Fall in Love With Your Readers
(and have them fall in love with you.)
When you are the ideal audience for a book, you instantly fall in love. It can be eerie how, with each turn of a page, the book speaks to you. This is not magic; it’s by design.
Subtle cues led you to the book in the first place, its cover design, a favorite publication where it was reviewed, or the person who recommended the book to you. The book’s brand was created to capture your attention and the content was written specifically for you. You were the author’s target reader.
Now that YOU are in the role of an author, it’s your responsibility to reach your target audience in the same intimate way. Your job is to know your readers, answer their questions, and to entertain, inspire, and encourage them.
In this new era of publishing, marketing and creative storytelling have merged together. Some of you may mourn the loss of stream of consciousness or experimental writing. You can count me among such mourners. However, with the minds of our readers (and our own) reprogrammed by the digital age, you can’t ignore the audience’s presence, perspective, and needs.
To speak to your readers, create a detailed description of who you are writing for. This sketch of your ideal reader is called a pen portrait, or avatar.
How to Write a Pen Portrait
Give your avatar a name
The first step in bringing your avatar to life is to give it a name. By assigning a name like Ashley or Greg, you begin to visualize a gender and other characteristics. You start to see the portrait as a real person.
You want to be specific, not vague. You can write about several avatars — one male, one female; one younger, one older; one a bus driver, one a taxi driver. The point is each avatar is a distinct individual that can tell you, “This sentence has nothing to do with me,” or “That is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you!”
Create a detailed profile of your avatar including their profession, income and education level, interests, family life, spiritual beliefs, sexual orientation, and more. To borrow from sales and marketing (which this exercise comes from), you can start with the F.O.R.D. guideline by defining their family life, occupation, recreational interests, and dreams.
Create behaviors and habits
Who are your avatar’s friends? Where does he or she hang out? Is he or she a morning person or does he or she get up at noon? Do they drink? Smoke? Do yoga?
Choose four evocative words to describe this person. Here’s an example: diamond stud earrings, handmade paper, Paris, confidence. These words can be objects, places, feelings, or ideas. Now expand each of these words into a sentence or a short paragraph. Perhaps draw a picture or cut out magazine photos that embody this person. Put the image where you can see it while you are working. Adjust your written sketch until becomes as real and as known as a member of your own family.
You might find that your avatar ends up having a lot of your own characteristics. That’s not unusual. Many of us have the tendency to speak to our past selves when we write. If your avatar is nothing like you, writing for this person may require more advanced writing skills. In either case, empathize instead of fix.
What your portraits prevents you from doing is monologuing about yourself (at least, excessively). Instead, you are writing FOR the benefit of your readers. Would you monopolize a conversation with a real person by telling them every single detail of your life story? I hope not.
Fiction or nonfiction, visualizing your ideal reader as you write is a very powerful tool.
Speak to Your Readers
If you love and connect with your avatar, your readers will love you back.
What this means is that I love you because you are my ideal. Yes, YOU. The person I wrote this article for is seeking a greater purpose and a sense of expression. They are witty, hip, earthy, and mindful; a rule breaker, unconventional, collaborative, and of the digital age; and on the way to living out their dreams. More specifically, they are a writer, at least 35-years old or older, and are into self-improvement or personal development.
Is this you? Well, then, you probably like what I’m writing. It’s that simple.
Want to write a bestseller? I will show you each step of the process through blogs and videos. Follow along by connecting with me on YouTube, on Medium, or by joining the group The Bestseller List on Facebook.