My Books

Finding my Ideal Reader

I spent a lot of yesterday reading various things about publishing, marketing books, etc., and I had a big “Aha!” moment that led to a hypothesis that I now need to test.

One of the books talked about having an “ideal reader,” the hypothetical person you write your books for. There will obviously be outliers who don’t fit the profile, but this is the core readership you’re targeting. This is the person you have in mind when you write, so that you’re writing books that appeal to this person, and this is the person you target in your marketing efforts. One way of testing whether you’re doing this the right way is by looking at the “also boughts” for your books on Amazon. Are these books that you think your ideal reader would also be interested in? If not, you may have problems because the people who bought those books are going to be the ones Amazon will promote your books to.

My “also boughts” are kind of weird. Aside from my own books, there’s a bit of contemporary fantasy, then there are the cozy paranormal mysteries with cartoony covers, and then there are a lot of vampire and shifter romances. I can see there being some crossover, but generally, people who are into sexy vampire and shifter romances probably aren’t going to find what they’re looking for from my books. But then I remembered that my publisher keeps promoting Enchanted, Inc. as paranormal romance. Whenever they do a BookBub, that’s the category they put it in (no matter how many times I beg them not to). The number of people who buy the book during a BookBub has probably totally skewed things. The cozy paranormal mystery thing may be more organic. There’s likely some crossover with the paranormal romance market, but I think that readership is also drawn to my books because there’s a “case” in each book while the relationships develop over the course of the series, and like a cozy mystery, there’s no graphic sex or violence.

But this doesn’t really fit my “ideal reader.” When I started writing Enchanted, Inc., it was essentially for people like me, adults who enjoyed the Harry Potter books but wanted something like that for and about grown-ups, applying the magical whimsy of the Harry Potter universe to the adult world of work, with bad bosses, office politics, and office romances.

Digging deeper into that, and considering the readers I’ve met or talked to, I would say that my target ideal reader is probably a woman (95 percent of my author Facebook page followers are women) who’s a big reader, but not necessarily a hard-core fantasy fan. She really loves the Harry Potter universe (either read the books as an adult or was a teen fan who’s now grown up) and wants more stuff like that, but has a hard time finding it. She’s probably also a Disney fan, both of the animated movies and the live-action remakes. She may like romance in books, but her tastes tend more toward Jane Austen than the kind of thing generally sold as “romance.” She’s possibly more likely to read YA fantasy than adult fantasy because she’s not so into the heavy, grim stuff. Normal life is stressful enough! She’s more concerned with a world she enjoys visiting than in the intricacies of worldbuilding, and the characters are the most important part.

That doesn’t mean that other readers aren’t welcome, just that this is the center of the Venn diagram of all the various types of readers, and it’s who I tend to write for. Now I just need to find a way to reach this reader. When we were launching the first Enchanted, Inc. book, I tried to convince my publisher to go after the adult fans of Harry Potter, especially since one of those books was coming out a month or so after my book. They told me, “We want people writing about you, not writing about Harry Potter,” and I told them no one was going to be writing about me, but they would be writing about Harry Potter, and if I got included in that, it would give me a boost. I did go a little rogue and sent a review copy to a local reporter who was writing about Harry Potter, and I did end up getting an article about “What moms can read while waiting for their kids to finish the new Harry Potter book,” so it might have worked on a broader scale. I also sent a review copy to one of the big Harry Potter fan sites that also did reviews of books their fans might like. But I’m not sure my “ideal reader” is someone who’s that kind of fan. She probably doesn’t have a lot of time for “fandom.” She just reads things she enjoys. She may buy some merchandise, but probably isn’t spending time on fan sites.

So, how close does my “ideal reader” come to hitting the mark? Does this sound anything like you or someone you know? Of course, the fact that you’re reading my blog probably puts you deeper into “fandom” than the majority of people who read my books, so that’s going to skew any feedback.

14 Responses to “Finding my Ideal Reader”

  1. Cathy Chapman

    I would say that my target ideal reader is:
    probably a woman [check]
    a big reader [check]
    not necessarily a hard-core fantasy fan [check– LOR is as violent as I care for]
    really loves the Harry Potter universe [check– read the books as an adult]
    wants more stuff like that, but has a hard time finding it [check]
    also a Disney fan, both of the animated movies and the live-action remakes [check]
    may like romance in books, but her tastes tend more toward Jane Austen [check]
    more likely to read YA fantasy than adult fantasy– not into heavy, grim stuff [check]
    normal life is stressful enough [double check]

    I’m also a cataloging and acquisitions librarian– so my purchases are skewed as I buy for myself– and for my university! 🙂

    Love, love, love your books! Good clean fun!

    Still would love to see the Enchanted Inc series as a movie– or tv show (though I only have local channels). 🙂

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  2. Diane

    I certainly woudl come close to your ideal reader! As would the friend who introduced me to your books. After reading Enchanted Inc. for the first time you became one of my “if she wrote it, I read it” authors!

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  3. Leslie Leitner

    Oh my gosh you totally described me!! I explain your Enchanted, Inc. series (which I LOVE and reread regularly) as Harry Potter for adults. And yes, not paranormal romance. And yes, I like YA fantasy usually, for example The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I did work 10 years in a school library for grades 4+6, which gave me the opportunity to read this type. I am 62, but my 30 year old daughter-in-law has much the same preferences as me. Thank you for your wonderful books, and for this blog post!

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  4. Kathryn McClatchy

    I also teach writers and entrepreneurs to focus on their ideal reader or client. It’s such a useful technique. That said, I’m a fan, but of your Rebel Mechanics series and Steampunk. My academic background is Victorian crime literature, and although I like the Harry Potter series, I’m much more of a mystery fan than fantasy. Now I’m curious if you have a separate “ideal reader” for each series…🤔. And now I’m rethinking my own ideal reader/client(s).

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    • Shanna Swendson

      I haven’t really delved into the Rebels series for this analysis because I think the targeting for that has been pretty accurate (now, if only the publisher had actually remembered they were publishing it!). There’s probably still a lot of crossover between audiences, but leaning more heavily on historical fiction and other steampunk.

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  5. Maria Jansson

    You hit it right on the head of the nail with me! I am a middle age woman that read Harry Potter as an adult and besides your books read a lot of YA books (right now Gail Cartier) but also so called Cosy Crime from both now (Jana Deleon, Carola Dunn, Janet Evanovich, Dorothy Gilman, David Handler etc) and back in the days (Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers etc) Found you by accident as I liked the cover of the first Enchanted Inc book – was soooo disappointed when they stopped being published but as have now I think all your books – mostly via e-books and looking forward to anything else you might release in the future
    🙂 Thank You for many hours of fun so far! Best Wishes!

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  6. mickey

    Um, you described me, almost exactly. I do also read historical fiction, the new Star Wars (YA) novels, and devoured Riordan’s Lightening Thief series. I will almost never pick up a mystery…. though if you wrote one I’d probably break that trend.

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  7. Melissa

    I fit the basic Center as well. But I’m at least causing part of the outliers, with the vampire mysteries. My main other also reads would fall into the Gail Carringer, Agatha Christie, and such. Plus your other two series. I do mentally file Enchanted Inc. between mystery and cosy romance, they have the perfect amount of both.

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  8. Melissa

    PS. I also read my kids Percy Jackson and other fantasy books as well. Some of them have a similar cosy feel and hug the book happy ending.

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  9. Tineke

    Yes, I also fit your description. I like a romantic subplot, but I’m not a fan of a relationship seemingly based on feelings of lust alone and descriptive bed-scenes. And yes, I really prefer cosy fantasy above the epic, darker options.

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  10. Debra

    Lots of checks and double checks. Big chick lit and cozy mystery reader (from Trixie Belden and Enid Blyton on — had a very strange childhood). Want some fantasy and a little sci fi too.

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  11. Emmely

    I fit the profile quite well although I am not really into Disney. I believe I found your Enchanted Inc. book in 2005 when I was 20 and read quite a bit of chicklit (not anymore, after awhile they all start to feel the same) and the Dutch translation was offered as a ringbook on the Bookcrossing forum. When I finished it I bought the English version to keep. I do like fantasy but mostly YA versions like Harry Potter, Diana Wynne Jones and more recently the Morrigan Crow series. I don’t like the super thick ones with weird, hard to remember names and complicated family trees. I never even finished the first book of The Lord of the Rings and got bored after the first book of The Wheel of Time. I currently mostly read English literature and mystery & thrillers. I consider your books to be comfort books. I usually reread the Enchanted series once a year when I am ill (which was a lot easier when it was only four books, but I am not complaining!) and just need something that is fun to read.

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