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22: How do you know who your ideal reader is?

This week, authors J Thorn and Crys Cain discuss what an ideal reader is vs your most common reader, how to define your ideal reader, and how to utilize it.

Tickets are still on sale for the Career Author Summit, September 18-19. Come join J, Crys, and a whole lot of other awesome writers geeking out about craft and business.

Transcript

Crys: Welcome to the TASM podcast. I’m Crys Cain with my cohost, J Thorn. 

J: Hey, I was about to say, welcome to the Write Away Podcast with your host, JP. 

Crys: I legitimately messed it up three times last night as we were doing Book Club and kept saying TASM. But I edit. So that might of just ended up in the bloopers. 

J: No, I’m got JP. I’m not as cool. I’m just J. 

Crys: So it’s been three or four weeks, I don’t even know at this point, since our last recording, cause we’re batching for a bit that summer with all of our craziness. Woo. Yes. How are things going over in Ohio, J? More, what has gone on?

J: As we’re recording, Vella launched this week. So that was interesting. A bit of a cluster eff and somewhat underwhelming from my perspective. 

I have no idea how Amazon does things. It just… rolling out would have been a compliment. It stumbled out, I think. And it’ll be fine. It was good to be part of that. 

I think it’s going to take a little bit of time to see where it shakes out. That was the excitement in my world this week. But as far as like the specific Vella piece itself, I was not all that impressed. 

Crys: Yeah, our friend Alicia McCalla forwarded me, she’s been keeping a really close eye on a lot of the talk in Facebook groups, and she forwarded me some of the issues that they’ve found lately. And I think that this is probably also how Kindle originally rolled out with the KDP dashboard and like self publishing. So I’m not surprised at all.

And it definitely has felt like they’re weighing it just to see if this is viable. We’ll see for those of you who are interested in reading some serial fiction and seeing what’s out there, our friends Christine Daigle and JP Rindfleisch the 9th, they have a new podcast. It is the SerialFictionShow.com. 

They have two arms of it. One is for writers, one is for readers. So I encourage everyone to check both out. And it’ll give you a sample of some of the stories that are available. If you want to check this whole Vella thing out without jumping into the writing part yourself yet.

J: Definitely. And if you’re an author and you’re writing in Vella, get in touch because they would love to have you on the podcast. 

Crys: Yes, indeed. So we had we had a conference two weeks ago. We did, it was delightful. We got to see writer, friends in person. It was one of your world-building weekends with Zach Bohannon.

J: Yes. 

Crys: How have you recovered from that?  

J: I’m doing okay. Wife and kids and I stuck around Boston for a few days afterwards to do some sightseeing and just have some family time. And so I feel like my normal introvert recovery was shortened quickened, maybe. We got home four or five days after the event ended.

And then we have a lot of house stuff going on, so I was just kinda thrown into that. But I was really pleased with Witches of Salem. It was something I’d been looking forward to for a long time. It was my first  real big outing since the pandemic. And it just reminded me how awesome it is to be hanging with other authors and talking shop and talking craft, and just how important that is.  

I was exhausted, but it was a good exhaustion. 

Crys: Yeah. Honestly, my only complaint is that it just feels like not enough time with such awesome people. 

J: Yes. I know. And that’s something Zach and I hear a lot. We get that feedback a lot and in a way we wear that as a badge of honor.

We’re proud of that, because back in the days of being in a band, we always our goal, like a lot of bands, they always want the crowd wanting more. Like we want the people in the crowd to be like, oh, I wish you would have played like four more songs. Or if you played just 10 more minutes and that’s usually a good sign that it’s quality.

And so when we get that kind of feedback from events where people go, oh, it just felt so short or I wish we had more time. We’re pretty proud of that. 

Crys: Yeah. Cause you don’t want people being like, “it was a little too long.”

J: Yeah, it dragged on. 

Crys: We want the opposite. Excellent. 

J: Did you recover completely? 

Crys: I think so at this point, but I honestly, in some ways just haven’t had time to recover. So I don’t know if I’m headed for a big crash or if I still managed okay. 

Because I went straight from exhausted, hanging out with people, nearly falling asleep because of overwhelm in the midst of everything on Saturday. My whole body just shut down in the middle of a session. And I pulled my hoodie up and I just sat there and like completely lost contact with reality for about 30 minutes.

And then I went from Salem straight to my family, my extended family in Florida, and went into full blown van searching. And that was such an emotional roller coaster. I  think I had a couple mini breakdowns in one week. 

And I can only imagine. That like the whole housing situation is what I felt, but amplified and elongated because it takes more time and there’s more money on the line.

I did find an amazing van. It’s already campered out. We just need to make a few changes to it. And it already has solar. It has a fridge, it has a stove and a sink. It’s more than I intended on spending, but now I don’t have to spend all the money I was already allotting for the stuff that it has. So that’s super exciting. 

I drove it in two days from Florida to New York and stopped overnight at another relatives house and really got to know her. She’s a priest. She is massive. And her name is Vancy. Fancy Vancy. So I’m very excited about that. 

I’m in Costa Rica. I’m here for a week to pack everything up and then smalls and I will go up to New York and we have a couple of weeks before we start our adventure with a visit to you.

J: Nice. Looking forward to it. 

Crys: Yeah. 

All right. We have some comments it’s been a bit, so we’re going to do one episode’s comments, and then in our next episode, we’ll cover in the next episode’s comments just so we don’t overwhelm with preamble. 

 Episode 18, I believe, was making the most of in-person events.

 Roland said, I don’t think I’m really an introvert, just shy. It helps to have a wing person to start the conversations with the strangers, which is something that we both recommended. I find finding your your resident extrovert friend is so helpful. 

J: Definitely. 

Crys: We have a few other ghosting persons. Kim says she also ghosts and is glad to know. She’s not the only one. Jeff Elkins hasn’t. been to an in-person writers conference yet, but he’s going to Career Author Summit for his first.

J: We’re excited about that. 

Crys: Are there still tickets available for that, J? 

Yes, there are. 

Okay. So we will include the link to the Career Author Summit in the show notes if this is something that you’re interested in really cool weekend, really awesome speakers. I’m one of them run by J and Zach. 

I am looking forward to this so much. This is one of my key points of the year. Catherine is also going to her first writer’s conference this year, and she’s excited. 

Cathy feels a sense of relief, freedom and energy as soon as she leaves an event, though, she gets more energized by hanging out with writers until she is suddenly so done. Which I think reflects very much how you work as well. 

J: Yes,  I always warn folks at any event, like I will, I am going to ghost you. It is not personal. But you will see me and then you will look up and I will be gone. And that’s because I will hit a wall and I will not have the energy to round the room with my goodbyes.

So I just make that expectation really clear up front. 

Crys: I know that I do that more and more like in my, pre COVID life, when we would hang out with friends. I realized that I didn’t do that at Salem because one, it was so short. And I didn’t, I had that FOMO that fear of missing out with these people when that time was so short.

I think that when I do in person offer events, I do push myself further than I would like when they are short. If they’re longer than I’m more likely to just ghost, because I know that I have chances to see those people later. But I didn’t do that this last weekend. And so it was very interesting to look at what I think I do versus what I actually do. 

J: Yeah.

Crys: All right. Our question this week comes from our group at The Author Success Mastermind. And that is: how do you know who your ideal reader is? 

J: Ah, yes. Yes. This is quite an involved question. Do you have a gut response? 

Crys: First I’m going to say that a lot of people in our group said that their ideal reader is themselves and you had a very important response to that, which was that you used to think the same and found out that was not true.

J: Yes. And I think that is a logical, natural, positive assumption to make when you’re first starting out, because you are. You’re not the ideal reader, you are the reader, You’re it. And so I think when you’re starting out and you think I’m writing this for me, therefore I am the ideal reader. That makes perfect sense.

I’m not saying that isn’t true, but what happens over time, hopefully, is that you are engaging your audience, your readership, you’re starting to talk to them. You get to know them and you start to develop an archetype. You start to develop this image of the ideal reader. And in my case, It was not at all the ideal reader.

I have several friends who have had the same experience.  

I’ll give an example. Like I thought when I started that, the ideal reader was like some 40 year old dude, some metal head. And I was completely wrong. After several years of building an email list and engaging with my readers, I realized my ideal readers, or I should say most of my readers, were women 55 and up, and I would venture to say that women are probably mostly the ideal readers for most authors, just because women read so much more than men. But my point was that, I started off with one assumption and that’s a fine place to start, but over time I was forced to question it and discovered that it was an incorrect assumption.

Crys: Yeah. I did not have an ideal reader when I started. I honestly had no idea as to what I was writing for. I refined what my audience expected based on my reviews. 

And that’s something that you can do when you are doing the writing fast and releasing fast route and building up your storytelling abilities through that guidance.

You do want to have a good story to start. I know a lot of people say, don’t read your reviews. I think it is a useful skill to get a thick skin and be able to look through your reviews, to see what people like and don’t like as a pattern, not necessarily any one individual review, but as a pattern.

And I was able to do that. And now for the romance, I have one particular person that I, actually two particular people who have read probably all my books. And they’re my ideal readers. They’re the people I’m writing to. One is the biggest fan of my solo series. 

And the other is a whale reader is a mother of five doesn’t really sleep, she crochets. And she reads five to 10 books a day. 

So I’m like, yeah, my potato chip reader over there and then my big fan over here, those are my two ideal readers. 

I think that over time you can find that particular person that you’re writing this story.  Who’s going to get really excited about the things that you’re putting in it.

As I’m writing my fantasy my ideal reader is actually JP. As I’m writing, I’m like, how will JP respond to that? And having a particular person is not something that I actually was able to grasp until this year. That has actually been super helpful. 

J: I agree with everything you just said, I think the thing about reading reviews yeah, it’s generally speaking, it’s not good, but I almost feel like in the very beginning, you have to. 

You have to get some sense of how your story is being received in the marketplace, which is completely different from how it’s received by family, friends, your mom, your editor. 

I think you need people who have no idea who you are, who don’t care about your feelings, and you need to pay attention to what they’re saying.

Now there does come a point, and I think this happens naturally where you’re just like, eh, I don’t care anymore. I know, like I know what’s going to come in the reviews or I know what I need to do to prevent that type of review. It doesn’t matter that much anymore, but I think early on it’s I think it’s okay.

And not only okay. But I think you should read reviews. I think that’s really important.. 

Crys: Yeah, I’ve definitely gotten to the point where I read the reviews far less. The time when I will read them the most is at the launch of a new series that has a slightly different tone or characters than previous series.

Because again, we’re checking to see, am I hitting the way I want to? 

J: Yes. Yes. And I think to your point about the ideal reader and JP, that’s interesting. This could almost be its own question on its own, but yeah. When I think about the ideal reader, there’s two components to that.

There’s the ideal reader, the representation of that person. So in your case, that would be JP, and then there’s your most common reader. And those might not necessarily be the same. So you could be writing for JP, and yet it’s this woman with five kids who doesn’t sleep is your most common reader.

It’s a bit esoteric, but I think that’s something to be thinking about. 

Crys: Yeah, I think it’s a very businessy thing to be aware of who is buying your things. And I think one of the really good examples is apple products. They marketed themselves, especially back in the late nineties, early two thousands toward the artsy edgy designer hipster type.

But now. Their most common user is probably grandparents whose kids don’t want to deal with providing tech support. 

J: Yes. Great example. 

Crys:  But the kids who are edgy and smarter, are also the ones making their parents’ buying decisions on this probably.

J: Yeah. And it, it doesn’t mean that your ideal reader and your most common reader have to be different.

They could be one in the same, but they might change over time too. In both directions, your ideal reader might change your most common reader might change. Yeah, I think for me, the big takeaway is not that you have to nail it or know it or button it up tight, but that you understand it’s an evolutionary process and it’s something you’re going to have to revisit frequently.

Crys: Yeah. I 100% agree. I think that as we’re talking about ideal reader, and I think this was referenced in my comments in the group, Stephen King refers to his first reader, the person he is writing for which for him happens to be his wife, the person whose responses you’re looking for and writing to because what’s going to, honestly, manipulate their emotions most effectively.

Then again, that’s very different from your most common reader. 

J: Yes. 

Crys: All right. I hope that this has been helpful. As far as figuring out your ideal reader, when you are early on, this is really tough. And I think that perhaps Stephen King’s idea of a first reader is helpful.

Who do you want to read the manuscript and approve of it first? And be very careful again about how you choose that. Cause your family might not be the best idea, even if they’re your first answer. But sometimes like in the case of Steven King, they are.

J: Right. 

Crys: So my question for our readers is who do you think your ideal reader is?

I think that it goes along really well with this conversation. Thanks for joining us this week! Drop your answer below, and if you would like to be part of the conversations in real time, you can join us at The Author Success Mastermind.

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