Writing for Your Audience
“My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure.”
I’ve read many books, ideas, proposals. A small, but shining few are good, and there is a significant trait that define them as such. The authors know who their audience is, and they write for that audience. Knowing your core audience is essential.
I am the first to admit how deeply personal putting words to paper is for me. It has always been subject to my interests, my thoughts, my ideas, my passions. I write because it fulfills me.
Most authors don't write for money or fame (or “fortune and glory,” as pulp fiction screen star Indiana Jones would have put it), but because they have a honest love of what they do.
But the authors who find success (as household names or finding a niche of readers who love their work), they realize that writing a book is about creating something that will find an audience, and moreso, something that finds the right audience. It’s about what the audience will love.
It’s not blasphemy or insensitivity, it’s truth. If a writer doesn’t know who wants to read their work, they won't find an audience. But knowing your audience isn’t the easiest task. There are many considerations, including:
- genre (what type of book is it? Fiction, nonfiction, memoir, sci-fi/fantasy, women’s fiction, popular science?)
- subject (light fare or dark? Happy marriages or abuse? New theories or battling disease?)
- length (short, long or in-between?)
- language (poetic or straightforward, child’s POV or adult’s, fact-filled or completely imaginative?)
- current trends (what is selling? What’s popular at the moment?)
- marketability (can you get this book to your core audience?)
Others arise as well, depending the answers to the above questions.
As an author, it is part of your job to find the answers to these questions, to understand about your core audience. It isn’t enough to write a good book that you think people will like. You have all the fodder you need to know what people like. What’s selling, being talked about, winning awards, popular in social media, or circling through book clubs? (What is most important to you will of course depend on who you’re trying to reach).
I’m not suggesting that your writing becomes impersonal, because that will alienate an audience as surely as will a book they’re not interested in reading. It’s about finding a balance, about shaping your work as you write it and molding it to the needs of your readers while still creating something that you love.
It won’t work every time. Not every idea is meant to be embraced by your readers, as popular and niche writers alike know well. At times, you will always fail to connect. Some writers feel the need to blame the audience, but it is not their failure for having preferences. It just means re-learning your audience, and writing something new.
While you write, the consideration should be that your book is for other people. It’s hard to remember that at times, in the heat of writing, lost in another world. But it is a core component of authorship. You mean very little as an author without a reader—and in the end, why write if you cannot share it with the world?