get to know your ideal reader—and remember, try to be as specific as possible when answering!

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s your ideal reader’s name?
  • How old is he or she?
  • Where does he or she live?
  • What kind of personality does he or she have?
  • When he or she can’t sleep at night, what’s keeping them up? What is he or she afraid of?
  • What does he or she want or hope for more than anything in the world?
  • How can your book help him or her get it?
  • Why does your ideal reader read in the first place? What kind of feeling is he or she seeking?
  • What other books has he or she read that are similar to yours?
  • Which book is his or her favorite?
  • Why does he or she love this particular book so much?
  • What would your ideal reader say after finishing your book?
  • What would your ideal reader say when recommending your book to a friend?



Final Thoughts

So, there you have it—everything I know about creating an ideal reader profile for your next novel!

Remember—you can’t please everyone with your story.  While you can certainly hope that everyone will love your book, you need to start out with a much smaller, more narrowly defined group of people who have certain wants and needs.

There IS a person out there who will love and appreciate your story. And when you know who you’re writing for—while you’re writing—the story you come up with will be that much more intentional and powerful.

How to Identify Your Story's Ideal Reader (+ Why You Need One) | Savannah Gilbo - Have you identified the target audience for your story yet? If not, learn how to create an ideal reader profile for your novel in this post. Other writing tips included, too! #amwriting #writingtips #writingcommunity

👉 Let's discuss in the comments: Did this article help you discover your ideal reader? Who is he or she? Do you feel more confident about writing your story now that you know who your target audience is? Let us know in the comments below!

Savannah is a developmental editor and book coach who helps fiction authors write, edit, and publish stories that work. She also hosts the top-rated Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast full of actionable advice that you can put into practice right away. Click here to learn more →