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Writer-Talk Tuesday: Who’s Your Audience?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

“Write with a specific audience in mind.”

This is one of the tenets of professional writing—that you must know who your readers are before you sit down to write.

But what about when we’re talking about fiction and not nonfiction/journalism?

In nonfiction, it’s a little easier to target an audience—for a how-to book, the audience is obviously people who want to learn how to do that particular thing; for an article on boxwood shrubs in 19th Century English gardens, it’s pretty obvious that you’re targeting people interested in historical gardening/flora/landscape design.

When we sit down to write fiction, though, many approach it with the idea that everyone is going to want to read this story.

Well . . . I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but that just isn’t the case.

All fiction has a specific audience—yes, some audiences are larger than others. Just like with music. Some authors/musicians are going to have enough readers/fans that they’ll fill huge arenas and stadiums, while others are doing well if they fill a coffee shop. Does that mean that the person in the coffee shop isn’t as good as the person filling the stadium? Not necessarily—and sometimes the guy filling the stadium isn’t nearly as talented as the gal begging friends and family to come support her at the coffee shop gig. He’s just learned who his audience is, what they want, and how to get it to them.

Sure . . . some of this has to do with chance/luck—being in the right place at the right time, getting your manuscript (or music, in the example) in front of the right industry people, finding “champions” in the audience who will provide the best marketing of all (word of mouth), and so on. This is why what we consider “mediocre” authors often hit the bestseller lists and authors we personally feel are brilliant end up with their books languishing in the bargain bin at B&N—audience.

When I prepare a proposal for a new book series, I always include a “Target Audience” description in it:

Women, ages 25+, interested in reading sweet [historical/contemporary] romance with light inspirational elements.

(Why ages 25+? Because that’s the age at which demographics tell us that readership of adult-level romance novels picks up—plus the fact that I write older characters, and books with older characters tend to skew toward an older readership, even though I know I do have a lot of readers younger than that.)

Who, really, am I targeting with my books?


I’m writing the books I want to read. Therefore, I am my target audience. Therefore, my target audience are people similar to me, with similar reading interests.

If you’re a writer, who are you writing for? Who’s your audience?

As a reader, what “demographic audience” do you think you fit in? Do you fit in more than one or are you a loyal reader of only one genre?

  1. Tuesday, November 15, 2011 2:00 pm

    Thanks for this great reminder, Kaye! Judy Christie


  2. Tuesday, November 15, 2011 2:03 pm

    I target women 25 plus. I try to target women who have been abused and feel hopeless. Women who might never go to a church. As a reader I like to read action/suspense stories.
    Thank you for your post.
    Glenda Parker


  3. Tuesday, November 15, 2011 2:17 pm

    Such good food for thought, Kaye. You’ve said something critical here – “I’m writing the books I want to read.” That’s certainly what I do. I also feel I write the books I’m not finding out there to read. I’m not sure about my target audience. I’d love to see what my pub’s marketing teams says about that as I suppose they have all kinds of stats and lists to back that up in terms of demographics. I tend to read only historicals so guess I’m a bit stuck being a one genre reader. Though I do love your contemps;)


  4. Audry permalink
    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 2:53 pm

    I wonder if it would even be possible to write a book you wouldn’t want to read yourself. Or to write a good one anyway…


  5. Tuesday, November 15, 2011 3:19 pm

    Kaye, do editors/agents expect any more specifics than that? Or does that alone make them happy?


    • Tuesday, November 15, 2011 7:39 pm

      Sally, I think what they want to know is that you have realistic expectations as to who’s going to buy the book . . . and having a good grasp even on just a general audience like this helps with marketing, too.


  6. Tuesday, November 15, 2011 4:08 pm

    I guess im the 25+ audience although I have to say I love seeing older heroines like in there 30’s or even 40’s never married or having a real relationship. I don’t mind the other books infact enjoy them all but the ones where the heroine is older appeals so much more to me.
    At the same time I dont like books where there is a 30+ heroine who is portrayed as desperate to be married and cant function with out a man. These books make it look like there is something wrong with being an older single.


  7. Rachel Wilder permalink
    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 4:17 pm

    I’m definitely writing for 25+. But not for readers who are looking for a light read. I’m after the reader who wants to see history as it really was, including the ugly side. I want the reader who likes to learn about new cultures. I want the reader who’s not afraid to see a grittier side of history, where not every plot thread is wrapped up with a HEA. I want the reader who’s not afraid to have her assumptions challenged.


  8. Tuesday, November 15, 2011 8:19 pm

    I write for “me,” too. I love to read contemporary, HEA romance (always have, even as a teen), and I never feel that I have to torture my characters unduly for it to be enjoyable. At least not for long . . . 😀 When I compiled my proposal, I targeted 20+ readers, and my characters tend to be in their late 20’s.


  9. Kelly permalink
    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 9:21 pm

    16+ geeks interested who have a love of science and scientific themes, shallow romantic sub plots (no love triangles and no head games), cool femme fatale’s with interesting abilities and a well timed fights that involve a laser or large objects blowing up.

    Ok that had way too much sarcasm to be sent to a publisher but describes some of the books I have been reading.


  10. Lady DragonKeeper permalink
    Friday, November 18, 2011 2:27 pm

    As a reader, what “demographic audience” do you think you fit in? Do you fit in more than one or are you a loyal reader of only one genre?

    I guess I fit in the older-teen – college age demographic, but I don’t usually read YA books (though I wouldn’t mind doing so, I just haven’t gotten around to them. I especially like Christian fantasy & historicals, but I’ll read almost genre and inspirational/Christian anything.


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