Every morning I sip hot black coffee, telling stories to an invisible friend. We share a few tears, a giggle or two and a wink when we know a surprise is coming in the next chapter. My friend is quiet, interrupting only to ask an apropos question like “what did that feel like?” I know this friend like my own heart and blood, yet I could not pick them out of a crowd or recognize their face in a photograph.
I’m talking about my target reader. The person I imagine curling up with my book upon its completion. The person God places in my heart and mind, all day, all night. The person this story will speak to, minister and bring healing to. Who are you? Did I stand next to you selecting eggs at Safeway today? Pass you on the street? Are you the telemarketer, I hung up on?
Last week my husband and I met with our BETA Readers to share a meal, express gratitude and listen. I felt awkwardly delighted that the book was the center of attention. I’d planned on discussing other topics during dinner, the polite thing to do. In my defense for breaking Emily Post’s etiquette basics, this group has little common ground to share. After all, they were selected to test the reading waters based on gender, age and interest variables, not similarities. Besides, detouring the subject from the book would have been like asking a heroin addict to focus on world events while holding a loaded syringe.
Earlier that morning, I read the words I believe all writers long to hear, “I couldn’t stop reading it… I have to know what happens next.” Yes! Yes! Yes!. The best words ever, written by a newbie BETA Reader enlisted to fill an untested demographic slot. I didn’t think it could get better than that, but it did. After dinner the discussion turned to target readers, I lapped up their thoughts like a starving cat.
I listened to my BETA Readers talk amongst themselves, and like a negative clearing in the chemical wash, the face, heart, mind and soul of my reader appeared. Seeing my invisible friend who sits by my side every morning come to life through my BETA readers refueled my inspiration tank. I highly recommend using a test group such as mine. If you’ve researched this system, you already know I ignored a rather important rule – wait until the book is complete before letting them read it… oops. I knew that, but chose to ignore it, desperate for encouragement as the book progresses. They’ve been pushing me forward all along and I’m grateful for their willingness to stay the course.
The insights they shared are invaluable. I learned the book’s target is genderless and could appeal to young adults through seniordom. It’s a story the reader will want to share with others. It’s for those who like humor, romance and intrigue. For those who love God and those who don’t know him yet. For readers who are an alcoholic, love an alcoholic or want to learn more about the struggles of addiction. The story has something for singles and married folks as well.
Those are the bones of many potential readers. When the subject switched to whom this story will minister to, I could see the person sitting next to me every morning. Please understand, I am thrilled anyone will enjoy reading the book, but the ache in my heart, placed by God, is for someone specific… some genderless person intimately pursued… invited to experience the Grace our Father awaits to shower upon them.
This person, is hurting, desperate, searching for help in all the wrong places. They have banged on doors of self-help, destruction, human failure and quick fixes, none of which helped, and they are facing the last house on the block. They secretly want God in their life, but believe He wants nothing to do with them until they change. It’s not that they are not willing to change, they believe they are not capable, and they are right. What they don’t know is that Grace is waiting… beckoning… wanting only a willingness to accept it.
That’s who I share my story for. My story of a clueless couple whom God loved back to life. I want this for my reader, the person God has placed on my heart to care for, to love, to disciple through the story of my journey. I want this reader to know if God could love me as I was, and as I am today, both options a messy person, then He certainly loves them!
I’m grateful for the love God gifted to my heart for my most special reader.