How to Find Your Ideal Reader (SPP #132)

This is a question/issue that many writers never even really address, which can set their growth back big time. You’re writing your guts out, and you’re incredibly proud of your story. But who is that story really for?
This week, the guys talked about how you can identify your ideal reader, and why that is so important. This is some great stuff.
They ask questions like: Who is reader our work now? Who will be reading in the near future? And who do we ideally want to read our work? They consider demographic stuff, and they use their imaginations to come up “ideal reader profiles,” many of which seem to hate on Unicorn Western for some reason!
Here’s the video version:

Show Episode Transcript

Johnny: Self Publishing podcast, episode number 132.Dave: This episode of the self publishing podcast is brought to you by 99 designs. The online market place that helps you get outstanding book cover designs at an affordable price. Start your custom designs today at, enjoy a free power pack upgrade valued at 99 bucks.
Welcome to the self publishing podcast, where if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself, and now here are your hosts the three wisest guys at podcasting Johnny, Sean and Dave.
Johnny: Hey everyone and welcome to the self publishing podcast, the podcast that follows three full time authors, as we attempt to change the face of indie publishing. Join us in our trailblazing guest as we shove aside boundaries, freely experiment and occasionally screw up. I’m Johnny B. Truant and my co-hosts are Sean Platt and David Wright. So how long has it been Dave? This was a long one, right? It’s a long time, since…
Dave: Since I changed my office?
Johnny: Since you changed your office last.
Sean: Is that an Xbox?
Dave: For a few months. Yeah and Play station.
Sean: You have a TV now dude, you have an awesome office.
Johnny: I have a really hard time believing this is the same room, I think he’s in a hollow deck.
Sean: Yeah. What the hell, this is pretty awesome. He’s got a pretty sweet office. He’s hidden it behind walls of comic book art before.
Johnny: Oh as if that’s the same room.
Sean: Dave actually leaves in a 90 room place.
Johnny: Oh my God.
Dave: I live in Carl’s– Carl’s Sinclair’s mansion.
Johnny: I’m so frenzied right now, I can’t get my head on, so were 15 minutes late, but I’m just very…
Sean: Oh yeah, I just…
Johnny: Confused.
Sean: Because we are waiting for Dave to get on and Dave is not the reason we are late at all. We had the wrong link and then we are all just like frustrated aaargh, 15 minutes just trying to get on, and Johnny is like we’ll text in the link, and I just texted it and then I get “did you mean to text this to me?” and it’s Garret.
Johnny: How awesome, at least you didn’t say at least you didn’t say I love you so much. We’re really going to be– we’ll be phoning it in on BOU today by the way guys because…
Dave: Wait, wait, what? No.
Johnny: Because…
Dave: No, we’re going to make…
Johnny: We’ll just– and I don’t want to because it sounds really cool, but we’re doing the march four best seller thing, so we need to kind of be available on Facebook, but it will be like “okay hold on I’m going to answer a message well,” because it’s going to be Dave ranting anyway. So it’s not like I can’t skip away like when Dave answers YouTube comments. So we’ve got to handle that. By the way speaking of that I had an emotional rollercoaster earlier– this week has been– it’s basically a launch week because if you listen– and by the way our graph is really-really cool. So our downloads graph on Libsyn for our podcast goes like there’s a peak every week, every week, and then last week was like “what the fuck?” It’s like off the charts, so I don’t know.
Sean: Is it because of the title, because of the New York Times best seller title?
Johnny: I thought that…
Sean: Or…?
Johnny: But it’s way too fast, I think that Joanna and David both said go listen, and so I think that they’re audiences all came over, so that’s probably what happened [crosstalk 00:03:31]
Sean: I think we were moderately okay.
Johnny: We were pretty clean. We were pretty good; there was no talk of bad things that somebody would hate us for, I don’t think. But here is the rollercoaster, so we– this week has just been exhausting in terms of– because if you listen to episode 131, we’re currently trying to hit the New York Times best seller list with the indie author power pack bundle, that we’re doing with Joanna Penn and David Gaughron and the lynch pin is NOOK. Like any other retailer like iBooks or whatever but NOOK is sort of where we figured was our best chance because you can’t have one entity reporting.
So you can sell 500 bazillion on Amazon and if you don’t have NOOK or Apple report, then it’s nothing and the conventional– not conventional, the wisdom we had had was there like 500 is where they like reporting and it’s going to be a stretch, like that it’s just– and it kind of sucks because we asked people, hey help us out on NOOK and Sean has gotten about 10 emails saying I can’t buy on NOOK.
Sean: NOOK is so balls. Yeah there’s been a lot of emails from people, look I want to buy on NOOK, but not if you’re out of the country, good luck and apparently– I don’t know because like I don’t have a NOOK, but apparently their buying process is totally balls, and we even got emails from people who, “Look I signed up for NOOK, I signed up to do this just to buy the power pack and I wasn’t able. I gave up I had card abandonment.” So thank you everybody for trying, that’s really-really awesome, but really NOOK, why do you suck?
Johnny: They’re trying…
Dave: No surprise, come on.
Johnny: I think NOOK is owned by Amazon. What can we do to drive more Amazon sales? I know let’s buy NOOK, but anyway so here is the resolution on that. We kind of think– I don’t want to give details because I don’t know how much of this we shouldn’t share in terms of the details and I’m sure we will do a wrap up later once we know, but it kind of looks now like we were going to be okay, like maybe I don’t know, so…
Dave: We won’t be okay.
Sean: No one will ever be okay ever.
Johnny: Speaking of nobody ever being okay, guess what book I finished last night?
Dave: Oh Crash.
Johnny: I did. I finished reading Crash, I liked it. Like you guys were building it up like it was going to rip my soul out, and I think that there is something that if I had down in it…
Sean: That’s the marketing message because people who love Dave they want to be destroyed inside.
Dave: I will eat your soul.
Sean: Yeah.
Johnny: You eat your soul.
Sean: It has a cancer of emotions.
Johnny: But I thought it was…
Dave: [inaudible 00:06:18]
Johnny: Really good though, I really enjoyed, I thought it was a great read so congratulations.
Sean: Yeah a big giant hi five to Dave on Crash actually, it got picked up by Pixel of Ink. We did a freebie promo on it and it got picked up Pixel of Ink, and we got 11 reviews like boom and they were all like Dave’s awesome, Crash is awesome, and there’s one like bitchy review that I don’t even understand that’s three stars, that’s like I don’t know says something like “confusing mystery,” or I don’t even know what it says, but it’s stupid.
Dave: I want to see that one, go on.
Sean: But– don’t, you’ll cry, but the rest, the rest are like overwhelmingly positive and you know the warm fuzzies that Dave deserves for that book.
Dave: I actually did a rare thing somebody had commented on the review and they had questions regarding a couple of things in the book. So I answered the questions in the reviews. So hopefully that won’t bite me in the ass and people get all pissed because I answered in the review whatever.
Johnny: So to continue with the box set thing, like we– I kind of feel again like we may make that, but I don’t know like whatever, but if you haven’t got that yet it’s 99 cents through Sunday at least, like that is the reporting period for sure and so…
Dave: It’s for our live listeners, not for people listening.
Johnny: Correct, right that’s why…
Sean: And if we are listening live and you…
Johnny: And you want to try NOOK, try to buy NOOK.
Sean: Good luck.
Dave: I know we really sold it.
Johnny: It will help us a lot, like do you want to suffer for us, right?
Sean: If you have 99 cents and an hour.
Johnny: Right.
Dave: I know.
Sean: It will be awesome, buy it on NOOK, yeah but no really if you don’t have it yet and you don’t have any even one of those three books, then absolutely get it now because the price will go up.
Dave: If you don’t care about your Friday, go ahead and try buy it.
Sean: No it’s a great– like you can make it a date night, like you and your significant other [cross talk 00:08:20]
Johnny: It will be as great as when– it will be as great as…
Dave: If there’s anyone you’re trying to break up with, this is a good date night.
Johnny: Maybe Sean, maybe instead of getting your haircut for date night this week you guys could buy from NOOK, what do you think?
Sean: That’s a pretty good idea, I like it.
Johnny: So anyway…
Dave: There’s that lull, shows over, bye.
Johnny: Shows over. Actually today’s show is going to be about finding your ideal reader, your ideal audience, but first I feel like I want to broach the big six things since I haven’t said that yet, do you have any interest? Dave you know what it is, Sean do you? Should I talk about that?
Sean: The big six thing?
Johnny: No the big six list that we talked about where I try to contact people try to blow a punch line here.
Sean: Oh yeah I do want to talk about that, that’s kind of awesome.
Johnny: So this can be a SPP joke that we beat into the ground, but I think also if we succeed, we as a community, it will be really cool for everybody. So I try to contact some people this week because we made a list of like who’d be like our dream SPP guest to have on the show, and so we were like whatever, we’ll take a shot. And I wrote some really good emails and motherfucker are famous people hard to get a hold on nowadays. You can’t find an email, you can’t– there’s no way to contact people, half of them don’t have contact forms on their site.
Sean: And he wasn’t even calling them motherfucker in the email, like he called them a motherfucker and they denied him, he couldn’t even get the email.
Johnny: I’ll take a denial all day long, I can’t reach them you know I feel like I want to at least have a shot, a feel that I’m getting– so anyway Sean’s answer was…
Sean: Because I’m more special than you.
Johnny: I know, Sean’s answer to this was well let’s just beat the shit out of this idea on the show, and then maybe like word will make it to these people and could we– we just want to get in this with you people. So that was Sean’s idea of big six, do you want to talk about that, so it’s six of them.
Sean: So we have six people on our list that we thought it would be really awesome to get, because we do have a lot of people on the show who you know they’ve done things in self publishing, and I think that that’s really healthy, I think that’s great, I think we do want to have those people. They’re good examples, they inspire us, we learn from them. That’s great, but I think it’s also a good idea to plug in to something more directly. Like who are the artists that really-really inspire us? Who are the artists who push our art forward? And who are people who have done really-really cool things that we want to do too? So we’ve just made a list, and you know we’ll knock this all off the list one by one, and then we’ll make another list, but our original list it starts at the top with Stephen King, we want to get Stephen King on the show.
Johnny: So we’re thinking small basically.
Sean: Right.
Dave: That won’t happen.
Sean: You don’t know.
Dave: I don’t think that we are going to see each of these.
Johnny: He’s the most, he’s the hardest, he’s the hardest on this list.
Sean: He’s the hardest.
Dave: Nobody fucking asked me about the list, otherwise Clive Barker would be on there. Clive Barker should be on there.
Johnny: It could be the big seven.
Sean: Yeah we can have Clive.
Johnny: Big seven, big eight [crosstalk 00:11:35]
Sean: Big eight? Big eight isn’t as catchy.
Sean: No, we are going to do big nine, we’ll do big nine.
Johnny: Oh my God. I want out. I’m not going to remember what the other three are so okay.
Sean: That’s because you hate marketing meetings, they make you cry.
Dave: This reminds me of the Christmas list my son has made which has like every single Lego toy ever made.
Johnny: Austin has like a $300 Lego movie set on his. Who’s the other…?
Sean: This is like getting a PS5 on a Christmas list, isn’t it?
Johnny: Who’s the other that I don’t know about then? So if we’re talking about Clive Barker and Dean Koontz, who’s the third that you’re adding.
Dave: Sean Juman.
Sean: Let’s call her right away. We call her at BOU and then ignore her while we’re on the video.
Johnny: Who’s the other person? Who’s the other person?
Sean: Dave’s got to think of someone.
Johnny: So you– there isn’t another yet? Okay, so currently it’s eight and when Dave thinks of another it will be nine, so King– who are the other five from our originals?
Sean: Chuck Palahniuk author of Fight Club and Choke.
Johnny: And I sent Chuck a letter, an actual letter when I was younger, like not a lot younger and he replied and sent me a book not even his, it was somebody else’s. So like the dude responded to an email, but my point is like that’s– he’s responsive or at least he was and he had Fight Club.
Sean: No Johnny’s got an in, he was like remember that letter I sent you when I was 15.
Johnny: Creepy, well I wasn’t– I was older than 15, but my point is like I feel like that’s a possibility if we could ever get to him. Who else, there’s Louie C.K. and Kevin Smith.
Sean: Louie C.K. is my favorite one, like how– Stephen King and Louie C.K. I would just– because they have just done totally-totally different things, but stuff I would really-really…
Johnny: They are both indie minded. So Louie C.K. we quoted in Write Publish Repeat because he did that thing where he went directly to his fans instead of going through HBO for his I think one of his shows, right? And then…
Sean: We quote Stephen King all over the place in Write Publish Repeat.
Johnny: And Kevin Smith is obviously he’s not an indie author, but he’s an indie filmmaker and he…
Dave: He feels like the one that I– well other than maybe Stephen King that I know the most just through his work and following him for so long, it feels like we would have a great conversation with him.
Sean: Yeah.
Dave: And at the same time it also feels, he would be a very difficult guest.
Johnny: Well they are all difficult guests, but why not ask.
Sean: They are all difficult to guests.
Johnny: But, and then I think it was still Bill Dallas, I think that was who was talking about how he listens to this smodcast and I guess I didn’t realize like task, Kevin Smith’s task is came out of a joke on a podcast, on a smodcast so…
Dave: Yeah.
Johnny: So were we…
Sean: Unicorn western.
Johnny: Unicorn Western or Dicoy Wallet or Fat Vampire, like there’s lots of them, so we’ve got…
Dave: It is Space Shuttle, but successful.
Johnny: Yes.
Sean: So and then the other two are both podcast friendly and bigger possibilities, but one is John August, who is a screen writer and he has a podcast called Script Notes, that’s great. He’s written a lot of stuff for Tim Burton and– sorry Garrett is texting me during the show. Garrett you know better than this, and then John Green the author of Fault in Our Stars, which I just finished reading like a day before we made this list. If I made the list a week earlier or a week later, who knows, but he was fresh on my mind, and I know that he does podcast and he’s podcast friendly, so ask him.
Johnny: So what’s the call on this, like if you guys– we don’t want to start badgering them, but we also kind of do, like is that the idea, like we want…
Sean: Yeah, I think we need to make a page on the site. We need to do this as a post you know and then we can constantly refer to the link, I think that’s type of thing.
Johnny: What were we looking for with the listeners, like wasn’t the all idea to crowd source kind of finding out, you know let these guys know that we are…
Dave: Yeah, if anyone happens to be related to any of these people, feel free to let them know that…
Sean: Or you know parade them on social media.
Johnny: That’s how we got Whitney Moore.
Sean: That’s how we got what?
Johnny: Whitney Moore.
Sean: That’s right, that’s how we got Whitney Moore our, best guest ever.
Johnny: So there you go, there is a big– potentially big nine when Dave gets around to it. So, we are just going to kind of continue to beat on that. So there you go, there’s that. What else, so I did want to mention, do you want to talk briefly– I mean I guess we’ve almost formalized the fact that the first half of the show is sort of loose ends, and then we get into our topic which is going to be the ideal reader thing, but the idea that were coming up on the Write Publish Repeat conversation that we talked so much about.
I was just thinking about this, so we have the preorder up, and I think this is a smart strategy too if people want to use something like this, we have the preorder up for the Fiction Unboxed book, and not Fiction Unboxed the project, the actual book. So it will sell for 3.99, it’s on preorder for 2.99, and if you get it during the preorder it comes with those conversations, the Write Publish Repeat conversations, the video companions to Write Publish Repeat where we update sort of what we’ve learned in your seams and going to further details, and it’s like I don’t know 30 videos I think.
Sean: Yeah, there’s 30 videos, none of them can be longer than 20 minutes. So none of them are longer than 20 minutes, but a lot of them really stretch it they’re like 90 minutes and 48 seconds and Johnny is making signs like shut up Sean, shut up, but they’re just they’re basic. We elaborate on stuff that’s changed for us since Write Publish Repeat, and just go into a little more depth on some of the basic concepts.
Johnny: So here’s the thing here, we’re using this as a vehicle. So this is you can look at this as a self publisher, but then also as an SPP listener or follower of ours is we’re going to offer this, we want to be able to give this to you guys for free. It’s going to sell for 49 bucks, but like you’re our core peeps. So we want to give it to you, but it’s not really free. We want to have a little bit, you’ve got to help us out a little bit and the way you do that is you spending three bucks on the Fiction Unboxed preorder, and it will come with that and when it’s actually released.
And so that serves a couple of masters because one it allows us to get that course into the hands of the people who are most likely to want it almost free essentially, like you’re getting the book for three bucks and it comes with the course, but then also it allows us to drive up the preorder. It gives you guys an incentive to you know if you weren’t thinking about getting that book when you get it in the preorder you get the conversations free. So it kind of makes it a dual launch and it changes the game from get– save a dollar on this book, or preorder this book, like we would say that, but what it changes it to is, would you like to get this course for free? Which is really compelling and I’d like to see how well that works. I’d like to see how well you guys like it, but I would think this is a very legit strategy for definitely non-fiction authors.
Sean: Yeah, I think it’s a smart strategy. It works very good for non-fiction. I think for fiction we’re trying some things too. Like we’re putting together packages where you know, we have a lot of development diaries, and you know the DVD extras basically, right? The DVD extras thing, but I think for nonfiction because people are looking for problems to solutions, it’s more of a no brainer. And this also gave us a chance to do something else that we wanted to do, which was give the Fiction Unboxed book to all the unboxers just a freebie, because we were originally going to give them all the transcripts, like that was the Fiction Unboxed book was the transcripts, and then we decided to actually write a book from scratch because it just told a better story.
And we wanted to give that away, but we also didn’t want to really damage the pre-orders because that early momentum you know that’s what we have been talking about with David Gagarin and Joanna Pam is tickling algorithms, and we won’t have a way to till them if we were just giving the book away. So this really allowed us to kind of serve our masters, and I think it’s a pretty smart strategy.
Johnny: Right, actually– so we’ll see how that goes, but if you want to pick up the fiction unboxed pre order that is where it is. And then just– I just feel like I want to say that I finished the second Dream Engine book today, and boy was that fun. So I don’t want to go on and on about this because I know it makes Dave edgy when we talk about our shit, and he’s going to start growling at us. But since we did start that early, like wow you talk about expanding a world? So we’ll be able talk about that sort of thing going on, but I think it really-really speaks to what you can do in fiction with taking a simple concept and saying okay here is how big it can get. So…
Sean: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I actually was knee deep in the very last of the edits before the show started. And it was a little jarring, like I really-really wanted to stay there. I think this is our record on production. Three weeks, 15 writing days and the draft is 125,000 words. So it’s pretty insane.
Dave: Oh, I hate you.
Sean: And the story is bigger and more layered, and the un-boxers all seem just over the moon happy, which is cool, so yeah.
Dave: We have a breaking comment here, we have our ninth person. And I can’t believe that at least between Sean and I that we didn’t already think of this.
Sean: J.J. Abrams.
Dave: Yes.[crosstalk 00:21:51]
Sean: Oh yes, J.J. Abrams, I want J.J. Abrams.
Johnny: Yeah, I like that our guests are getting easier to attain.
Dave: Well, who ought, he’ll be wrapping star wars soon.
Johnny: But dude one in– what if we got one of those, like wouldn’t you guys like to hear any one of those nine people like we’re not [crosstalk 00:22:10].
Sean: We will get one of those; we will get three of those. We will get maybe all of them. It doesn’t– we don’t have to get this in the next year. You know like I would like to believe that we would build a big enough company that will be making stuff that one day I’ll have a conversation with J.J. Abrams and say, “Hey would you like to come on to our show?” It may be five years from now, but put it out there.
Dave: We are doing this for five more years?
Johnny: What kills me is that I have the emails written for my three. I have emails for Chock Palahniuk, for Kevin smith and for Louis C.K. Like they are good emails, like I would at least reply to these emails, and I’ll take a rejection, but I want to at least have a shot. So, okay there’s another one, if you guys know of any way to reach out those three guys, an email address I could send it to let me know because I at least want to send the emails that I wrote, so whatever.
Dave: We have one comment here, Simon Best says, it could– referring to the Nook thing, it could be worse, Amazon could try and remove your surname from your book because it has the word best in it.
Johnny: Oh no.
Dave: Yeah, he had written best in there and I guess they– I saw a Google plus post I think on this. Basically I think they thought he was trying to rig for like best seller, so they like email him and said hey, remove best from your tags in your book, which is hilarious.
Johnny: The same thing happened to my friend Paul.
Dave: I’m going to change my name to Best Seller by the way.
Johnny: Same thing happened to my friend Paul Viagra.
Sean: That happened to one of my politician friends, his name is none of the above.
Johnny: What.
Sean: It’s pretty bad.
Johnny: Okay so moving on. Sean do you want to intro the topic a little bit, because it sort of plays off of the things we have been discussing.
Sean: We are here, but only if Dave promises not to roll his eyes, like I’m happy to intro this.
Dave: I’ll just turn my camera off.
Sean: Yeah, Dave just turn your camera off, then we are good.
Dave: Alright, there we go.
Sean: I feel much better now.
Johnny: Hold on I’m going to– I’m busy trying to make the sun stop shining.
Sean: No, I feel like he’s peeping on me now. I prefer you just left and came back, but this is fine so.
Dave: Okay.
Sean: There we go. So we are going to talk about kind of finding right to the reader. And this is a little more– did he pull off his pants down over there.
Johnny: I don’t know, but I’m trying to make my list a big nine, you keep distracting me. Stop it, just intro the fucking toping already.
Sean: So this is finding your ideal reader, but in a more pragmatic, mathematical way. And some of the ways that we normally talk about which is you know like great stuff. And this is something that we have been talking about lately on our– you know the weekly authorpreneurs almanac that we do on Sundays on And the last couple of weeks we’ve talked– because right now we are designing a really rather large auto responder that will kind of work as an umbrella auto responder, and then we’ll drill it down and make a smaller one for each of the inference. But the one we have right now is– it’s about 60 emails long, and it kind of tells the sterling and stone story. And we want to make sure that we are talking to the right people when we talk to them.
And so we’ve kind of been drilling that down and we first talked about why it was important for your company to have a mission statement, because that really helps you to know who you are talking to. Like what– even if you are just– if your company is just you in your home office, you know if you– because that’s what Write Publish Repeat is about, it’s treating your writing career like a business.
And you know I think that there’s one thing that we really try to impress upon our listeners is that you want to treat your writing like a business, because that’s what is going to make you succeed more than anything else. Because you will just treat everything with more gravity you know the time that you spend on things, the way you are communicating with people, that’s really important. And even if it’s just you and your keyboard, that is a business. And thinking about what you want your business to stand for will help you to articulate how you are going to communicate with your readers, and how you are going to find your ideal readers and how you are going to turn your ideal readers from casual observers of your art into to true fans and evangelists, and that doesn’t happen automatically, at least not often.
And the more things that you can do to make sure that you are speaking to the right people and nurturing that relationship you know, the more prosperous your career is going to be. So we’ve spent some diligent time talking about what our company stands for, what each of the imprints– who we expect our ideal readers to be and who we want them to be. And so that’s what the conversation is about.
Johnny: How do we begin this conversation since there are so many pieces to it? I don’t even know, like I’m disconfabulated.
Sean: Well…
Johnny: Shockingly.
Sean: We could talk– I don’t know if it’s time to have this part of the conversation yet but…
Johnny: You wanted to talk about covers.
Sean: Well, right I was going to say you could define your ideal reader and then try to get the right covers too, you know attract them or the right logo for your business to attract them.
Johnny: When you think about ideal– when you think of designing a cover, you have to think of your ideal reader. Dave as a matter of fact do you what my mum used to say about this?
Dave: Don’t ever write a book called Space Shuttle?
Johnny: No, she said never judge a book by it’s cover. Which is really kind of ludicrous what I’m seeing with the Axis cover where that’s the first thing that everyone says. So I mean that was true to meaning people, but really wrong when it comes to books, right. I mean a cover can make all the difference when it comes to people discovering, liking your book.
Dave: Yes it can Johnny. And fortunately for us the designers at the 99designs have us covered. 99desings has been hosting book cover design contests from the very start, and we’ve been blown away by the amazing diversity of work their community of more than 300,000 designers has created. We’ve used them for several books, and I have always been impressed with the beautiful covers the designers have come up with. Stuff you’ll be proud to hold in your hand and say that is my book cover, because…
Johnny: Has it ever happened for you Dave when you hold your book and you are proud, you don’t want to throw it out?
Dave: Well not Crash, I did actually…
Johnny: I heard there was a book that you were like I can’t even look at them. That is what I heard the reaction was.
Dave: Yeah, that was a different book. No the…
Johnny: Probably one with a shady cover and not done by 99designs.
Dave: Yeah, that was a cover not done — Dark Crossings cover was done by 99designs, and I got a chance to hold that in my hands for the first time when we met in Texas. And wow, it’s just beautiful. We highly recommend 99designs. And the best part is that 99designs offers a 100% money back guarantee, so you have absolutely nothing to loose.
Johnny: So start your custom design today at, and you’ll get a free power pack upgrade if you use that link. If you don’t use that link I can’t help you because the power pack upgrade makes your design contest stand out. It’s bold; it’s got a prominent background, you are going to get more designers. So visit
Sean: You will probably lose weight too.
Johnny: Right in the middle of the URL. In the middle of the fucking URL he interrupts me. That makes sense, So going off script…
Dave: Are you going to mute Sean from now on.
Johnny: I’m going to mute him during the adreads.
Dave: The whole show.
Johnny: Yeah exactly. So going off script a little bit though, we are going to do– did we decide this formally, can I…
Sean: Yeah, no I think we should actually.
Johnny: Okay, so we were originally going to do and we said this before that we were going to do a logo. We are going to do a 99designs contest and we are going to do a logo for the smarter artist. For the nonfiction brand that handles Write publish Repeat and Fiction Unboxed the book, and Fiction Unboxed the end, and Self Publishing podcast. We were going to do a logo, but what we decided we were going to do instead, just because it’s going to be more illustrative to anybody who listens is we are going to do a cover for Leflore Deblank, so that’s the– for Lexis’s line. And that’s a tricky cover because it’s a romance, but it’s not– we don’t want to do like something really like harlequin and stuff, like it just doesn’t work you know…
Sean: There will be no bare-chested men on the cover.
Johnny: Yeah, so it’s just [crosstalk 00:30:58]
Sean: And let Dave decide. If Dave will agree, then there will be a bare-chested man.
Johnny: And for that reason we are a little afraid to have Dave handle this one. So we are going to do…
Dave: Dean and Coral embraced in a lover’s kiss.
Johnny: And who wouldn’t pick up the book when they saw that? Who wouldn’t?
Sean: That was so a lot, I think.
Johnny: Could be like a paranormal romance sort of a thing you could get going there.
Dave: The ware wolf and the what?
Sean: So yeah, I think that that’s going to be a trickier cover, and it just makes sense to take it out of the house.
Johnny: And we need a lot of ideas which is the whole point of doing the 99designs thing so.
Sean: Right, because we get insular you know if it’s just us, then we are not going to make as good a choice on that as putting it out there and you know having a lot of different ideas come in. And it will stoke our conversation too, which is good and you know well get that feedback and that will be fun. I’m really-really looking forward to that cover.
Johnny: All right, so…
Dave: Before we get back on topic Missy Morgan has a comment. I’m great at quote looking on the net. If you need any help searching for email addresses etc. Wow that sounds like I’m a pro hacker or something, I’m not I’m just a relentless stalker.
Johnny: I’m just a stalker. Right, I was going to say it. Not a pro hacker a stalker.
Sean: Who needs stalker working for us really?
Johnny: It’s time to have them not working against us for a change. So yes Missy please, any of those nine people.
Sean: We expect all nine by 6:00pm tonight? Is that good enough time?
Dave: If you could have them tied up delivered to one of our houses, that would be a bonus.
Johnny: Don’t actually do that please, there maybe some Better Off Undead listeners listening.
Dave: Yeah.
Johnny: Alright, so that’s– there’s that, but so moving in to just continuing with the talk about finding your ideal reader. So we started with a mission statement I think that’s around the time that we– that I cut you off or you cut yourself off, whatever.
Sean: Yeah, so the way we all started this. Well we started it because we were going to write the auto responder. And then once we got to the auto responder, I thought it was just really kind of important to– I don’t know, plant a flag in what we stand for. What does Sterling and Stan stand for, what does Sterling and Stone stand for, what does Collective Inkwell stand for? And you know all the way down the line. And once we know what we stand for it’s easier to say who do we want? Because there are different questions here, there’s– you’ve had people who are reading your stuff, you have the people who you want to be reading your stuff and the people that you kind of expect to be reading your stuff, and those aren’t necessarily always the same people.
And the more you can get alignment with those different things you know the closer you will be to living your writers dream, and being able to write the things that you want to write for an audience that’s eager and expectant for that type of art. And that does take a little bit of work and it’s a little bit more of a calculation. Like you need to think about it and not just say I’m writing the book, so I want to write and my audience will find me, because you can do that, but it takes so much longer. If you know who you are speaking to, you are just going to be more articulate with them.
Johnny: And that’s actually– so I just did mine yesterday because the way that we have been doing the almanacs is Sean will do presentation on something like ideal reader, mission statement, and then he kind of gives us home work. And so I just went and did mine recently. And actually I don’t remember the details, but I got something different for some of these then, and way to shit on Unicorn Western dude. Like Unicorn Western is the book that even the Roman Sands people couldn’t get into, like every example was like they tried Unicorn Western, but they couldn’t get into it.
Sean: Well, that’s because I couldn’t– like we are raw-raw-raw, enough on this and you know and like I want to be accurate there, right. So like the LOL guy, what was it, need exactly to remember. The LOL guy tried Unicorn Western and didn’t dig it.
Johnny: They were two, at least two that people– and I’m like well so who is that fucking book for, why did we write it. Why did we write a quarter million words if it’s nobody’s…
Sean: Right, but that’s just– that’s one person who is our reader. That’s not– like that– there are people who are Roman Sands readers who aren’t– because the guy who tried Unicorn Western was an LOL person, right.
Johnny: The Roman Sands guy didn’t like Unicorn Western in your ideal reader’s scenario?
Sean: Well, but that’s a good– but that’s an unideal reader not the ideal reader. And there are people in that group. And I think that’s actually an okay example because someone like that they’ve– we’ve grown since Unicorn Western. Like we– I mean don’t get me wrong, I love Unicorn Western, I think it’s awesome. But I think there…
Johnny: My ideal reader liked Unicorn Western, didn’t like the underside [phonetic] as much. You can’t help but personalize it a little bit, and I felt a little let down by the reception of Genesis. So it’s not surprising that my conception of the ideal reader didn’t really get into Genesis. I love Genesis too.
Sean: I love Genesis too and I think that, I think Unicorn Western is really-really awesome. And I had this belief that Unicorn Western will have a big boom once we are done with Apocalypse and we have kind of closed that box and we’ve told that story. But I also think that it’s legitimate to say that there are Roman Sands readers who didn’t dig it. I think I’d picked on Threshold for the Inkwell. But I think it’s important you to identify this is the book that your ideal reader doesn’t like, because sometimes an ideal reader isn’t going to like everything whole sale. You know and knowing what your ideal reader likes best helps you to you know– you want to find that harmony between what your ideal reader likes best, and what you most want to write.
Johnny: Well, you are also making a guess.
Sean: Oh absolutely.
Johnny: So we don’t know. Actually I think that if I– I may even have mine, hold on.
Sean: Yeah, that’s one of the points that was made in the original presentation, is that one of the reasons that we want to do this auto responders is to get to know our readers better. Like that’s a really-really good reason for putting something like this in place because you can ask them questions. You can set up places for them to talk. You can give surveys and then offer prices for answering the surveys and get those answers. But we are not informed right now; we are making a lot of guesses.
Johnny: I’m looking at mine and I think I have a passive aggressive description of a ideal reader because it basic– I think that I put in Unicorn Western specifically because I was offended that yours shut on it. So in my scenario, his favorite is The Beam but followed by Unicorn Western. And I probably wouldn’t have thought of that. But okay so here is the point is– the conception of an ideal reader is a tricky one because it is– if you conceptualize it right it has to be one person and one person, and one person is not going to like all books. That just doesn’t make sense.
And so you do kind of have to pick and choose and then say well there is you know sort of a, maybe a second ideal reader or something. Because clearly like what Sean said, Unicorn Western is probably not the favorite book of most Roman Sands readers, but it is of a lot of them. Like a lot of them like it. And so it’s also incorrect to basically say as if– and the CI example would maybe be threshold as you said, like it’s incorrect to say that CI readers didn’t like threshold, like that’s not right. But I think that what it means is, write more books like Crash, write more books like– less books like Threshold if that you are using that ideal reader as your barometer.
Sean: Yeah, I’m trying to pull these up so that we can give an example.
Johnny: The other thing to keep in mind too is that, I think there’s an intersection between– so I actually tried to identify my ideal customer when I was doing blogging which is very much like an ideal reader. And I remember saying that he is a lot like me. Like it was almost accurate to say really like me, but with some differences because we do write true to what we most want to do, but you also have to remember that you are not your audience. So I think there’s a weird harmony there because here’s what you don’t want, I don’t want to write for CI reader because I’m not– that’s not what is in me. Like that’s what is– the darkness is in Dave, right. So even if Dave would like me without slicing my throat, that wouldn’t make sense because that’s not me writing to my muse that would be me trying to…
Dave: I would need the editorial control over who dies.
Sean: All right, so…
Johnny: Hold on, let me just finish my thought. That would be me writing to a market sort of artificially, and saying well there’s a really big market in Post Apocalyptic. So I’m going to do– even though I don’t want to do it, I’m going to do it and I would have to, since Roman Sands is genre agnostic. I would have to say I would write it in a way I dint like. Meaning like I’m sure I could find a way to write Post Apocalyptic that I’d love, but you don’t want pander, you don’t want to say…
Sean: Yeah, that’s…
Johnny: You don’t want to choose an ideal reader ahead of time and say I’m going to write that person even though I do not want to.
Sean: Yeah you– that’s writing the book about boats because boats are in and– like that’s– it really is the wrong way to go about your art. What you want to do is find those intersections. These are the questions that we asked on the actual presentation, the four questions that actually matter. What is the approximate demographic information? So that’s just like who they are, what gender are they, how old are they? Because you know– like I’ll take CI as an example here.
You know it would be easy to assume because we write a lot of dark horror that our readers are young and male and that’s not true at all. Like we have a lot of like– we have a fair slice of our audience. It’s like women in their sixties. Like that’s really cool, like that’s good to know, but if we are just standing in the dark, we are never going to know that. So we know that because we interact with our audience and you know they are a lot of those people tend to be– go on Facebook and you know they like sending us emails and stuff.
Dave: A lot of the female readers that we heard from that are older, they are people that were reading Dean Koontz and Steven king back in the day, and I’m sure still do read them, but now you know there’s a lot more options for them. They told us that and I love that because that’s why I used to read a lot.
Sean: Right and that carries on here too. So what is the approximate demographic information? What does a day in their life look like? Because there’s difference right, if you are a single mom with three children and two jobs, you don’t have very much time to read and that makes you a very different reader than somebody who has a 23 year old son who is already finished with college. Like you have a lot more time in your hands, you probably have– you are a much different reader.
Where do they go for entertainment? And again this is important. You know like for a CI reader, they like a lot of the same shows that we like, you know they are watching True Detective, they are watching Breaking Bad. Like they are into these shows, they think they are great, like that’s how they want to consume their stories. They like character based stuff.
And what entertainment experience are they most looking to have. And like Dave just touched on, you know these are people– a lot of CI audience, these are people who grew up with King and Koontz. You know and they are looking for that kind of vibe, but you know with maybe a more modern twist. And so you know asking those questions and you just go through each one of them. And I’m going to give the one that I wrote for Sterling and Stone as an example because that’s at the highest level here so.
Jennifer Lol is a 33 year old writer with two children and a supportive husband Damon who believes that Jenny is far more talented than she has given herself credit for. She is overworked and overstressed, but is unwilling to give up on her dream thanks in large part to Damon’s support and the ass kick she gets from listening to the self publishing podcast each week. Her guiltiest pleasure is BOU which she listens to while working out to lots of looks from the people around her. She is an avid reader, but has recently only given some of the SPP boys work a try. All right, here’s what Johnny was referring to.
She started with Unicorn Western because Johnny and Sean wouldn’t shut up, but has since read a lot of Roman Sands stuff plus Crash. She normally doesn’t like horror, but was curious to read it because of Dave. Jenny participated in Fiction Unboxed back in to the $39 early bird level and is doubling in writing the story in the world of Alterra. Despite never sending any of the three guys an email, Jenny is a platinum reader and considers herself a true fan.
So that’s us trying to articulate, now does that encompass all of our readers? No, not by a long shot, but I bet you there are some people who are listening to this right now who definitely identify with Jenny. And so that’s the purpose of doing it and if this seems silly to you, like it’s really not. If you are a writer, you are used to creating characters and you are able to understand those characters enough to write about them believably, about their history, about what happened to them, what made them who they are, and if you can do that, if you can create a character for your ideal reader, it really sharpens your pencil when you are writing to that person.
Dave: And what is the largest benefit to this– how does this help your writing mostly would you say?
Sean: Well I think it helps you with clarity of voice. It helps form that bond because– and it’s just a starting point. That’s the thing too it’s not like now Jenny Lol is the only person, you know…
Dave: Sorry everyone else.
Sean: Right, that’s not the point all, but it’s a starting point for the conversation that you want to have with your readers. And for a lot of writers you know they are starting out with their first book, their first two books, they don’t have a big list. They don’t have a big social media following. They don’t have that conversation happening. And so you know starting with giving themselves someone to talk to, giving themselves for lack of a better definition, an imaginary friend. You know to…
Dave: I’ve watched those.
Sean: That stays in you know that’s a standing for their ideal reader, it gives them somebody to talk to. And you know if you are blogging and there’s nobody reading your blog, that’s very difficult to maintain. It’s only when you start getting comments and you start getting feedback and you start getting emails, that blogging becomes something that’s easier and that you can build you know iteratively get stronger at what you are doing. And in those early days it’s good to make some guesses.
One of the comments on the almanac when we did this before was you know, well aren’t you just guessing. Well, yes absolutely, like we are totally guessing. But these are educated guesses you know we do know our readers you know Jennifer Lol is very much like a lot of emails we get, like we know this people. And you can’t make the mistake on either end. You don’t want to ever make the mistake of not ever defining your readers and not caring and just assuming they are going to find you, nor defining them so specifically that you don’t give anyone else room to grow. You say this is what my reader is and I am not open to any other ideas. Both of those are mistakes. But you want to start the conversation.
Johnny: Yeah and actually, this has already entered my mind, so the Axis of Aaron. So Axis of Aaron is on– if you are getting this now, it’s still on preorder, I think it comes out on the thirteenth right, so whatever. Like that will be out real soon if it’s not out now.
Sean: It will be out by the time we record next.
Johnny: And it’s literally. Like it’s 150,000 words I have heard from like five or six people who read it already just beta readers and people who– like the Sterling and– what’s her name now, platinum readers on our blog who got it early and they– it’s been very-very positive, but they’ve all said some variation of it. You know it’s literally, it asks a lot of questions. And so given that we are the people who did Unicorn Western and The Beam and for a while the LOL comedies were part of Roman Sands, it would have been easy to say like is this the right book to write. And should we– you know are people expecting something else.
And it was very expensive in terms of the time. It’s our most expensive book to date and during that process the question was, who is the ideal Roman Sands reader, and what do they want? And you know like we didn’t ask this question during this book because we didn’t have this formalized yet, but yes, I mean that book is very Roman Sands. Like what does Roman Sands stand for in our mission statement was I think a while ago…
Sean: I’m just reading Jake Fanning who is the Roman Sands ideal reader. He’s never even read Unicorn Western; he just thinks it sounds weird. He didn’t read it and not like it, he just said read it, it sounds weird. That’s fair, it’s like Unicorn Western.
Johnny: Sean insists on shitting on Unicorn Western and telling us new ways in which he is shitting on it. My point is like Axis is very Roman sands. Like we’ve started using roman sands as an adjective like this is roman sands. And it very matches’ that. Even though it’s big, even though it’s literally, even though it’s not action driven, there’s action in it, but it’s like weird mind bender action, it still fit’s, like it still fit’s that idea of reader. Like Jake does that– I mean I don’t remember whether you mentioned Axis, but you mentioned questions, makes it stick with you…
Sean: It’s the last paragraph on Jake, is Jake loved the Dream Engine so much that he joined Fiction Unboxed 1.5 even though he doesn’t consider himself a writer, and has already pre ordered Axis of Aaron which came out of nowhere to become his most anticipated book of the year.
Johnny: Right, so I think that these all help you to horn in and say, you know what is your reader most interested in. Do they like the idea of a book that the questions in it or the themes or linger and stick with them. Do they like questions that don’t have an answer, but the authors are attempting to answer them anyway. And that’s what our ideal reader does, that’s what we stand for and so even though it’s literally, and even though it’s different from a lot of the books that we have written, it still makes sense as a Roman Sands title. Because you want to be able to– okay so here’s what you want to do. You want to find the sweet spot where you are writing books that your ideal people will like, but you are not looking for a market that you think you can exploit and writing to that market. There’s a subtle difference there.
Dave: I have an odd confession to make.
Johnny: Oh not again. This happens at least once a week guys.
Dave: Back in my twenties when I worked a grave yard shift at the gas station, I used to do something a little bit like this. I actually– I did interviews with myself of books I had not yet written.
Sean: Oh no, that’s awesome, that’s say seven hail Marys.
Johnny: And do you know what that sounds like Dave. That sounds like something an optimistic sort of Tony Robbins feel.
Sean: Right.
Johnny: Like me, I’ve done stuff like that. [Crosstalk 00:51:16] That was before his hopes were crushed. I’ve given speeches in my head that I you know haven’t actually given in life yet, that sort of thing.
Sean: No, I think that’s awesome [crosstalk 00:51:31]
Johnny: Not that sort of thing.
Sean: That’s a healthy good thing. Because there is– not to get all like Unicorn, you know our cool lady on this at all. But there is truth to that like if you– I don’t believe in the power of the law of attraction in at all. Like not in the sense of you know you put it out there and it comes to you, but I do…
Dave: If you are thinking about money it will come to you. If he gives me money, it will come to you.
Sean: Yeah, I don’t buy that at all, but I do buy that by talking about something, or by writing it down it becomes…
Johnny: You tune in to it.
Sean: Yeah.
Johnny: It’s like if you get a red car and you notice red cars everywhere.
Sean: Right, it’s that simple. It’s like if you keep something in front of mind, you are more likely to accomplish that thing. That’s not about the law of attraction, that’s about the law of like obvious shit in front of you. And so like I think that that’s important, if you want a certain kind of reader and you want to create a certain kind of art, then taking the time to articulate that to yourself if no one else, will help you to do a better job when you do spot that reader, or when you are creating that art.
Johnny: There you go. So I feel like we’ve just kind of ended there. Like…
Dave: He can drop the mic.
Sean: Maybe we should, we would actually be closing basically on time for once, that would be good.
Dave: Well, I’ll check just to make sure there’s no more new comments. Oh O.M. Gian says, I’m not going to rant about Nook, but believe me I wrote a paragraph of anger before I changed my mind, opting to post this instead. LOL lavish side on a happy note, I’m totally enjoying FU 1.5.
Johnny: Oh he’s all over FU 1.5. By the way I thought it was great just now you said it O.M. Gian, do you realize that he’s got two thirds of OMG right there at the beginning? O.M. Gian right, exactly. Yeah he’s been — like if you look at the Fiction Unboxed 1.5 comments, which you can still read the summaries by the way they are on the blog, you can still join too. He’s been like– he did several firsts, he’s been just– he’s very excitable, he’s like a big hamster, big muscular hamster.
Dave: Tenny Wilcox says it took a lot of courage to say that Dave, bravo. Ryan Arthard actually has a question, so we are not getting out of here yet guys.
Johnny: Oh no. I have voicemails for next time, I forgot this time.
Dave: Well this is a regards to our topic today. I have two series out and I’m starting a new serialized series in December, does that mean I have to target three different sets of audience? How do I divide my platform to suit three different paths when I’m still building my audience for my older series and book one of my second series came out two weeks ago? Thanks guys, you are really helpful.
Johnny: I would not think that [inaudible 00:54:10] terms. I would think author terms, like how many series do all of us have you know. Collective Inkwells all speak to a very narrow ideal reader where as Roman Sands speaks to a broader ideal reader.
Sean: I think you are looking for intersections. I think you are looking for– I mean I don’t how different your books are, but I think that they probably– if you wrote them all, they have common denominators, and you want to look for those common denominators and think about what kind of reader would be attracted to those common denominators. But no, if there– I mean unless you are writing stuff that is wildly different, and if you are then you probably were depending on something. But if you are writing something that you know it has the same voice, it’s coming from you and you are planning on building your career as a story teller, then you want to define what that is and make sure that your messaging is in alignment with you know your intentions. And you know the kind of reader you want reading your book, and the kind of book you want to write.
Johnny: Yeah we actually have– when Roman Sands launched, we registered And I came across this because it– I know it’s up for renewal or something. I was looking through my domain names. And you know I think that some day we’ll use that if that universe gets real big, but like it just sort of says we were falling in that direction a little bit too, and it makes more sense to think Roman Sands website, and it makes in our case even more sense to think Sterling And Stone website. So I think an ideal reader is similar like you don’t necessarily think like how can I promote this book? Think how can you promote– you need to promote a book too, but how do you promote yourself? How do you think of the idea where you are for you and what you write?
Dave: We have a couple more comments here. Oh Dylan Perry says anyone else gets a little scare when Dave said “I have a confession to make.”
Johnny: I did.
Dave: Gera Roberts says stabbing in the dark describes every one of Dave’s Friday nights.
Johnny: Or when he goes dancing.
Sean: Yes.
Dave: Oh yeah, Tenny Wilcox says I’ve been listening since the start; it’s been great watching Dave’s journey. I didn’t know I have changed, but okay.
Johnny: Like any good character.
Dave: Oh Missy Morgan, wow you just wrote my bio Sean LOL. Although I started with the horror side Dave, then found your fantasy stuff with Johnny.
Johnny: Missy had the best comment during…
Sean: Oh I loved this comment.
Johnny: Better Off Undead last week, she…
Sean: Oh that’s where I thought you were going.
Johnny: Wasn’t it– it was– I’m trying to remember something where she made a comment and then halfway through the comment she heard us mention her name speaking about the exact same thing. This is the best tease ever, I know.
Sean: I’m not sure, I don’t really remember.
Johnny: All right, so do we have more? Okay, let’s be done.
Dave: Better off undead.
Johnny: Yeah Better Off Undead next don’t watch. So this has been the Self Publishing podcast, thanks for listening. If you haven’t picked up the Indie Author Power Pack and you are live, check that out. Its, but we specifically need Nook sales. Like if you– Nook sales, Amazon sales are good too, Kobo of sales are good, but we specifically need Nook sales if you guys want to hear us talk about hitting New York Times best seller list, hopefully we can do that. Fiction Unboxed 1.5 still going on and Axis of Aaron coming out, now available at That’s all the plugs I’ve got, thanks for listening.

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3 Replies to “How to Find Your Ideal Reader (SPP #132)”

  1. Roland Denzel

    I was very interested in this episode, because I NEED to find my ideal reader as I get back into fiction. Creating your reader’s avatar is a great idea, so you know who you are writing too.
    I don’t understand all the focus on different imprints, though. Except from the web site reader’s perspective, the imprint is almost invisible on Amazon, B&N, etc. Until there’s a way to click on an imprint’s page like you can an author page, it barely makes a difference.
    I have no idea who my favorite authors write for; I click on their author page and see what else they have to offer. You’ve done a good job with dramatically different cover styles, which is about the best you can do. That’s how I choose to click on an author’s serious stories and skip the ‘funny’ ones (like Piers Anthony, Robert Asprin, etc.)
    Is it against the rules to create a pen name and author page for an imprint with a name that’s obviously not a real name (Realm and Sands, Collective Inkwell, LOL, etc.)? You could create a fake editor or something (with an author page) that’s ONLY tied to that one line of books, which would let people know how to single those books out.

    • Roland Denzel

      To clarify, that last paragraph had two different thoughts.
      1. create a pen name for each imprint where the pen name and author page IS Collective Inkwell, Realm and Sands, etc.
      2. create a pen name for a fictitious editor (or something) where the pen name and author page are a real sounding name, but unique to that imprint.

      • Sean Platt

        Yes, I think that’s possible and something I’ve considered, but I don’t want to do it without being absolutely certain.
        As far as the different imprints, we’ll have different lists, one per imprint, and those are very different readers collectively.

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