Monday, March 4, 2019

Narrowing Your Reading Audience—Spec Fic Style!

by Ralene Burke @RaleneB

I love Christian fiction. Really, I do. But when I sit down to read, more often then not, I want to get lost in new worlds and go on grand adventures and meet new kinds of people. We don’t often see much of that in the normal Christian fiction.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But it changes how authors should approach me. I’m a particular type of reader, and I like particular types of books better than others. (Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a good contemporary suspense/thriller, even the occasional drama.)

As writers, we need to be sure of who the reader is we are writing for. Who I write for as a fantasy author is going to be very different from the Christian romance authors. What my readers enjoy will typically not be the same as their readers. I’m not sure there are many romance readers that can quote Tolkien or have seen every episode of Star Trek.

Define Your Reader

When we are considering our readers, it helps to define our “ideal reader.” If we were writing this book for ONE person, who would that person be? Create a dossier for that reader. Mine might look something like this…

Gender: Female                       

Age: 23                       

Living: She is in a starter home, or possibly a small apartment in town

Religious Affiliation: Christian

Occupation: She just graduated from college and is probably looking for a job in her chosen profession. Most likely something in a social department, looking to change the world.

Likes: Reading, spending time with friends, helping out in the community, SFF movies/books, her geek t-shirt collection, Doctor Who, Star Wars, all things fantasy, coffee/tea, dark chocolate, gushing about books on social media (probably has a bookstagram account!).

Dislikes: Rude people, dishonesty, anyone who thinks Star Trek is better than Star Wars (just kidding), BILLS!, and getting up before 6 in the morning.

Hobbies/Interests: Geek fandoms, cooking, some kind of artistic venture (painting, drawing, writing, etc.), discovering new places (near and far)

Dreams: Wants to make a difference in the world, to set a record for most books read in a year, to start a family

Fears: She’s not enough. She is too broken/not special/inadequate. And bugs. Any kind of bug.
Where is she online? She has a blog where she reviews books, and she’s active on Facebook and Instagram. She has a Pinterest account, but it’s more for fun and her personal enjoyment than a business tool.

Where does she buy books? She is a fan of both physical books and ebooks. She tends to buy ebooks for new authors/new series, then, if she enjoys it, she’ll buy everything else in physical form.

See the detail that goes into this dossier? But do you know how this questionnaire is useful?

Using the Dossier

This dossier comes in handy in so many ways throughout the publishing process. Just check out this list!

  • What are they looking for? Consider what kind of story this reader would enjoy: Happily Ever After, fast-paced thriller, escape to Neverland?
  • When/where/how are they going to read the story?
  • What similar books have they read recently?
  • What is their reading level? (Vocabulary you use, structure/style)
  • What themes/conflicts will resonate with them?
  • What kinds of characters will they relate to?

  • Helps define audience.
  • Helps find comparable books by what they probably have read before.
  • Helps develop marketing plan.

Marketing/Social Media:
  • Helps define your brand. For everything from colors and fonts to taglines and other set up choices.
  • Shows where you should be on social media. Most teens these days are not on Facebook all the time, you’re more likely to find them on Instagram or Snapchat.
  • Focuses your social media posts. What you post for a 23yo female college graduate is very different from a 45yo businessman.
  • Gives you ideas for blog posts.
  • Helps you attract the right kind of readers by connecting with them over common interests. While I love my historical romance writer friends, I don’t necessarily share their obsession with Downton Abbey (or whatever the current show is). But I will definitely gush over How to Train Your Dragon or Lord of the Rings or Doctor Who.

So, if you haven’t already, take the time to consider your target reader. By narrowing your audience, you will see MORE success and create a tribe of raving fans rather than lukewarm followers who aren’t as likely to subscribe to your newsletter or buy your next release. And this goes for speculative fiction writers, suspense writers, romance writers—doesn’t matter your genre. 


Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a social media wand, or a freelance editor’s sword, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone #SHINE Beyond their circumstances! Her novels, Bellanok and Armor of Aletheia, are available on Amazon. More fantasy novels coming soon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all-around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . . You can also find her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or at her website.


  1. They always tell you to define your ideal reader but they never tell you how.
    Thanks for teaching us how. Great post, Ralene!

    1. No problem, Ingmar! I know what you mean. I would forever hear this as well, and I was so thankful when someone finally SHOWED me what they meant.

  2. Thank you for this great information. I am looking over my stories and thinking about the genre and the age group.

    1. That's great, Melissa! I hope it helps. :)

  3. Excellent. Very practical and helpful, Ralene. This has given me plenty to think about.