If you’re reading Daily Writing Tips, you’re probably a writer of some description. And being a writer means, in the vast majority of cases, that you have – or at least want to have – readers.
So, have you thought about your Ideal Reader?
What is an Ideal Reader?
Your ideal reader is a construct designed to represent your audience. If you’re writing a blog about frugality and budgeting, your ideal reader might be a single mom in her thirties. Alternatively, your ideal reader could be a high school graduate heading off to college.
For a short story writer, an ideal reader might be a woman working in a shop, flicking through short stories in her breaks or during quiet times of the day. Alternatively, a short story writer might envisage a very different ideal reader – perhaps an elderly male professor poring over the story in a hushed library, extracting every nuance.
Why do I want an Ideal Reader?
You might wonder what the point of creating an “ideal reader” is. Perhaps you think your audience is too diverse, and that there’s no way you could come up with one imaginary character to represent them.
But having an ideal reader is well worth the effort, in terms of boosting your writing productivity:
“Consider how much more quickly words flow when you’re writing an email to a friend versus creating a formal business presentation. When you have a specific recipient in mind, you have a much easier time communicating your ideas.”
– from Why Create An Ideal Reader?
Do you ever find yourself struggling to get started an article, blog post, story or poem? Do you worry that the topic will bore your readers, or that your literary allusions will go over their heads? Having an ideal reader in mind makes it much easier to pitch your writing at the right level.
Even if you don’t have an audience yet, you’ll still want to think about your ideal reader. When I was planning my new blog, Alpha Student, I put a good bit of thought into my ideal reader: a keen, intelligent, slightly shy, university student who isn’t really into the wilder aspects of student life. This really helped when focusing the blog and deciding on the tone of the articles (I’ve not written about drunken nights or peppered my advice with swear words, for instance!)
Who is My Ideal Reader?
If you’re writing for a specific publication, you’re in luck. Many magazines publish profiles for prospective advertisers, detailing the demographics of the magazine’s readership. Here in the UK, I find the IPC Media website very helpful for finding these details. For example, for Horse magazine, I’m told that the “target readers” are horse enthusiast women aged 20-40 from the ABC1 (middle/upper class) categories. This would be a good starting point for creating an ideal reader.
“At a minimum I keep in mind the age and gender of the reader. For example, I sometimes do news articles for a small, local weekly newspaper. Since I live in the neighborhood, I know that we’re an incredibly diverse area, but that the readership of the paper tends to be older women. So that’s who I write for, keeping in mind the others, and occasionally working in some ethnic bits.”
– from Write for Your Ideal Reader
If you’re writing fiction for a particular magazine, look at the advertisements, the editorial, and the letters from readers. This can give you a lot of clues about the gender, age, interests and social class of the ideal reader for that market.
Even copywriters and marketers can create an ideal reader – often called an “ideal customer”. I took Sonia Simone’s excellent Content Class by email (it’s free), and her first lesson is “Write for One Customer”. She says:
If your ideal customer is a little formal, write to her like you’d send an email to your Great Aunt Susie. If he’s casual, write like you’d write to an old college buddy. (It’s probably smart to keep it rated-G, though.)
Over to You
If you have a blog, novel, short story collection, article or any other writing project underway, stop and ask yourself – who am I writing for? Who’s my ideal reader?
You can get as detailed about this as you like: try to make it a fun exercise. Give your ideal reader a name, a personality, interests, worries, a birthday. Then, every time you write, write for that one person.
Why not tell us about your ideal reader in the comments?