Who is my ideal reader? I’m tempted to say ‘anyone.’ The more the merrier.
Most writers write because they want to be read. From a commercial point of view, it is better to have a lot of people who buy your books, even if they don’t read them, rather than lots of readers of one purchased copy. However, the knowledge that someone has actually read one of my stories and said they liked it (may, even, have put a five-star review on Amazon about it – it has happened!) makes them very dear to me. Even if they are friends of a friend who bought the book as a present for her son, and wouldn’t dream of buying copies for themselves, the fact that they have stopped me in the street to say how much they enjoyed it, matters more than the royalties I could have had if they’d bought their own. And I don’t mind either that, for example in regard to my YA novels, they are way past the target age-range.
John Steinbeck suggested that it might help writers to have a particular reader in mind as they write, maybe a friend or an imaginary reader. That might work, but I’m also rather taken by one of Joyce Carol Oates top ten tips for writers:
“Don’t try to anticipate an ideal reader – or any reader. He/she might exist – but is reading somebody else.”
Perhaps they are reading someone else because they’ve never heard of you. Or know your name, but have no idea what sort of thing you right about.
If an author is unfamiliar to them, new readers may be tempted to choose a short story rather than commit themselves to a novel several hundred pages long, which they then find it is not at all to their liking. One of the good things about my main publisher (Solstice) is that they encourage all their novelists to write short stories that can be included in anthologies and also published as separate short stories. That way potential readers can get a taste of a new author before committing to a full length novel.
One of my short stories, Love in Waiting, about a woman’s devotion to her seriously ill husband, is I think, most likely to appeal to a mature female reader.
Another, Journey to the Fair Mountain, is about a young girl who is sent off to marry the man her parents have selected for her, and may be of more interest to younger readers.
So, even if, as Joyce Carol Oates says, my ideal readers are busy reading someone else, maybe – just maybe – they will find time for one of these quick reads!