If you were to Google the phrase “How do I find more readers for my book?” you’d end up with approximately 461,000,000 results. There is no shortage of advice out there.

I’m going to share with you the ONE thing that you absolutely need to do first to find your readers.

You’re likely thinking: Where are they exactly?

This can feel like an overwhelming question, right? Like you’re sitting there imagining these millions of readers milling about in the ether who are all getting hit with tens of millions of messages and ads and who knows what else. Like how in the hell do you find YOUR people?

Trying to figure out where to find your readers can feel a lot like bobbing for apples or playing darts blindfolded.

But as with most things, the answer is rarely where the problem lies.

So, instead of asking where they are, we need to be asking: WHO they are.

Grab a piece of paper and start by answering these questions about your readers. BUT WAIT, before you do, I want you to imagine your Ideal Reader™ the one who LOVES what you write, how you write, etc. We ARE NOT looking for ALL the readers. Bestselling writers do not set out to write something that appeals to everyone in general—they are specific, even if their appeal is widespread (more on that another time).

For now, imagine that one reader person as best you can and ask yourself:

  • What do they prefer to read? (both what’s related and unrelated to your writing)
  • Where do they buy books? (And what does this say about them?)
  • Do they primarily read books on Kindle or a device, or print, or a combo?
  • What do they subscribe to?
  • What kinds of other media do they consume (TV, movies, etc., be specific)?
  • Where do they live? Does this play into why they would like your work?
  • How old are they? And how much education have they had?
  • Who do they follow on social media, on podcasts, elsewhere?
  • What other authors or writers do they like? Why? And how are they similar or different from you?
  • Where do they get their news?
  • What causes do they care about?
  • Do they rate books on Amazon, Goodreads, elsewhere?
  • What does this person like best about your writing? (You can straight up ask some readers, or you can look back at emails, comments, etc. that you’ve received to see what common threads exist)

Imagine this reader is a character in a novel, build them out—preferences, quirks, values, etc. Just make sure that this archetype actually fits your kind of writing and isn’t just who you hope your readers are. Be honest with yourself. And be sure to recognize that your reader is NOT YOU. Don’t use yourself as an example because if she was you she wouldn’t want to read her own stuff, right?

Okay, now you can think about where they are.

Once you start to formulate a picture of who this reader is, you can begin to brainstorm where they hang out both on and offline. For instance, if I know that my Ideal Reader™ is into practical feminism let’s say, then I can start to piece together what kinds of social accounts she may follow, what organizations she may donate to, what kinds of events she attends, and then even extrapolate more ideas on her habits. For instance, perhaps she gets reading recommendations from the Feminist Book Club, or maybe because she is super busy starting her own brand she doesn’t like rambling podcasts and prefers ones with focused interviews with insightful, yet emotionally intelligent thought leaders like in Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us.

As you flesh out where she “hangs out” just jot it all out on paper or Evernote, or whatever, and then go back and think about the places where she’s most likely to take action and read or buy your work.

Decide which 1-3 places you actually have the bandwidth to look into and work. And then schedule that research into your calendar.

For instance, if you have an idea of what social media folks they follow take a deep dive to see what kinds of content they share, how often, etc. and then look for other accounts that are similar but maybe have a smaller following and do the same (you can’t copy the strategy of a celebrity on social media, for instance, they operate from a different rule book because they are already famous).

If you know what other kinds of books she reads go on Goodreads to look at those books, see what people say, and who reviews. This can help you get clues to where and how they get books and what they are looking for.

How you’ll reach them once you connect is another strategy altogether, BUT the first part is finding where to show up and then show up. Show up with a helpful attitude. My friend, you’re playing the long game, so even if you’re just there to observe and help others at first, you’re learning. We’ll talk about more ideas on HOW to show up next time. But if you’re ready to explore that a bit, read this: How to Get Readers to Actually Remember You.

I hope this was helpful and gives you something to work on, and if you ever want hands-on help from someone who does this every day, well, you know where I am. 🙂