When planning your book, the best place to start is to identify your ideal reader. As a business owner, you’ve probably already done some ‘ideal client’ work when creating your products or services, getting into the minds of prospective buyers and creating stuff that appeals to them.
It’s a similar process when considering your ideal reader.
Knowing your ideal reader inside out is essential to writing a book that appeals to them. You may already know them in part, as they’re often people who are/have been clients, or it may be that you’re writing about a journey you’ve been on yourself.
Whatever the situation, there are some useful questions you can ask yourself/points to consider that really help with this part of the book-planning process.
Ah, demographics – a word favoured by many marketing gurus. If I’m honest it doesn’t really light me up inside, but it’s an important part of identifying your ideal reader. You don’t need to go too in-depth here – whether they drive a Ford Focus or like doing yoga on a Tuesday isn’t as important here as it is when planning other aspects of your business.
But being able to picture them in your head is helpful though. When you’re willing to gouge your eyes out with a spoon rather than sit at the keyboard for the eleventy billionth day in a row, picturing the person you’re writing to can help.
To do this, you’ll need to know a few things about them – consider their age, family situation, gender, finances etc. All this will help you to know who you’re pitching your book at – a book for a twenty-something millennial entrepreneur would sound a lot different to a book for a sixty-something retired gardener.
When writing my first book for teachers on behaviour management, I got very clear on the demographics of my ideal reader:
DEMOGRAPHICS: early twenties, just finished university, single, on a starting salary for teachers, still living at home, newly qualified as a primary school teacher, etc. …
But that was it – I just needed a few details to get the ball rolling – or should I say ‘the pen writing?’ Do as much as you feel necessary but don’t spend hours on demographics – there’s something far more important to consider.
While demographics can help, it’s psychographics that help you understand and identify your ideal reader. It’s about getting under their skin and learning about the way they’re thinking. What’s happening for them on a psychological level?
In the world of sales, buyer psychology tells us we all buy with emotion and justify with logic. Thanks to the ‘chimp’ part of our brain, emotion leads us to make the majority of decisions. It’s emotion that’s going to lead your ideal reader to pick up your book.
Most importantly though, how are these emotions manifesting themselves? Using the same book as above, here’s an example of the psychographics work I did for my ideal teacher reader:
PSYCHOGRAPHICS: nervous about managing behaviour, keeps having dreams that the class will run riot, didn’t have positive feedback on their behaviour management during their placements, wants to start as they mean to go on, etc. …
Now, not everyone who picks up my book will fall into these categories. But think of it as a dartboard. Your ideal reader is the bullseye. Most will match your ideal reader description. Other people may buy your book who don’t quite hit the target but are on the periphery of your metaphorical board. Most of what you’re saying will work for them.
Let’s dig deeper into psychographics – consider these questions as you learn more about your ideal reader.
3. Why is your ideal reader picking up your book?
Think about the last time you purchased a business/non-fiction book – be it online or in a bookshop. Why did you choose that particular book? What was the problem you were facing that you needed a solution for? Maybe it was new knowledge about a particular topic or maybe it was deeper than that. Maybe you wanted a particular transformation.
Here are a couple of examples of books I’ve recently bought:
Hype Yourself by Lucy Werner – my problem is I don’t know a lot about PR. I wanted some tips to help me put a strategy in place.
Persuasive Copywriting by Andy Maslen – I wanted to further my copywriting skills and knowledge to help me produce excellent results for my copywriting clients.
The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod – was all about transforming my morning routine. I wanted to start the day in a more purposeful way – making time for myself and the important aspects of my health and wellbeing.
As you can see, each of these books had a very specific, detailed reason for me searching out and buying them. Yes, of course, you’ll sometimes pick up a book that just catches your eye but often we buy with purpose. We buy because we’re facing a challenge of some sort and we want/need help to solve it.
4. How is your ideal reader feeling at the start of your book?
Now it’s time to name some emotions to help you really connect and identify with your ideal reader. Not only does it help you in the planning stages, but you can then use these in your introduction. Naming emotions helps your reader identify themselves in your work. They’ll feel as though you’re speaking directly to them. That connection is so important.
Maybe they’re confused, uncertain, scared, overwhelmed or frustrated. Whatever topic your book covers will help you here. For my latest book, Dare to Write, I knew that my ideal reader would be feeling overwhelmed at the thought of writing a book. They’re also frustrated that they’ve tried to write before and the process has felt too hard/complicated.
Once you’ve identified how they’re feeling at the beginning, it’s time to consider how you want them to feel by the end. When they put your book down, which emotions will be running through them? Excitement? Motivation? Serenity? Relief? Take the time to note these down too – it’s worth using them as a reader promise in your introduction.
5. What keeps your ideal reader up at night?
If you’re writing a book for honeymooners or viagra patients, you may have a very different answer to this question! But for the rest of us, it’s about considering the most dominant emotion your ideal reader is experiencing. It won’t be the sole reason they march out to buy your book – but it will be a large contributing factor.
Take time to really unpick this. Again, you might have done some of this work when looking at your ideal customer or client. But take the time to write it down again. At the start of your book, you need to show empathy for the reader – that you, the author, really understands them and how they’re feeling. I always recommend acknowledging their emotions in the introduction to really signpost that empathy and build that connection.
As coaches/consultants, you’re often witnessing transformational change. You talk about and consider where your client is and where they want to be. Imagine your book as the bridge between these two places, guiding your reader on the journey – just like your coaching sessions do.
You might find it useful to find an image that represents your ideal reader and stick it up in your writing space. It can help you remember to write to one person. If you try to write to everyone, you’ll end up writing to no one.
And finally, if you really want to identify your ideal reader, why not use a survey and ask some of the key questions to them directly? You may be surprised by the results.
If you’d like support with identifying your ideal reader or any aspect of planning your book, why not chat to me about how I can help.