The (Honestly) Sneaky Way to Know Your Readers

by Linore Rose Burkard

We’ve all heard the mantra: KNOW THY READER.

And it’s a good one. It makes our writing effective. If we want to reach the heart of a reader we can only do it if we know that heart.

And yet, to some degree, shouldn’t writing be all-inclusive? Some writers reach a level of universality so that their words can touch hearts for generations. Certainly this is what defines a classic.

Even so, as any editor or agent can tell you, if you write for the whole world, you write for no one.

Know thy reader is about targeting your work for your specific audience.

So, how do you get to know your reader?
There is no one answer to this question, and it is a cumulative effort, because   you learn over time who your readers are. (Even if you think you know who they are, sometimes the answer might surprise you. Too, if you write in multiple genres, as I do, the answer might surprise you.) This post is focused on only one method, and it’s just a start.

That was my disclaimer (in case you missed it). This is not a comprehensive “how to get to know your reader” post.

It’s just a little back-door method to getting roughly acquainted with your readership. I’m calling it sneaky, but it’s simply a matter of paying attention. And that’s why it’s honest, and really not all that sneaky. Sorry to disappoint you. There’s nothing underhanded about it. 

I’m a big fan of author newsletters. This means I have a mailing list and, like many authors, I do occasional promos to grow my list. You probably do, too. But did you know you can glean interesting information from that list? Have you spent any real time looking at the email addresses on your list? 

It’s Elementary, Watson
The back-door, honest, sneaky method to knowing your reader is paying attention to what they reveal from the moment they subscribe. This isn’t possible with all subscribers, but for many you’ll be surprised what you can tell simply by their email handle. 

Follow the Clues
People choose email addresses based  on who they are, their likes, dislikes, character qualities, favorite color, you name it. Take a look at some of the “clues” I’ve gotten from subscribers.
The following are all from actual email addresses on my list. 
“voodoo doll.”
“Granny of 2”                                                        
“the b1tch”                                             


From the above emails, I can tell that a few of these subscribers likely aren’t Christian readers. This is interesting, since my books are written from a strongly Christian worldview. I like that. 

I also gather that I may have younger people as well as “granny of two.” Since I now write YA as well as historical romance, I like that, too.

How else can an email address help?

Domain Names
Domains are another clue. If I subscribe to a list with my preferred email address, it bears my website URL because my domain is my name. (Linore (at) LinoreBurkard (dot) com) So anyone curious about me can check out my website if they choose because I’ve given it to them in my email. If they do, they’ve just discovered quite a lot about me. So take a peek for domain names in the addresses on your list. You may learn something about a few readers.

Again, you won’t learn a great deal about most of your list this way, 
but it’s a clue to the mind of some readers. Think of it as a head’s up, a way to know something about some of them.

If you’re like me, you’ll pray over your list.  And don’t think praying for readers isn’t helpful for you as a writer. Prayer can help you think of new things to offer in your next newsletter, or even your next book. Also, it gives you an opportunity, as all focused prayer does, to hear God speak to your heart.
And that is never a waste of time.

So, go check out your list. And know thy reader!


Linore Rose Burkard writes historical romance and, as L.R.Burkard, YA/suspense. Linore teaches workshops for
writers, is a mother of five, and still
homeschools her youngest daughter—preferably with coffee in one hand, and an  iPad in the other. 

For a chance to win a free copy of one of her books, simply subscribe to her mailing list at either of her websites (above). Winners are announced in each newsletter, which now has content for writers, readers, poets and dreamers. (That means you!)