Who’s the Most Important “Character” in your Non-Fiction Book?

When we think of the word “character,” we usually think of fiction writing. I use this word to describe the most important PEOPLE in your book, and in the non-fiction, self-help / how-to category, this is your audience.

But wait, you might be thinking… that’s a whole lot of people. That’s not a character.

Of course. We all hope that when your book gets published you have a hefty audience and that book sales go through the roof.

But before you can get there, you have to boil down your audience visions more specifically. By a lot.

I often have Discovery Calls with potential clients to learn about their book ideas and dreams and to see if what I offer can help them in some way. One of the first questions I ask is: “Who is your audience?” In almost every case, the response is: “Anyone who wants to [fill in the blank with the topic of their book]”.

The problem with this response is that it’s too vague.

As I tell them, if you’re going to write a non-fiction book, especially one that falls into the self-help/how-to category, you need to create an avatar or a persona, as it’s often referred to in the design/marketing world. In the book world, this is the Ideal Reader. Think of it as the Ideal Client of your business.

The next response I hear from most entrepreneurs and business owners is: “I already know who my ideal client is.”

Maybe. But it’s important to revisit because this Ideal Reader may be slightly different from your Ideal Client. Also, I’ve found that many people haven’t gone deep enough or have only thought demographically or psychographically when determining their ideal client.

Another response I get is: “I don’t want to exclude anyone.” Or “I want to be sure I appeal to as many people as possible.”

The crazy thing is – and I know it sounds counter-intuitive – the more specific you can get – like, down to ONE person specific – the more appeal you’ll have to more people. When you get uber precise about a SINGLE Ideal Reader, your appeal becomes more universal. Because you get into the heart and soul of the person, which allows you to reach people you might have never included when casting a wider net.

I use a seven-level system when working with non-fiction clients to help them create a crystal-clear version of their Ideal Reader. This is essential because, as I’ve said many times over, the characters – or PEOPLE – in your writing project are the most important. And for non-fiction book writers, this is the Ideal Reader.

My method, Writing Through the Body™, is a seven-level process consisting of the following facets of personality and identity.








When we embark on the journey to delve deeply into each of these levels, we come out the other side with a profoundly deep understanding of our Ideal Reader. If our purpose is to help people transform their lives, what better way to do that than to slip into their skin and see through their lived experience.

Give these seven short prompts a try and see where it takes you.