Why you must understand your reader’s journey

Writing a book without really knowing your reader’s journey is a bit of an insult to your reader. You need to know where they are on their journey, as well as where they want to be. What do they want to get out of the experience?

No, you’re not able to know each reader by name. But you are able to create a picture of them in your mind. When you’re writing, sometimes you’re so wrapped up in what you want to write about your journey, you almost forget the reader exists. 

Now I’m pretty confident you’re not like that. But it’s easy to slip into writing a book without considering exactly how you’re going to take the reader on a journey of transformation and change. You’re brimming with ideas and knowledge; you just want to get it down on the page.

And I get that. I really do. 

But before you write, you have to get a clear idea of your reader and the journey they’re on. Not only does it make the book far more helpful for them to read, but it also makes it a lot easier for you to write too.

So let’s discover how important the reader’s journey is and how you can map out a clear route for them to take. 

Understanding your reader

Your reader must be at the heart of your book. They should be the reason you’re writing it. Yes, you want to share your ideas and knowledge to become an expert in your niche, but fundamentally your reader is the most important person.

It’s likely you already know their demographics and psychographics, due to the fact you know your audience quite well at this point. But it’s time to dig deeper than this.

Psychology tells us that people buy with emotion and justify with logic. Our decisions are based on our emotions. So when someone reaches for your book, it’s from a place of emotion. Maybe they’re hurting or confused. Maybe they’re feeling inspired or motivated to change. Tapping into these emotions will make your book stand out.

The reader’s journey

Considering your reader’s journey from start to finish is an important part of planning your book. You need to take them by the hand and lead them along the path. Imagine you’re walking beside them, holding the lamp aloft to light the way. Let’s break this journey down into its component parts.

Base camp

Welcome to your reader’s starting point on their journey of learning or transformation. It’s at this point they wander into the book shop or surf the internet, looking for a solution.

Your book needs to meet them at this point. It needs to be the answer they’re searching for. It needs to be the guide that says, ‘I can help.’

As I’ve mentioned, your reader is at an emotional point here. And it’s where your blurb and synopsis are going to do the leg work. Your introduction needs to hook them in, pulling them into your book and promising a solution.

But how?

Really understanding their emotions and aspirations will help you show empathy and prove you’re the guide they need, so use your knowledge of your audience to write these down.

The most important question to answer is ‘why?’ Why are they picking up your book? What’s just happened in their life that’s spurred them on? Meet them in their current emotional state. Think of the last book you bought, what made you buy it when you did?

The route

Next, consider the journey yourself. Maybe you’ve already been on it and you’re writing from experience. Or maybe you’ve worked with so many clients who are on a similar journey that you know the similarities. What will your reader need to know and learn as they move ahead? How are you going to get them from base camp to their final destination?

Sometimes this will take on a linear form, where the transformational journey from A to B is fairly straightforward. My book, Dare to Write, is an example of that. Before you write, you need to get in the right mindset and form good habits. Then you need to understand the planning process, before actually doing the writing. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to think about publication etc.

But other books can be less linear. They just have to follow a path that makes sense. Initially, it’ll be in a way that makes sense to you. But before publishing, you’ll need to make sure it makes sense to others too. This is where beta readers or developmental editors come in. Essentially, these are the people that will clarify whether you’ve structured it in a way that makes sense from an outsider’s perspective.

Journeys are rarely straightforward, even in real life. So consider the common obstacles or diversions that might crop up for your reader. Does your journey take these into account? If not, how could you build them in as points to discuss?

The final destination

This is where your reader wants to end up. Again, it’s important to consider their emotions here. If they started the journey confused, they’ll want to have clarity by the end. If they came across your book because they’re feeling negative about a certain situation, they’ll want to end on a positive note. Emotions really are the key.

Even if you’re writing to give someone new knowledge, e.g. about sales funnels or training their dog, you’ll still need to consider how this makes them feel emotionally. Feeling confident to take your dog out on a walk without worrying they’ll steal food from the nearest picnic blanket is a wonderful feeling. Believe me.

One final thing to consider with the end of the journey is how you want the reader to feel about you as a writer, or as a coach. Or how you want them to feel about your brand. Ideally, they’re going to go away and write you a fantastic review and tell all their friends about your book.

So, with that in mind, why not try out this activity?

Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’ve just finished your book. Write a review for it. What would you want it to say? How many stars would you want it to have? What impact did your book have on you? Now print off your review and stick it up. It’ll work nicely to motivate you and remind you of what you’re striving for.

Summary 

Understanding your reader’s journey means putting yourself in their place. Immersing yourself in their world. Meeting them where they’re at. If you’re writing from real experience, you’ll show them the empathy that comes from walking a mile in their shoes. Even if you haven’t clocked up the blisters yourself, you’ll need to speak to them as though you have.

The best books I’ve ever read speak to me directly. If I read Brené Brown, I know I’m guaranteed to feel various emotions. Often I feel seen but also understood like never before. If I read Jen Sincero, I know I’m going to get a kick up the butt while laughing at the same time. I’ll be in different emotional places when I reach for them too. I look for Brené’s reassuring words when I need a comforting ear. I’ll reach for Jen when I know I need a boot up the bum to get out of a slump.

So it’s time to ask yourself why your reader is picking up your book and the journey you want to take them on. Consider each phase of your reader’s journey – from base camp to final destination. What are the obstacles that typically come up on their journey? 

You can then be sure you’re able to guide them – in true Sherpa style – to the summit of their journey and help them achieve success.

If you’d like some support with understanding your readers and the journey they’ll go on when reading your book, contact me and we can look at ways I can support you.

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