If you have a business, you have no doubt spent time identifying your ideal client or customer. This is known as your “avatar.” When you know what motivates them and understand the problem your product or service solves, it’s easier to design things that you know they will need, buy, love, and rave about.
Perhaps your avatar is simply another version of you. Many people have built wildly successful businesses making things that they themselves need and want. If your ideal customer is another version of you, you are in luck. You know your needs and desires—and your challenges—very well. Even if you don’t have a business, you still want to know who you are writing for.
When writing a nonfiction book, you must have clarity about your ideal reader. What title would make them pick it up? What words on the back of the book make it a must-buy right now? And what would make them tell their friends about it too? It’s important to know these things, not just from a marketing perspective but from a writing perspective. Often when we sit down to write, we become overly formal and lose touch with our voice and our confidence.
When we have a clear sense of who the ideal reader is, it’s easier to write directly to them. Write in a conversational tone as if you are having coffee together and you are telling them everything you want them to know about your topic. Ideally, this is a real person you know. Having a real, specific person in mind will make all the difference. Your writing will flow and decisions will feel easy to make. And yet, you will resist it. You will want the book to be for everybody. You will think of three or more separate audiences for whom your book would be of interest.
That’s the problem—it’s not for an “audience.” When you think of that word, what comes to mind is probably a bunch of people or a big group. But when you think of one specific person and the problem this book is solving, you will make writing your book infinitely easier. Trust me. I understand that you can see your book’s value for different kinds of people. You want to be inclusive, but for your book’s focus, I want you to be exclusive. Your book is not for everyone. You aren’t pleasing everyone.
Let’s use a target model to drive this concept home. Suppose you are writing a book about how women can fit exercise into their life. Now identify up to three kinds of readers for your book. You want it for busy moms because you are a busy mom and you know that your methods work for you and your friends. You also want more people to have this information. Everybody needs this! But for now, choose just three potential readers. These three types of readers could be busy moms, college students, and business owners.
If you try to write to all three kinds of readers, your writing will go all over the place. Imagine a target. Put your main reader in the center ring. Your next type of reader goes in the second ring, and so on. When you write to hit the heart of the target, you meet your main reader and their needs. Anyone else picking up the book could also find value. With your main reader in mind, you will not be without direction.
I cannot emphasize how important it is to have this very specific person in mind when you are writing.
Take some time to free-write about your ideal reader, the one who needs your book and will recognize it when they see it. Give them a name and get very clear about who they are and why your book is important to them. Write a letter to your reader about how your book will help them live a better life.
Tell them that you are excited to share this information and why you are the perfect person to do so. Now print that up and keep it in your writing zone so you are always writing to them. Include a picture of them if you can. Later, some of what you have written could be useful in your marketing copy. Next, we will look at the issues your book solves for your reader.
What resistance, if any, comes up for you when I ask you to choose a specific reader?
This is excerpted from The Busy Woman’s Guide to Writing a World-Changing Book.