How to Define Your Ideal Reader When You’re Just Getting Started


Nearly every article I read about marketing books starts with the same idea: identify your ideal reader.

Which makes sense. If we have a picture in our minds of who our ideal reader is, we can tailor our books, our blurbs, and all our marketing to that person. We can’t expect our books to appeal to everyone.

The problem is defining the ideal reader.

Many of these articles offer advice like “think about the readers who’ve written to you.” Or you should think about the people who’ve come to your book signings. Or have subscribed to your blog or newsletter.

That’s great for established authors.

But what about someone just getting started?

There’s advice for that, too. I’ve filled out several questionnaires, asking me what is the age, sex, marital status, and income level of my ideal reader.

Then I’m supposed to delve into this person’s fictitious mind and describe their interests, fears and dreams.

I’m even supposed to give this person a name. And then write my ideal reader profile.

But it all feels like shooting in the dark, like I’m just making stuff up. How am I supposed to know who’s going to like my book?

I’ve come to the conclusion that doing it this way is a bit backward.

There has to be a better way.

A Better Way to Write an Ideal Reader Profile

And at long last, I’ve found it.

No more surveys. No more guessing. No more making stuff up.

I’ve found a way to tap into a huge data source and make some reasonable assumptions.

Want to know what it is?

Facebook Audience Insights Tool

Facebook, as we all know, is a huge advertising platform. And with all their advertising, they are collecting an astounding database of their users and their buying behavior. As long as you are writing for people over 18, this will be a huge help to you.

So how does that help us identify our ideal reader?

Here it is, in 7 easy steps.

Seven Steps to Defining Your Ideal Reader

  1. Log into Facebook. To make this process work, you’ll need two things set up. Your fan page for your book or writing, and ad account.

If you don’t have a fan page set up, here’s how to do that.

And if you don’t have an ad account, here’s how to set up one up.

Don’t worry if you have no plans to do any advertising. The whole idea is to tap into the data Facebook makes available to its advertisers.

  1. Go to your ad account. At the top left of the screen, you’ll see:

Facebook Insights Menu

Click on the three horizontal lines. A box will pop up. Click on All Tools at the bottom.

Then you’ll see this:

Facebook Tools Menu

Click on Audience Insights under Plan. Now for the fun part. Are you ready?

  1. When prompted to choose an audience to start with, click on “Everyone on Facebook.”

The data that displays is for everyone on Facebook.  The part we are interested is on the left:

Defining Interest menu

If you know the age you are trying to reach, or if you really are just writing for women or men, you can put that information in. I personally wouldn’t at first, just to see what the data shows. You might be surprised.

Click on the “+ interests” and type in the name of a popular book that you think appeals to the same kind of people that yours does.

For this example, I typed in “Harry Potter.”

Then I got the basic demographics of adult Harry Potter readers:

Demographic data


Based on this, I would put my ideal reader as women 18-34.

Scroll down, and you’ll see some lifestyle information.

Lifestyle data

What is this telling you?

Facebook has created a number of lifestyle categories. “Summit Estates,” the top one that displayed, is defined as “families that enjoy the good life, luxury, travel and entertainment.”

To see the description, move your cursor to the right side of the box that has the category name in it and click. You should see a little “I” and a box should pop up.

In our example, 7% of the audience that is interested in Harry Potter falls into the Summit Estates category. If you look over the right side, you’ll see the “Compare” column. This is telling me that Summit Estates makes of 24% more of the total audience for Harry Potter than they do for Facebook in general.

So you can pick out the categories (and characteristics) that make up the majority of the Harry Potter audience.

This to me is the diamond mine that can tell me what kind of people will like my book. They’re already interested in something similar, so these are people I should write for.

Scrolling further, you can see relationship status, education and job titles. This could also be good to include in your ideal reader profile.

  1. Explore the rest of the Insights

Below you can see that Demographics is underlined. Click on Page Likes.

Other data in Insights

Now you’ll see other pages your audience likes. The only thing of interest here (in this example) is that they like to shop at Amazon.

Move on to Location. This tells you the cities or countries most interested in Harry Potter. No surprise, 91% live in the US. (Not all of this information is helpful for creating the ideal reader, but I’m walking through the tool just so you know what’s there.)

Now look at Activity. This tells you how active this audience is in liking, sharing, commenting, or clicking on ads. It also tells you what device the person uses to access Facebook.

Household tells you income, home ownership, household size, home market value, and spending methods.

Purchases tells you estimated retail spending, online purchases and purchase behavior.

Pick out of this what you think is relevant to creating your ideal reader.

  1. Summarize what you’ve learned.

We now know that Harry Potter readers (excluding the under 18 audience) are mostly younger single women, college educated, either well-established or getting established in careers.

At this point, I’d also include some of the details from the lifestyle categories section.

  1. Repeat

We don’t want to stop with just one comparison. So come up with a few other popular books, similar to yours, and gather the same data. See what similarities and differences you can spot.

  1. Write Your Ideal Reader Profile

Now that you know the kind of people who like similar books to yours, you can more confidently make some assumptions about who will like yours.

Woman reading

If you want to pull out one of those questionnaires for creating an ideal reader, by all means. Now you’ve got some data to give you a running start.

What do you think? What other ways do you know to create an ideal reader profile? Tell me about them in the comments.

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