As I’ve said before, you cannot can’t talk to a thousand people, or ten thousand people, at once. It’s not going to resonate the way speaking to each reader individually will. 

By creating a subscriber avatar, you can send emails that resonate with all your subscribers—every one of them a unique individual who shares at least (and maybe only) one thing: a love of your writing—without driving yourself mad trying to tailor your emails to however-many thousands of people.

So what is a subscriber avatar, and how do you create one?

Subscriber avatars are similar to reader avatars. Let’s talk briefly about why we want to differentiate them:

  • Not everyone who might like your books will like your newsletter
  • The author with the most engaged mailing list wins
  • Readers only somewhat interested will not stay subscribed to your newsletter
  • Not all your readers will be good subscribers

A reader avatar is by its very nature a broad portrait. Something like: “My readers are age 35-60, upper- to middle-class, have white-collar jobs, enjoy fast-paced books, and read mostly on the weekends.” When you are trying to sell books, you have a more generic reader avatar because you want to sell those books to as wide a swath of people as possible.

A subscriber avatar is not a broad portrait. We create broad reader avatars because we want our books to appeal to many; we create focused subscriber avatars because we can more easily talk to one person at a time, and because we are trying to create superfans, not just casual readers. Your mailing list will be made up of many people, but it’s daunting to talk to thousands of people in a way that feels naturally intimate. So when you compose an email campaign for your subscribers, it’s often helpful to imagine that you’re writing to one specific subscriber.

Now, when you send a newsletter, aren’t you going to have an easier time relating to your subscriber (who might even be a lot like you)? Won’t you naturally write your emails to appeal to someone like her, and in so doing write a friendlier, more enjoyable and relatable email?

The cool part is that these subscriber avatars will, in a way, become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. When you address your emails to your subscriber avatars, you will naturally attract people who are like those avatars. It’s not easy, and it’s not necessarily fast, but boy is it effective.

I will say, down the road, your avatar may fall by the wayside in favor of addressing your emails to actual readers. When I send an email for my steamy romance pen name, I’m talking to Katie, and Ginger, and Tonya. I know who they are; they’re replied to me; and I speak directly to them now. But it has the same effect.


Respond to these questions: 

  • Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.
  • In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
  • In what ways are they like you?
  • And how, if at all, are they different?
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GracieMiranda
GracieMiranda
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar?
My avatar is a mother who reads the books before handing them to her children of 11, 9 and 8. She’s an accountant who goes to work 9-5. She and her husband take their kids to the movies on the weekends because they love adventures and want their kids to enjoy themselves with them. She’s constantly tired from taking care of the children, so reading is relaxing for her and keeps her kids put if she reads to them.

In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
Reader avatar: parents/grandparents thinking what the children would love to read and can enjoy. They love losing themselves in fantasy worlds and love creative stories. They love action and fast-paced books and don’t really like cliffhangers.

In what ways are they like you?
Whenever they get a humorous email, they respond and answer our questions and comment on our email or laugh along with us. I’m a future stepmom of an 11-year old girl, so I learned a lot about how much time children require and schedule nights for us to read before we go to bed. We enjoy watching movies, when it makes us laugh. We get impatient for the next book in the series (but I can’t find enough hours in the day to be able to focus on writing).

And how, if at all, are they different?
She’s not an author. I work almost all day sporadically. I have multiple jobs but am still able to work from home. I don’t live with my future stepdaughter 24/7. I work with my fiance and get to see him for tons of hours. I can’t focus on one book, I have to work with several at the same time because I get bored easily or I’m in a certain mood.

Jennifer Baylor
Jennifer Baylor
3 years ago

*Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.

Ladonna (an amalgamation of two women I know) is a very smart, thirty-five-year-old, victim advocacy attorney who does a lot of pro-bono work. She has never been afraid to speak her mind and has a wicked sense of humor. She’s unapologetically a feminist. She loves a good steak and a great bottle of Zin. She has three cats. Ladonna is the kind of friend who is always there for others; she’s the one you call at 1 am when you’re in crisis. She’s unmarried and doesn’t have kids. In her spare time, she loves video games and DND. She never misses Comic Con. Ladonna reads voraciously, mostly fantasy and urban fantasy series. She stays up all night finishing the latest book in her favorite series and is the first to preorder the next installment. She likes books that feature women protags with a lot of grit who solve their own problems and are their own heroes.

*In what ways are they like your reader avatar?

A woman. Educated professional. Similar age. Loves fantasy and sci-fi featuring a woman protag. Leans towards reading series.

*In what ways are they like you?

A woman. Feminist. Loves wine & cats. Loves video games. A voracious reader (well, I was before kids hit my life 5 years ago).

*And how, if at all, are they different?

Ladonna is different in that she is: 35 years old, an attorney, unmarried with no kids, plays DND and attends Comic Con religiously, reads mostly fantasy and urban fantasy series (I read a bit of everything).

Marina Finlayson
Marina Finlayson
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this. You’re right; it does feel silly! And I worry that I’m wrong. What if I imagine my ideal subscriber as a fifty-year-old stay-at-home mum, but most of my subscribers are actually single career women? Does it matter? Or is the purpose of the exercise just to picture someone you can talk to in your emails? Can you tell I’m an overthinking perfectionist??

Okay, so my subscriber avatar is a woman in her forties who loves happy endings. She reads as a form of escapism, so she enjoys humour and adventure with lots of magic, nothing too “real”. She likes to know the stories behind the stories, to get a little peek into how the magic is created. She reads a lot and probably follows quite a few authors.

In what ways are they like your reader avatar? The reader avatar is similar. Probably reads in KU and may not be as interested in particular authors, just looking for good stories at bargain prices.

In what ways are they like you? They’re female. Always tired and looking to escape from the daily grind through reading.

And how, if at all, are they different? They’re probably younger and American.

crisgoode
crisgoode
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.
Barb has always been told she can’t cook and for a long time she believed it. But she has tried a few recipes from the site and her grandson loves them! She is finding that the website, channel and newsletter are her secret for confidence in the kitchen.
In what ways are they like your reader avatar? She loves easy recipes much like most of the readers at RTC.
In what ways are they like you? Cooking serves as a way to connect to her family and show them love, it isn’t about the cooking itself.
And how, if at all, are they different? Barb is building confidence in the kitchen. A typical reader may or may not already have that confidence.

SusanJag
SusanJag
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.
My subscriber avatar is a person who is tired of boring holidays and wants to do something active and a bit different – like hike a trail, do a trek that they never thought possible.
They are likely to be 45-60+, be well travelled,might have been a backpacker in their youth, but are now ready for another adventure, but a doable, not climbing Mount Everest
They like to be fairly social, and would rather know about what’s around the corner.
In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
They like adventures, and are open to new ideas. They may be any age and gender. They are second chancers..might have missed
In what ways are they like you?
I like to try new things, but not a backpacker.
They are second chancers..might have missed an opportunity for an ad
And how, if at all, are they different
They can be frm anywhere in the world,
Not necessarily a “reader”. may like to listen

David
David
3 years ago

• Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar?
I have few subscribers, but so far she is Judith, 60 years old, with grandchildren, no longer in paid employment, has read all Diana Gabaldon Outlander books and dabbled with Bernard Cornwell. She reads whenever she can, usually in the evenings as she has a busy daytime life despite being retired. She loves visiting cities in Europe with lots of history and interesting buildings.
• In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
My reader avatar is Richard who likes to read historical fiction – like Judith, but who goes more for the adventure and battle scenes rather than the social background of the stories. He wants a page turner and gets put off if the plot strays into too much family life.
• In what ways are they like you?
Richard is more like me than Judith as I too like a lively plot with few distractions.
• And how, if at all, are they different?
I am not as big a fan of Gabaldon as Judith because her books have become so huge and I do not want to invest that much time in one volume.

Jojo
Jojo
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.
I’m going to use one of my clients for this – Patricia Barletta who writes historical romance: – 40-65+ Married, Avid readers who like to have a more personal connection with the author. They lead busy lives – work, family, volunteer work – so reading to them is a great pleasure. They believe in happy endings.

In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
They both make time to read historical romance. They are similar in age and background. But the reader avatar doesn’t like to engage as much and is quite happy just buying the book and reading it.

In what ways are they like you?
They all love romance and happy endings.

And how, if at all, are they different?
My author has issues with putting herself out there and engaging on social media – I think it’s more of a challenge for her – and she’s not too keen on sending out newsletters more than once a month. I think this impacts her subscriber avatar and the potential of building those relationships. In some ways, she prefers the reader avatar because it’s more hands-off – she can just buy some promo and set up some ads and no have to engage personally – I am working with her on changing that – because when she does engage on a personal level – she gets some great feedback from readers via her newsletter.

Melissa Lummis
Melissa Lummis
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar?
My subscriber avatar is Courtney, she’s in her 40s and busy, but she makes time for herself on the weekends and in the evenings or whenever the kids are taking naps and someone else is taking a turn at parent care-giving. She used to devour UF/PNR books but has so much going on she’s turned to tech to indulge her love of story, satisfy her need to socialize, and find ideas for her next project: kindle app on her phone, audiobooks, youtube, pinterest, social media, and newsletters. She’s also creative, makes jewelry & crafts, (during which she listens to books or podcasts). She’s into crystals and plants, loves using them in her creations and learning about their energy and properties. She also wants to be more social, but her responsibilities and/or location limit how she can interact in real life, so tech is a great outlet.

In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
My reader avatar is between 30 & 65, female, middle to upper-class with a busy life who reads UF/PNR voraciously as an escape and me time. My subscriber avatar is similar in that she fits into this broad-spectrum.

In what ways are they like you?
My subscriber avatar is like me in that she’s a fan of UF/PNR, but she also is interested in the esoteric and creative. She’s busy, curious, and wants to be more engaged with other people who love the magic in life but has limited time or options for socializing in real life.

And how, if at all, are they different?
My subscriber avatar is different from my reader avatar because she’s embraced technology and wants more engagement with like-minded people. My reader avatar only wants the stories. My subscriber avatar is different from me in that she may be more introverted in real life and prefer to socialize and engage online or has limited real-life friends who want to discuss magic and crystals and energy.

Tameri Etherton
Tameri Etherton
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.
I have two subscriber avatars – one male and one female, but they’re super similar. I call them Gavin and Rosalind.
They are both 42 years old, have a job (Rosalind is starting up a bakery business). Both have children in the home, approximately 8 years old. Both are married. Gavin likes to play Magic: The Gathering and wishes he could get his D&D buddies to hang out more often. He isn’t an avid reader, but when he finds a series he likes, he sticks with it. Rosalind reads everyday. She loves her sexy books and shifters and all things magical and steamy.
Gavin doesn’t like the social media much and gets his author news from the newsletter. Rosalind, however, is a big fan of social media and is in a lot of author groups interacting and participating in lots of giveaways. She’s also the first to recommend a book in all those groups.
In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
Rosalind is closest to my reader avatar, but she could be younger and have a more hectic life.
In what ways are they like you?
They are kind and have huge hearts. They love adventure and ‘escaping’ into other worlds. They also love animals–real or mythical–and have at least one fur baby in their lives.
And how, if at all, are they different?
They don’t travel as much as I do, but love to live vicariously through my adventures. Also, they don’t have a dragon companion, but many of them wish they did!

vitoz1511
vitoz1511
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.
50% men and Woman over 50. From a small town. love to travel like interesting cities like New Orleans.l and like fancy restaurants.

In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
50-50 men and woman, they love New Orleans and it’s food

And how, if at all, are they different?
I believe most are over 60 and mostly woman in retirement.

Teresa
Teresa
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar?
My subscriber’s name is Susan. She is in her 30’s- 40’s and she has small kids. She’s a mid level manager at a company and manages a combination of collocated and remote employees. The company is considering using freelancers. She has to balance her ambition to grow her career with her family responsibilities.
Susan reads my newsletter because she wants a peak behind the curtain, and someone to validate her struggles to make the remote workforce work for her. She doesn’t have a lot of time so she also loves it when I link articles and other resources she can use to stay current in the remote work field. She buys my books. 😊
In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
Both Susan and my reader want actionable advice for work situations.
In what ways are they like you?
They’re both trying to fit their personal lives around their work lives, either because work keeps trying to take over every available minute, or because they would rather develop hobbies that aren’t work related at all. At bottom we’re all optimists of some stripe. We are the DIY employees of the world—we know the answer is out there, and are willing to learn how to improve ourselves.
And how, if at all, are they different?
My reader is somewhat burned out. They are also new to remote work or remote management, and don’t know where the gaps are in their knowledge. They’re smart enough to know that the gaps are there, though.

Guinevere
Guinevere
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.
Jessica is a millennial or a Gen X reader and she’s female. She reads reverse harem romance voraciously; she reads at least 2-3 books a week, but might well read more She loves supernatural/PNR shows as well, like Buffy, Supernatural, True Blood, Shadowhunters, etc. She’s likely married (or divorced) with kids. She has at least some college education if not a degree, and she might work or be a stay-at-home mom.

She faces her busy life, motherhood, and the sometimes challenging parts of marriage with a sense of humor, and she loves a good escapist read, She’s pretty tech savvy and likely reads on her phone, but also owns a Kindle and listens to audiobooks regularly, and because she reads so much, paperback PNR books feel like a luxury. She adores a signed book. She also reads trad fantasy romance/PNR like Holly Black’s Cruel Prince. She’s active on Facebook and checks in on social media/email in spare minutes, which means she may just glance at something quickly before she moves on to the next activity–short attention span might be assumed.

In what ways are they like your reader avatar?

Paranormal RH readers tend to be voracious, although increasingly I think there’s crossover with other genres (which can be a problem in and of itself). I think most RH readers are women on the younger side, and I generally target ages 21-45 (but what do I know?) with my ads.

In what ways are they like you?

We share a love of reading, paranormal shows, bacon cheese fries (I’m just assuming on this because who doesn’t like bacon cheese fries?) and wine.

And how, if at all, are they different?
I’m a bit excessively educated, and sometimes miss the mark with overextending my vocabulary or writing things that are too complicated (“hard to follow but the characters are so lovable, it’s worth it” said one reviewer). Younger RH readers may not get my references (sigh) if I don’t watch myself. I’m very political Of A Certain Type and my readers are likely politically diverse.

Marisa D'Vari
Marisa D'Vari
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.

A girl 14 – 18, likely from a larger city, interested in fashion and film and music – glamour. She is intrigued by Hollywood as well as the supernatural.

She is very interested in reading in the newsletter (insider) stories about Hollywood and its ghosts. It doesn’t take much to intrigue her. She will share things in the newsletter with her friends as in “can you believe this” and “do you think it is true.

In what ways are they like your reader avatar?

The reader and subscriber are very similar. They both have ADD and need to be CONSTANTLY stimulated. Or they get bored.

In what ways are they like you?

They are very much like me, except they want more about boys and romance and I’m more interested in ghosts.

And how, if at all, are they different?

They are adolescents and I’m an adult. They are a a bit more interested in fashion and current day movie stars, and like to see all the name brands and branded movie stars. I constantly need to keep a teen magazine open as I write. They get bored very quickly so I always need to keep new hooks.

TaraSaunders
TaraSaunders
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.
My subscriber avatar is Maggie. She’s early fifties, retired early maybe because she burned out. She lives in a rural location now but her career was social worker in the city. She’s seen some terrible things and she doesn’t live under the illusion that life is good or fair. Deep down she still feels the urge to help people. She’s divorced or chronically single and lives a very solitary life.

In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
They’re both older and have seen a thing or two in their lives. They’re thinkers and don’t take situations at face value. They don’t follow the herd. My reader avatar is more likely to have children and to homeschool or belong to a church.

In what ways are they like you?
They’re older, educated and a bit cynical with a core of optimism. They like to read but are unsatisfied with an easy Happy Ever After.

And how, if at all, are they different?
Maggie is more optimistic than I am, and she has a greater faith in the system. She has no children (I have five), and she has prioritised her career over family. She also has more free time to read than I do!

annacastle
annacastle
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar?
I think my subs are mostly middle-aged, both men and women, well educated. I have a lot of retired professional types: nurses, English teachers, theologians, music history professors… Mostly US, some Canada, a few UK.

In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
I’m not really sure what avatar means here, but I guess my readers are similar to my subscribers, but they’re not people who like to subscribe to newsletters :-). The people who love my books love immersive historical fiction. Some have said they read my books for the history as much as the story. I also hear from people who are really attached to some of my characters, which is lovely. But again, my readers are middle-aged, often old enough to be retired, educated, both men and women. Saleswise I do better in the UK than in Canada, and also have a goodly number of fans in Australia.

In what ways are they like you?
Well, uh, I’m retired, middle-aged, educated, and like immersive historical fiction. I pretty much write for myself, so people who like my books are likely to be like me :-). I don’t subscribe to author newsletters, even for the ones whose books I love. I do follow a few on BookBub.

And how, if at all, are they different?
Well, there’s that newsletter thing. They sometimes focus on things that I thought were nothing, or vice versa. Details in the books. I actually don’t really want to know in any detail what people think of my books, to be honest. Even positive reviews can confuse me. So I don’t know what that means in terms of who these people are. I think we’re much more alike than different.

LeighDuncan
LeighDuncan
3 years ago

• Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.

Delores is my CURRENT subscriber avatar. She probably signed up through a Ryan Zee or similar promotion/contest. She’s in her forties or fifties and more computer savvy than my reader avatar. She’s still working – either in a secretarial/admin position or as a grocery store clerk and is always interested in a giveaway or freebie. She subscribes to a lot of author newsletters, but only opens them if the title mentions a giveaway.

My IDEAL subscriber avatar is Barbie. She’s in her forties-to-fifties, graduated from high school and went to college (she may/may not have graduated). She works at a job that gives her the feeling that she’s making the world a better place—church secretary, paralegal, nurse, etc. Or she’s a stay-at-home mom/grandmom who does a lot of volunteer work. She is more computer savvy than my reader avatar. An avid reader, she likes to have a lot of author “friends” and subscribes to multiple author newsletters. She signed up for mine because she felt a personal connection—similar Southern roots, a fan of Hallmark movies and books, met me at a signing or speaking engagement, or ran across my photo on social media and thought I looked like a nice person. She reads my newsletter on her smart phone. She likes well-written books and reads in multiple genres (she doesn’t understand why people look down on romance—well-written is well-written no matter what the genre). She keeps a auto-buy list of her favorite authors and wants to be one of the first to have a copy of new releases. She belongs to at least one book club and likes to talk about what she’s recently read.

• In what ways are they like your reader avatar?

Carol is my reader avatar. She’s close to retirement age or older, graduated from high school and possibly took some classes at the local community college. She spent most of her working career in low-end jobs that provided little retirement benefits. She’s overweight by 40-50 pounds, lives in a modest house or mobile home, can’t afford expensive cable bills on her limited income and reads as an escape. Thus, she reads romance because it always has a happy-ever-after. She borrows a most of the books she reads from the library or shops for them at second-hand stores and garage sales. She rarely buys new. She has limited computer skills and may or may not have a smart phone.

Carol and Barbie love reading. (Delores, not so much, but she sticks around because I gave her a couple of free books, and they didn’t stink.) Carol and Barbie both like my writing and my books. The big difference is that Barbie will pre-order and shop for new books while Carol may be a huge fan, but due to her limited income, she waits for the book to become available at the library.

• In what ways are they like you?

Barbie, Carol and I are all women. We all like people and good storytelling. We’re all “givers” — we bring meals to friends who’ve hit hard times, we encourage, we recycle. Barbie and I both belong to book clubs and help promote authors by buying their books and talking about the ones we like. We’re both college-educated. We both read across several fiction genres. We may not be computer programmers, but we know how to make our smart phones and computers do what we need them to do.

• And how, if at all, are they different?

Barbie probably reads a lot more non-fiction than I do. She likes to and has more time to establish personal connections with people than I do. She likes to be treated like someone special, and her support really kicks in when she feels she has a close, personal connection to an author, while I have more of a rising-tide-raises-all-boats philosophy.

David Penny
David Penny
3 years ago

Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.

  • Female
    50 years plus
    Lives in the UK, fewer in the US
    Facebook User
    Interested in History but primarily in reading character-based fiction set in interesting locations
    They read a lot, and fast
    They are fans of my characters rather than fans of me
  • In what ways are they like your reader avatar?

  • They are younger. I know my readers are skewed hard to the 65+ female end, but I’m figuring those who are a little younger (and still well within my reader demographic) will be more IT literate. Though these days isn’t everyone?
    At least half of them are in love with either my main or secondary character because they tell me so.
  • In what ways are they like you?

  • Um – not so much. I’m male, older, but the rest fits
  • And how, if at all, are they different?

  • They’re female so are looking for a different kind of read to me. Most of my go-to authors are male (which I get crap for when I talk to all-women groups, which I often do)
    I tend not to read Historical Fiction as much as they do
    They come to my work almost by accident. I suspect the majority love Tudor semi-romance works
  • RMKerns
    RMKerns
    3 years ago

    –Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.
    My subscriber avatar is a close friend who shares my enthusiasm for science fiction, fantasy, science, and technology. Someone I can sit with and chat about all the interesting stuff going on in the world.

    –In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
    The subscriber avatar shares an enjoyment and appreciation for light-hearted science fiction…and they both enjoy my writing (of course! :P)

    –In what ways are they like you?
    Interest in science, science fiction, and fantasy.

    –And how, if at all, are they different?
    My subscriber avatar doesn’t have a gender. Interest in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Science/technology spans genders.

    Tom Sweeney
    Tom Sweeney
    3 years ago

    Who, specifically, is your subscriber avatar? I know it feels silly, but make one up. You’re authors; you can do this.
    Female, 50 years old, married.
    In the work force, so travel time in limited
    professional, maybe a nurse
    Looking forward to retirement to travel more
    Enjoys reading about travel, especially long trips
    Enjoys reading about places she’s been, but even more, places she wants to go to
    Wonderful sense of humor; loves to laugh
    She is computer savvy and spends time on social media

    In what ways are they like your reader avatar?
    Reader avatar is also female, professional, travels a little and wants to travel more
    Reader avatar is older, though, and might already be retired

    In what ways are they like you?
    Likes to travel, likes to read about travel, likes to laugh, computer savvy

    And how, if at all, are they different?
    I’m older, male, retired, not on social media