When readers feel connected to an author, a friendship is born. Readers who feel like friends are far more likely to read and promote your book.
If you don’t know anything about your readers, you won’t be able to write to them in a meaningful way, you won’t become friends, and they won’t be able to promote your book authentically.
The better you know your readers, the better you can connect with them through your writing and marketing. Your focus on connecting with readers will increase your book’s impact.
Why Get to Know Your Readers
When you get to know your readers, you can tailor your books to their needs and desires.
Writers often make the mistake of writing for their editor rather than for their readers. Writing that delights an editor may win an award, but writing that thrills readers will sell books.
If you are writing nonfiction, your goal is to answer specific questions your reader is asking. Answering specific reader questions will keep you from writing for your editor.
When James L. Rubart discovered that 60% of his readers were female, he shifted his strategy. While all his previous books had been written from a male protagonist’s point of view, once he got to know his audience, he wrote a book from the point of view of a female protagonist.
So how do you get to know your readers?
5 Tools to Help You Find Your Readers
1. Facebook Insights
Facebook offers insights about who is visiting your Facebook page. You can see where they’re located in the world, what language they speak, their age range, their gender, and what kind of device they’re using to view your page.
Visitors to the Facebook page for my book Courtship in Crisis book are 66% women ages 25–35. The data makes sense because women in that age group are most likely to read a book on courtship.
Seventy percent of the Novel Marketing Podcast Facebook page fans are women. One in five is between the ages of 45 and 55. I wouldn’t have guessed that because most of the messages and questions we receive are from men.
If I hadn’t checked our Facebook insights, I might have thought most of our listeners were men, but that is not the case. Now that we know, we can tailor our podcast to 50-year-old women because they make up most of our audience.
On our Author Media page, 73% of our fans are women. Most readers and writers are women, so that data is not surprising.
Learning about your audience will help you decide what to write, which questions you’ll answer, and where you’ll market your book.
2. Google Alerts
While Facebook can only tell you about your Facebook fans, Google Alerts can tell you about users across the internet.
Google has a large army of bots that constantly scan web pages. Google Alerts is a service that will notify you via email anytime someone mentions your name or book title on the open internet.
To sign up for the free service, visit Google Alerts and search for your name. If you have a common name, put your name in quotes. You can also create a Google Alert for your book title in quotes.
Use quotation marks around your search phrases so you’ll only receive alerts for your book. For example, I set up an alert for “Courtship in Crisis.” I used quotes because I wanted Google to search for all three words together in that order. If I don’t use quotes, I’ll get an email alert every time any person on the internet uses any one of those words, which would not be helpful.
Google Alert emails give you an idea of what people are saying about you or your book online. For example, I’ve learned that my book is often quoted in academic writing because the title is cited in the footnotes of papers and articles.
Your readers probably won’t email you to say they’ve written a blog post about you or your book, but if you have Google Alerts set up, you’ll see their post. It’s a great way to listen to your readers.
3. Google Analytics
You can easily add Google Analytics to your website for free with a WordPress plugin. You’ll receive a report about your web visitors that will give you the following information:
- Their location
- Which operating system they use to view your website
- What pages they view while on your site
- How long they view each page
If you’re blogging, you’ll discover which posts resonate with your audience.
You may get a lot of comments on a post, but that doesn’t mean a lot of people read it. A post with zero comments may still rank well on Google if a lot of people read it.
Readers are more likely to comment on a post they didn’t like. If they enjoyed a blog post and it made them feel good, they’re less likely to write about it.
Google Analytics will show you the hard data on how many people have visited a page.
4. Goodreads Reviews
Goodreads pulls a lot of reader information from Facebook. You can learn about your readers by viewing their profiles. Research the Goodreads profiles of your four-start and five-star reviewers. Find out what they have in common and what books they like. You’ll discover whether your reader is like you or not. Are they the same gender, ethnicity, and age as you are? If not, learn about your readers from those demographic groups you don’t belong to.
Goodreads reader profile data will help you hone your message to readers who already like your books.
5. Kindle Underlined Passages
Kindle users can underline passages in your book, and you can see which lines they loved. Looking over underlined passages will tell you what’s resonating with your readers.
If you see that 907 people underlined the same passage, you can be sure that passage is impacting your readers. It’s a great way to discover what is resonating.
You may discover a theme readers want you to explore more deeply in your writing, or you might see the seeds for your next story idea.
Create Reader Personas
Creating a person will give you a reader to write for.
Write a character sketch for your target reader based on the data you’ve collected from the above sources. The persona you create will be your target reader. Everything you write will be aimed toward them.
Write a paragraph that specifies your persona’s
- Family profile, how many kids? Married? How long?
- Passions, hobbies, movies they love
- Location and residence
- Income level
You can even print a stock photo of your fictional target reader so that you have a visual. Focusing on one person will force you to dial in your writing and marketing. Your product or writing will be better and more useful because of your focus.
Non-Fiction Persona Exercise
If you’re writing nonfiction, write a paragraph detailing your target reader’s
- Felt Needs
- Primary Pain Point
- Questions they’re asking
- Loves (what thrills them)
Authors sometimes push back on this exercise because they know their book will be useful to a wider demographic. But let’s consider Harry Potter as an example. J.K. Rowling wrote the book for 12-year-old boys. She focused on thrilling one specific reader, and now millions of readers from every demographic have enjoyed a story originally written for young boys.
If you believe focusing on one reader will limit your reach, you don’t understand marketing.
Your target reader is like the bullseye of a target. It doesn’t mean that people outside the bullseye won’t love your book, but it gives you something to aim for.
Focus is powerful.
One big rock thrown into the middle of the pond will make a bigger ripple than a handful of pebbles scattered over a wider area of the water’s surface.
Crafted by Thomas Umstattd and bestselling, award-winning author James L. Rubart, The Five-Year Plan is a step-by-step guide for your writing career. Learn what to do in each quarter of the year to avoid the mistakes that hijack success for most authors.