Nailing down your audience

Any writer with hopes of one day reaching beyond themselves with their work must determine their audience. In advance.

As professional writers, consider the ultimate and most important audience – the reader. Who will read – and buy – your book(s).

How old are they? Where do they live? What are they reading now? What are they hoping to read next? How quickly do they read?

What are their hopes and dreams? What excites or interests them? What situations do they need to work through?

Are they buying their own books? Where do they buy their books? How do they learn about new books?

Where will your book be organized on the bookshelves? What else is currently out on the shelves? How will readers find your book?

Do you have restrictions as to reading level or content? Are there genre conventions that you need to keep in mind?

These questions are just the beginning. What else would help you pin these folks down? Brainstorm in your notebook or on the Audience worksheet, then write up a description for the audience. If you have multiple audiences, do a description for each one.

The clearer the picture you have of your ultimate audience, the better success you’ll have getting your book into their hands. However, I don’t believe this needs to be to the depth you’d do up for a character description. About 100 words will do.

Here’s an example:

Girls 6-9
Likes: detective/spy stories and mysteries
Reading habits: challenged or reluctant readers (needs lower reading level but wants stories at their age-level or older), reads teacher/librarian recommended books but tries to choose their own books, has moderate influence on parent-purchased books

I also want to point out that in this business, we also have secondary audiences, who are very critical to the process. These are the agents, the publishers, the PR people and the sales/distribution machine. You’ll need to write letters, promotional materials, pitches and other materials directed to these audiences. You may decide to write-up a short profile of these audiences as well, to help you better target them.