I heard this from a writer in a class I am teaching: “I have been struggling with the “who is my audience piece.”
They hadn’t realized that before they figure out WHAT they want to say, they need to understand who their ideal audience really is.
I would like to say that this is the MOST common feedback I hear from writers, but often, it isn’t. I would like to think that writers are obsessing about who their audience is. But instead, the most common request I here is always:
“How do I grow my audience?”
But how can you grow your audience when you don’t know who they are?
When I ask them the next logical question: “tell me about the people who make up your ideal audience,” I often get some long pauses, some hemming and hawing, and half-hearted attempts at answers:
- “Women over 40.”
- “Anyone who loves a good story.”
- “My story is universal.”
Now, I LOVE LOVE LOVE working with writers. So I will try to put this as delicately as possible:
No, your story is not universal.
Thinking it is doesn’t only devalue the complexity and range of human experience on this planet, but doesn’t serve you well to understand how to find more readers for your work. Maybe your book will be a breakout success, demolishing previously conceived lines of topic, genre and audience.
Before you take a bet on that lottery ticket – that your book needs to find the success of Harry Potter, or no success at all – focus on establishing a small and engaged audience of people who truly love your work.
Today I want to talk about why it is important to understand who your audience is, and how critical this information can be if you actually want to GROW your audience.
Many writers don’t share their work before publication, and if they do, it is often only with other writers. They just don’t feel they have the time to consider their audience, they are barely keeping up with writing, the publishing process, and the rest of their life. So they lump anything having to do with their audience under the term “marketing,” and justify that you don’t do marketing until just before the book comes out. This allows them to keep a safe distance from their audience – and from determining who these people may actually be.
In reality, they are just hoping – perhaps even praying – that once their book comes out, their intended readers will do the hard work for them. That the audience will self-select, raise their hands, and go out of their way to find this book. The author envisions publication as a process of LEARNING who their audience is as a passive act. But finding readers is important if you actually want to get read.
Why do many writers think their book appeals to a wide audience? Because they simply haven’t done the work to realize who it WOULD appeal to, and who it WOULDN’T appeal to. [Read more…]