Monday, March 13, 2017

How To Respect Your Reader

Rachelle Rea Cobb is a freelance editor and the author of Write Well and the Steadfast Love series of three historical inspirational novels. Before her first book had even released, she met a man with the same name as her series’ hero. On one sunny Saturday in June 2016, she married him. Both homeschool grads, they live in their newlywed nest in a corner of the South where the air is slightly salty. Rachelle enjoys blogging, all the different kinds of Oreos, and pretending she’ll one day see the bottom of her to-read pile.

You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and on her blog.


Ready for a quick exercise? Put pen to page (or fingers to keyboard) and picture your reader. That’s right, your reader. This can be anyone (your neighbor, your grandma, your professor), but ideally you’ll choose to picture the target reader of whatever you’re writing.



If you write fantasy, perhaps you’ll picture a high school student who should be studying for an exam but chooses instead to de-stress for an hour by reading the next chapter in your book...and the next. If you write historical romance (like I do), perhaps you’ll picture a mom who just put the kids to bed and is settling onto the couch with a cookie and wants to know if everyone will make it out of the castle alive.

If you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to picture your reader, but this exerciseand pinpointing your target readerboosts the power of your writing in three ways:

  • You will write more clearly because you don’t want to confuse your reader.
  • You will write more concisely because you don’t want to lose your reader in a rambling sentence.
  • You will write more compellingly because you want to maintain your reader’s attention and enthusiasm for your story.


After all, writing is communication, and the key to meaningful communication is respect for your reader.

As a freelance editor, I help writers polish their pages until they shine and when I teach writers to respect their reader, it is often a lightbulb moment. As a writer, whatever stage your story is in, keep your reader at the forefront of your mind, because if you do, you will write differently.

This is one of the reasons why I wrote my most recent book, Write Well, a short ebook designed to guide you through what you need to know about writingso that you can get back to the real work, actual writing!

Write Well focuses on the most important aspect of all writing: respecting the reader. You can also check out my free resource, 7 Quick Fixes for Common Writing Mistakes, available for download on my website. This printable can be kept handy at your desk for quick reminders.

Thanks for allowing me to chat about a passion of mine (readers!) and my latest release today! Now, let’s write well!

So what do you know about your target reader? Share in a comment the age, gender, life stage, etc. 

34 comments:

  1. I hadn't thought about my target reader very much, but this is a really good idea... I'll have to think about it and come back!

    Thanks for the post!

    ...And I love that you married a man who happened to share his name with your MMC's name, that's so sweet. :)

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    1. Jem, he's sweet so that made it easy. :)

      I hope you'll come back and share! And that this exercise is helpful. :)

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  2. I've never really considered target reader much. I have been trying to write YA fantasy, so I'm guessing my target reader is probably female and fifteen or older.

    Great post :)

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    1. Great target reader, Sarah Catherine! Good job pinpointing her based on your genre. :)

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  3. My target reader is myself right now. I read faster than anyone can publish the books I like, so I write to give myself something to read.

    (And also because I committed to writing a book for my English 2010 class. Still don't know what got into me.)

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    1. Sada, what a great goal! I know you can do it. :)

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  4. Wow, I never thought about this! My reader (in my mind) would probably a young girl in her early teens staying up late to read on a Friday night. My book is more aimed toward girls, but there are main male characters. It's kind of like a coming of age story which is focused on making the most out of your life before adulthood, so 12-15 is a pretty good age range.

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    1. Josie, excellent breakdown. That's a great demographic to hone in on, too, because a lot of tween/teen girls like to read. ;) I certainly did when I could still plop a "1" at the front of my age.

      Happy writing!

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  5. Wow. Thank you for this! I don't really think about my target readers very often, though I do write something that I would want to read myself. I'll definitely think about this as I'm writing!

    audrey caylin

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    1. Audrey, writing something you want to read yourself is certainly the first step, so you're well on your way!

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  6. Wow! Thank you for the advice! I write mainly for myself at the moment, but I do plan on finishing and publishing my book...
    I think that my book would appeal to either girls or boys, as the two main characters are a boy and a girl. I'd also say my target readers would be 13-17 years old.

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    1. Good one, GJE! And do finish the book. As Stephanie has said before, that's always a really important goal--and one to celebrate. :)

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    2. Thanks! I think I will. It's gone a lot further than the others... YAY!

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  7. Currently I'm writing my YA fantasy trilogy for myself, though I would say the target reader would be boys or girls, since I have one of each as main characters, somewhere around 15 to 18 though possibly older.

    I also have one question, would it be weird to marry main characters in the middle of a YA book? Or would that be more in adult? I was just wondering if that would be odd since if marriage does happen in YA books it's usually near the end.
    *Sarah

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    1. In my opinion (hope you don't mind), I don't think your main character getting married in the middle of your YA books would be weird. As long as you have enough to write about after that. Sometimes when you write something a little too early in your book, you don't have enough of a story after that. *Hope you understood that :)*
      I do that a lot. I write something too early and then I don't have enough to write about after that. I read Left Behind by Jerry Jenkins (the kid version) and two of the main characters got married near the end. It kind of made you go on the edge of your seat wondering where their relationship would end up. It gives a lot more drama that way. But, in my opinion, it really doesn't matter as long as you don't rush into it. Good luck on your trilogy! :)
      *sorry if that was too long*

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    2. Sarah, first, that's a great target audience. Second, I agree with LHE. Though it's sorta unconventional to have your main characters marry in the middle rather than the end, it's certainly not a deal-breaker, if you maintain the conflict right on through til the end of the story. If it's more of a "conflict point" than a "climax point," then it's fine. For example, in my three-book series, the main characters marry at the end of Book Two (shh, don't tell! #spoileralert). Then they have a lot to go through in Book Three. So I've been there, wondering if that would work. I like to think it does. ;)

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    3. Thank you both for your answers! I didn't think it would be too odd but I wanted a second opinion before I started plotting. LHE, your post wasn't too long at all and it was very helpful. Mrs. Cobb, thank you for the advice and don't worry, your secret is safe with me. ;)
      *Sarah

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    4. You're welcome. I'm glad it wasn't too much. :)

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  8. This is such an enlightening post! Thank you so much for sharing! :D

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Hannah. Thanks for commenting! :)

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  9. Does age always matter when writing? Does your main character always have to be older then your target reader? Or could he be younger or the same age?
    -Emily D

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    1. Great question, Emily! I'd say age does matter, but, no, your main character doesn't have to be older. (Quick example: my grandma reads my books. Even though my grandma is 70, she doesn't mind my main character being 19.)

      Long example: I love reading inspirational romances, even though now I'm older than most of the heroines of that genre usually are. (I'm 24 and the heroines I read are usually 18-22.)

      It sorta depends on the genre, though. Middle grades are trickier. Young adult and New Adult have a more set age group they usually fall into, as well. What genre do you write? :)

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    2. I write Young Adult contemporary. The book I'm writing now, I feel like it's more for younger teens like 12-14. My main character is a fourteen year old girl.
      -Emily D

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    3. Emily, I love that genre! Have you read any by Tessa Emily Hall? Her latest, Unwritten Melody, is in that genre, and is a great one. :)

      Great job pinpointing your target reader by age! Happy writing!

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  10. Thanks for the advice. I really need to work on losing my readers from rambling sentences.
    My target reader is for girls or boys. My characters in my book are boys, but what my writing is saying would appeal to both boys\girls. Probably my target reader's age would be from 13 and up. My book is kind of serious in parts (it's realistic fiction). If my character range is 14-15 then what do you think my target reader's age would\could be (remembering that it's a little serious)? :)

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    1. You're not alone! One of the most common things I point out to fix in manuscripts I edit are rambling sentences.

      That makes sense, especially since I think girls are more often reading more than boys and don't mind reading a book narrated by a boy (although the reverse is often not true!). :) I think your target reader's age would be your character's age or a little older (15-17). If it falls into the Young Adult (which I suspect it does with that age range) as well as Realistic Fiction, then that genre is enjoyed by many who are no longer teens. Myself included. :) So I think you have a strong argument for "a little older." :)

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    2. Thank you so much! Yeah, I think you're right. Yeah, girls do tend to read more, but boys can be surprising! :)
      Than you for answering my questions, Mrs. Cobb! :)
      I'm pretty sure it's YA along with Realistic fiction. :)

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    3. Neat! Quick tip: if you want to be sure it falls into YA, try thinking of comparative titles. That will usually tell you whether or not you're in the ballpark or not. :)

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    4. Comparative Titles? :)

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    5. Books that are close or similar to yours that are already in print. For example, my trilogy could be compared to Mrs. Williamson's Blood of Kings trilogy since both are YA and Christian fantasy. I think that's what comparative titles mean. ;)
      *Sarah

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    6. Ohhhhh, thanks! Yeah, I think that would help. :)

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  11. Thanks, Sarah, for answering LHE's question before I could get to it! Yes, that's exactly what it means. Comparative titles are usually requested as part of a book proposal package (that you present to agents or editors when they are considering your novel). They're very helpful in determining genre, too. :)

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  12. Fantastic post, Rachelle! I'll have to add your book to the list of those I recommend to the teen writers I teach.

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    1. That makes me happy, Shannon! I hope to be helpful. :)

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