Who is the Reader You Save Every Night by guest @EAWwrites

Write to market. I don’t think any of us have stepped a toe in an author community without that phrase du jour blasted as the secret to success.

I define success a little differently than six-figures a year, by the way. To me, the secret of success is publishing profitably year after year. That’s a publishing company that’s staying in business long enough to grow into the levels of revenue we all dream of obtaining.

My name is Elizabeth Ann West, and I am a working author. I’ve sold my writing profitably since 2007, having the fortunate serendipity to be there in the heyday of many trends: SEO article writing, early KDP prior to Select, and even book marketing discounted books from 2012-2014.

In 2014, I tried to buy a new book in the Kindle store in my preferred genre, Jane Austen Fan Fiction, and there wasn’t a new book published in over three weeks. But I was in a personal crisis; I needed my Mr. Darcy fix! I had already zoomed through the books that are my trope preferences. And when there wasn’t anything new, and I tried re-reading old favorites but that still didn’t help.

I opened an old manuscript and wrote.

I wrote for myself the exact story that I, as a customer, wanted in the store. One that I went to the store to try to find and it wasn’t there.

Now, not every author gets to be their ideal customer; Reader Zero, I call it. But we make up imaginary people for a living . . . So I KNOW you can make up what’s called in marketing an avatar.


Who is the Reader You Save Every Night by guest @EAWwrites

What is a Reader Avatar?

When you try to reach everyone, you reach no one. The exercise of a reader avatar is not designed to exclude people from your audience; there is no such thing as a book for everyone. But identifying a couple of reader avatars that come home from work and seek out your books for their relief from the daily grind gives you many benefits:

  • You can design advertising campaigns to reach a specific reader avatar, increasing your conversions and decreasing your costs.
  • You can find the spaces where readers who follow your work, especially if you write in multiple genres, will have common ground. This saves you from turning OFF fans with pitches about your latest books that they aren’t interested in buying.
  • You can prioritize your publishing schedule to suit the reader avatar profiles that are most energized and engaged in your publishing efforts.

To come up with a reader avatar, you’re going to think about the person who picks up your book and is going to LOVE IT.

  • What kind of professions are they likely to have? Again, doesn’t mean they are all that profession, but maybe many have jobs with a common element.
  • What do they value most in a book they read?
  • Are they there for fun or to walk away still repeating your imagery in their minds?
  • Do they need a puzzle to solve or do they need an experience?
  • What kind of money are they spending every month on books?

What Kind of Money are They Spending Every Month on Books?

I’m repeating that because the first customer most indie publishers go after is what? The person who buys .99 books or utilizes a subscription service.

And there is nothing WRONG with that approach; I know many people who have made incredible careers with high volume, low price. But if that approach has NOT worked for you thus far, consider for a moment another model.

Have you tried to serve the kind of reader who is the customer who waits in line for the new iPhone before the store even opens? Why is that customer NOT waiting for a discount? Because they WANT the new iPhone, the price is irrelevant.

People shop for books looking for what they want to read first and THEN they look at the price.

How do I know? When I helped run TheCheapEbook, we would put a $0.99 discounted book right next to a blockbuster name new release at $9.99. We could see the click behavior in emails and affiliate clicks on the site that often the same person clicked on both books, even though the prices were present. Though they grabbed the $0.99 book because it was a value for the price drop, they bought the $9.99 book because they wanted it.

I wonder which book was read first?

This doesn’t mean that EVERY reader buys at both price points. But as a publisher, there is no rule that all of your books have to be the same price because they are the same length. You can meet readers at different price points where they are comfortable selecting a book to read with price diversity in your catalog. Run discounts, cycle books through a retail cycle.


  • I have a couple of reader avatars in my mind when I’m making my publishing and advertising decisions. I have a reader avatar that represents my retired readers, meaning they are reading mostly to fill their time, and I serve both those who are price-sensitive with free chapters on my website and those who are not price-sensitive with retail prices in the sales channels. The kind of advertising campaigns that reach them are photos of nature and witty quotes from books. This reader loves Jane Austen inspired merchandise.
  • I have another reader avatar that’s almost the opposite of this reader, my busy middle-aged Mom. Her tightest commodity is time. She loves my novella series, loves marketing that reminds her she’s worth a break from the grind and deserves a date with Mr. Darcy. She needs to hear from me often with email, and Facebook, and maybe even a repeat email because she meant to click and act, but a kid put peanut butter in the electrical outlet. 🙂 So I keep her in mind when I’m sucking in my breath worrying maybe I should send another email 4 days after the last one to the people who didn’t open the first email?. . . . This reader NEEDS me to do that.
  • I hope some of this is opening up ideas you have about marketing your own catalog. Maybe you have 30-45-year-old men buying your space opera books but also young adult women buying it because you have a kick-ass lead female in there, too. Are those two customers going to respond to the same advertising creative? It’s unlikely.

And you can even reach one of those with a book cover inclusive ad and the other with a more lifestyle type creative . . . But that’s a new conversation entirely.


I would love to THANK Rachel Thompson for inviting me to participate in NaNProMo! I’ve known Rachel virtually, of course, for about seven years. I am always impressed with her dedication to her followers and readers.

As an additional thank you to everyone participating in #NaNoProMo, I am donating ONE All-Access Pass to the May/June classes on WhatAuthorsNeedtoKnow.com, valued at $335. You get every class, from Selling Directly on Gumroad to our class just on Finding Your Reader Profile.

But I haven’t forgotten others!

Everyone can use code:


for 25% off any class. Finally, and this is important, I started WhatAuthorsNeedtoKnow.com to teach from the trenches. I am an author first. So if anyone has a hardship and really wants to take a Foundation or Mid-Level class, just shoot me an email. We’ll make it happen. We’ve all had soft years, and it’s important to me that I support authors who are working hard but just haven’t broken through yet.

So THANK YOU AGAIN and start making up imaginary people! It will make publishing profitable that much easier!

[clickToTweet tweet=”#NaNoProMo Day 1: Who is the Reader You Save Every Night by guest @EAWwrites https://buff.ly/2FxkOrr via @BadRedheadMedia and @NaNoProMo #Readers #Writing #AmWriting #BookMarketing” quote=”#NaNoProMo Day 1: Who is the Reader You Save Every Night by guest @EAWwrites https://buff.ly/2FxkOrr via @BadRedheadMedia and @NaNoProMo #Readers #Writing #AmWriting #BookMarketing”]

[one_half_first]Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter, Facebook, her website, and Amazon.[/one_half_first]


Who is the Reader You Save Every Night by guest @EAWwrites

Elizabeth Ann West aka @EAWrites


Thank you Elizabeth Ann for your amazing post and generous offer (and kind words!). To enter to win the All-Access Pass (valued at $335), leave a comment below about this article.

Winners will be drawn randomly to make it fair to everyone and announced on Sunday, May 6th here on my blog! 


  1. Laura Johnson on May 1, 2018 at 5:06 am

    Great article! I definitely have to learn more about the reader avatar. I’ve been learning over the last month or so how to narrow down my perfect match in my readers. Though my topic is broad, not everyone likes to read or discuss domestic violence. Once again, great article!

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      It can be a challenge when your topic is something painful for some readers. Then again, many people have domestic violence touch their families or loved ones… so whether it’s comfort, education, or courage you are sharing, I hope it will help you in planning your marketing!

      Congrats on learning about avatars this month!

      • Rachel Thompson on May 1, 2018 at 2:48 pm

        If I can address this one: I write about difficult topics as well as Rachel Thompson (aka @RachelintheOC) — as a childhood sexual abuse survivor, with two memoir/poetry books out (so far) on the topic, and my author platform focuses on those topics. I connect with other survivors, share articles and blog posts about those topics, started #SexAbuseChat (every Tuesday 6pm pst/9pm est) as well as several other initiatives (fund-raising Joyful Heart Foundation, etc).

        Social media is a wonderful way to connect with readers and other survivors. It’s not only about finding readers, I’ve found — it’s so much bigger than that. It’s about forming community and knowing we’re not alone. <3

        • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 5:00 pm

          Beautifully stated, Rachel.

          I suppose marketing may have sounded more commercial than I meant above… but in terms of “what should I do to engage with the reader who loves/needs my work?” I think all of that is important.

          I have a domestic violence scene in one of my series books, and it’s been surprising how many people loved that I wrote the ending we all wished we could have…. and I can’t reveal the who (it wasn’t me) but I was able to share that it was something I needed in my life because I had loved ones in bad, cyclical situations they couldn’t get out of.

          That led to a blog post when the book released about the horrors of violence against wives in Jane Austen’s time, the lack of any police order, and sharing modern day resources we have for victims and loved ones.

          I woudn’t have written that blog post though if I didn’t think about what my readers needed and would resonate with. I could have just as easily written a blog post about travel in those days since there’s lots of travel in the book too, but thinking reader first, it made sense to do something that connected the past to today on that topic.

  2. Carolyn Astfalk on May 1, 2018 at 5:56 am

    Great post and a great start to #NANOPROMO. Thank you!

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 1:55 pm

      I was VERY lucky to get to kick it off! Rachel is the best! Thanks for reading!

  3. Dana on May 1, 2018 at 6:13 am

    Elizabeth, thanks for an awesome article. I’ve never heard of NaNoProMo before, so I’m excited to see more informative posts like this!

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 1:56 pm

      Glad you made it Dana! There’s going to be a TON of great stuff right here all month long!

    • Rachel Thompson on May 1, 2018 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks for visiting, Dana! This is the first day or the inaugural year, so welcome!

  4. Michelle on May 1, 2018 at 6:14 am

    Thank you, EAW, for an informative post! I’d never heard of NaNoProMo before, but I’m glad I did. I’ll definitely be following this month.

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 1:56 pm

      WOOT WOOT! I couldn’t BELIEVE the lineup when I read it!!! It’s going to be a Marvelous May!

      • Rachel Thompson on May 1, 2018 at 2:51 pm

        Thank you for visiting and commenting, Michelle! So excited to have Elizabeth here to kick it off, too!

  5. Anne on May 1, 2018 at 6:25 am

    I love your calm, reasoned approach to book marketing. Thanks for all the great info.

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 1:58 pm

      Keep calm and keep selling books? Could work as a T-shirt! 🙂

      It was liberating for me the day I realized I didn’t have to chase after readers who marginally like my book subject and could just worry about those who love it.

  6. Dahlia Donovan on May 1, 2018 at 7:02 am

    I needed to read this article this week. =) Thank you.

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 1:59 pm

      YES!!!! I have had serendipitous tips and tricks fall into my lap before and I love the universe when that happens!

  7. Pauline Wiles on May 1, 2018 at 7:31 am

    I was in a similar position to Elizabeth when I wrote my first novel: I wasn’t quite in need of a Mr. Darcy fix but I was homesick for England and much of the content was what *I* wanted to read. Rather to my surprise, it really resonated with others and certainly made it easier for me to connect with my “tribe” of readers.

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:09 pm

      It is LUCKY to be your Reader Zero. For sure! 🙂


  8. Cynthia Herron on May 1, 2018 at 7:41 am

    “When you try to reach everyone, you reach no one.” *Ding* *Ding* SO true. I see a lot of new authors try this approach and then become discouraged as they wonder why it isn’t working for them. OTOH when we’re in tune to who our target niche really is, it makes all the difference. The scales fall off. We’re excited to give our readers what they want and what they will love.

    Thanks so much, Elizabeth Ann ~ Lots of insight here!

    And thanks, Rachel, for everything you do for others. Appreciate you!

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      I argue that just about every author is a niche… even if they write in a very big, popular genre, what SHE writes is unique to HER voice. And that in turn means figuring out what differentiates the author’s books and products from others even within the same genre.

      Even though I write in a small niche, I still have decisions I make thinking about how other authors serve readers in my genre and what I can or cannot do to serve a different sliver. It’s also easier to go serve the readers no one is serving. 🙂

    • Rachel Thompson on May 1, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      Love seeing you here, Cynthia! I love that advice, too. Everyone is not our reader, that’s what I learned long ago — it’s a great first lesson (and reality).

      Elizabeth breaks it down so well here.

  9. Connor Crowe on May 1, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Thank you for the article! Now I need to figure out who my reader avatar is 🙂 Will be coming back to check for more nanopromo posts!

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 1:59 pm

      You cannot beat the guest posts and other great stuff Rachel has planned right here!

  10. McKenna Dean on May 1, 2018 at 8:14 am

    Hah! I got into writing fanfic mostly because I wanted more stories about favorite characters as well. And I confess to being a total addict for Jane Austen-based stories. 🙂

    I’ve been saying for a while now I write for the person who’s having a crappy day and needs to escape from it for a few hours. Not high literature. Won’t change lives. Just provide a little escapism and stress relief.

    But I haven’t given the demographics of that much thought. So excellent, thought-provoking post–thank you!

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      Just zeroing in on “Stress relief” gives a whole lens to put marketing through…. what does a reader seeking stress relief respond to image wise? Cozy reading spaces? Beverages?

      I have a pumpkin spice graphic I used in that season to push a boxed set. Has NOTHING to do with book and reading but makes my perfect customer stop everytime in her feed…..

      • McKenna Dean on May 2, 2018 at 5:15 pm

        Gracious, I hadn’t thought of that but now I can picture a bunch of “Calgon, take me away!” type graphics. 🙂

  11. Miriam Greystone on May 1, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Great article, thanks so much for sharing your insights!

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Miriam!

  12. Karen Rushton on May 1, 2018 at 9:16 am

    I’m so glad I read this and had the chance to watch Elizabeth’s lecture on it. It has helped me so much in pinpointing who my reader is so I can connect better with my audience.

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:10 pm

      Absolutely! Connection can’t happen if you have no idea where the wires match! Well done, Karen!

  13. Sarah on May 1, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Thank you Elizabeth and Rachel for highlighting how important it os to market toward your ideal readers and narrowing down your audience helps a lot when you are first starting.

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:15 pm

      I had to bootstrap from day one. Didn’t have NO MONEY for a big expensive ad campaign, so I had to literally read the MIT white paper on how to best get a Tweet RT’d back in 2012 and rock that! 🙂 I used to have tweets go out around the clock with a ratio of chatty tweets to book links.

  14. Elizabeth Barone on May 1, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Between Elizabeth’s Publishing Like POW conference and this, I’m super excited to create my reader avatars! I’m looking forward to incorporating all of the poll data I’ve been collecting. (I post polls and questions in my FB reader group to help me better understand my readers.)

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      Just make sure you analyze the data. Sometimes people answer polls with responses they think are good vs. what they really want.

      So poll away, then make some offers and watch the clicks and responses. If they line up, you’re on fire! If there’s a disconnect, it might not be that you did anything wrong, just that the poll questions got filtered responses.

  15. Renni on May 1, 2018 at 10:16 am

    This article is helpful. I plan to use this advice right away. Thanks.

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      I’m glad it helped!

  16. Liz on May 1, 2018 at 10:56 am

    I needed to read this today for sure. I’m guilty of finding too broad an audience and then left frustrated when it doesn’t do as well as I’d hoped. Thanks for the helpful info!

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      I responded but it ate it…

      I was going to say Broad = expensive. Targeted makes your audience think “oh, this is for me!”

      I love it when an ad gets me to the point I don’t even realize really it’s an ad. It’s just OOOH ME! ME! I want that!

      This week was a twirly Dress, I didn’t buy it, but I know the brand now and know I will get one for my daughter in the fall when there’s less outside twirling to rip fabric and more inside twirling. 🙂

  17. Daniella Shepard on May 1, 2018 at 11:19 am

    What I enjoyed about this article is how eloquently she describes “reader avatar.” I had never heard it termed like this before, but it describes what I am trying to do right now with my writing. I am in the same category as Elizabeth, trying to write the type of book I would want to read. I haven’t completely defined my target audience, even though I have completed four books. I am still using my blog and my journals to figure out exactly who would like to read what I have written.

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:06 pm

      It sounds like you are on the right track though! When I first starting blogging chapters, I FORCED myself to just think about the handful of people who came traffic-wise. I may have named and like fully fleshed out the first handful… and then was like “Oh, look, I bet Debbie came back again today…”

      It’s what got me over many humps that derail my writing and marketing, not the least of which is the voice in my head that loves to scream on repeat that I suck and everyone’s going to hate it. 🙂

      My positive thinking is louder than her.

  18. Paula on May 1, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for a great article EAW! And for introducing me to this blog and NaNoProMo.

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:04 pm

      thank you for KWORKIng today:) We got a lot done!!! HIGH FIVE

  19. Suzanne Kleman on May 1, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Great information thank you Elizabeth! And a great start to NANOPROMO this month Rachel, look forward to checking in each day to see what is featured!

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:03 pm

      I’m beginning to feel thankful May has 31 days… it’s DAY ONE this month and I already know I’m going to need that extra day!

  20. Dana Lemaster on May 1, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Interesting article! I’ll definitely give some thought to my reader avatar(s). You are absolutely right-there’s no such thing as a book for everyone. The trick, it seems to me, is writing your passion but never losing sight of others who share it.

    • Elizabeth Ann West on May 1, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      This came up a lot in our conference we just did… what do you do if you DON’T write in your passion area? And I think it still works…. get to know/imagine the reader who DOES love the books you write. Why are they reading them?

      If you get even just a few insights from your brainstorming session it can make your marketing efforts that much more effective. 🙂

  21. Connie Nesbary on May 1, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    Great way to start NaNoProMo by providing information on finding our Reader Avatars. Lots of good info here to consider. Thanks!

  22. Iola on May 1, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    I’ve read lots of blog posts on creating a reader avatar or writing with a target reader in mind (I’ve also read lots saying “everyone” is not a target reader).

    But I’d never thought of the possibility of two target reader groups. I’ll have to think about that, and how it might apply to both my fiction and non-fiction. Thank you!

  23. Ruth Harding on May 1, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    Although I have a few NF and my third Fiction is with the editor I still haven’t taken any steps to pin down m target audience/s. This provides me with a good foundation to start. Thanks!

  24. Ren on May 2, 2018 at 5:27 am

    I’m just starting out, although have been writing for myself for over 15 years. I just had the most massive light bulb moment reading this! There are bound to be people out there who also want to read what I want to read (and write for that matter) and the more niche it is the more likely they are as desperate as I am for this sort of literature. Market it how I would purchase it, instead of stressing out and furrowing down on what “they want” Ahhh genius! Thank you!
    I second everyone’s comments above thank you both for doing this. Such needed, welcomed and appreciated advice. We are lucky to have you 🙂

  25. Lissa Johnston on May 2, 2018 at 8:00 am

    Interesting point about follow-up emails. I have a hard time embracing using email as a marketing tool bc I resent the huge pile of emails I have to sort through and trash on a daily basis. My rational mind knows it’s the way to go, but I really resist using it as well as I should.

  26. Sue Spitulnik on May 4, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Wow. Never thought of a reader Avatar, but I just wrote down four after reading this article. Thanks for helping others.

  27. Rachel Thompson on May 6, 2018 at 11:41 am

    ***Our winner has been chosen for Day One — though please feel free to keep this conversation going!***

  28. Karen Hugg on May 7, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Gosh, it’s so smart of you to know the variations in your ideal readers! And even smarter to know you can market to them in different ways according to their needs. Thanks for much for this post. Now I need to figure out how to apply it to literary thrillers about plants and plant people!

  29. Lisa A. Listwa on May 9, 2018 at 8:12 am

    OK, this just makes a whole lot of sense. Something new for me to work on, but I can see how having these reader avatars in mind will be helpful. Thanks!

  30. Kelly on May 12, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Theres so much to unpack here. Thank you for the avatar ideas. I especially like This tip: “I serve both those who are price-sensitive with free chapters on my website and those who are not price-sensitive with retail prices in the sales channels.”

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