Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who is your audience?

By Joe Moore
@JoeMoore_writer

A few weeks back, I blogged about What, How and Why do You Write? Today I want to discuss who you write for—who is your audience. The more you know about your end-readers, the more you can focus on connecting with them, entertaining them and creating loyal fans.

The first thing I suggest is to focus on an individual reader as you write, not a group. By doing so, you can envision and predict the reader’s response. For instance, it can be a friend that enjoys your work. Picture that reader as you write. Someone that you have received feedback from so you know their likes and dislikes. If your focus-reader has told you what she really likes about your books, then there’s a good chance other readers will like the same things. Maybe she’s said that your stories are highly visual almost like seeing a movie in her head or your characters always seem so down to earth or she loves how your books are like a magic carpet ride taking her to so many exotic locations. And on the flip side, listen to her dislikes. They’re equally important. These comments are keys to keeping your readers happy and coming back for more.

Next, think about your agreement with your reader. Basically it goes like this: if you’re willing to pull money out of your pocket, buy my book, and commit to spending a portion of your valuable time reading it, then I agree to deliver a level of entertainment that is equal to or exceeds what you have experienced in the past. You agree to fulfill the reader’s expectations. Not doing so can be deadly because negative word-of-mouth can rarely be overcome. The person hearing negative comments will probably never give you the chance to redeem yourself.

Remember what genre you write in and deliver the elements that readers of that genre expect. The readers of a particular genre all like the same type of stuff. Give it to them, but in an original fashion with new twists and turns.

Next is the manner in which your focus-reader consumes your book. Hardcover, paperback, ebook? Does she travel a great deal and likes to pass the time reading on the plane? At the beach? At bedtime? Over the weekend but not during the workweek? In public places such as a coffee shop or only at home? Does she always have plenty of time to read or does she have to steal time during her lunch break? Knowing the reading habits of your focus-reader helps you deliver the product that fits her needs and those of your audience.

Once again, concentrate on that one specific focus-reader. Her group will fall in behind.

Finally, remember that you are establishing a one-on-one, intimate connection with your reader. No matter where your book is being read, it’s just you and her. No one else is around. You are communicating with someone, usually a reader you’ll never meet, and it’s always up close and personal. You’re in her head, and hopefully in her heart. Keep focused on that intimate connection. Never let go of her in your mind as you write. She is your target audience. She is your path to success.

So, Zoners, do you envision your target reader as you write? Do you know her likes and dislikes? Are you dedicated to delivering to your specific audience?

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Coming this spring: THE SHIELD by Sholes & Moore
Einstein got it wrong!

21 comments:

  1. I know this wouldn't work for everyone, but it's my secret weapon. I write middle school/YA pirate adventures. My wife teaches fifth grade, and emphasizes writing. You can see where I'm going here. My last two novels I read to them, every Thursday afternoon, a couple of chapters at a time as I wrote. It certainly kept me on my toes. They were a great audience and showed me instantly what was working and what wasn't. The instant feedback helped me make course corrections on the fly. It was great to see them get into the story (my favorite moments were when they gasped – evoking that gasp was always fun – the best was when Braxton shouted out, shocked, "They shot Nathan!?!!"), and even better when they told me they hadn't liked something. I'll never forget Gabby saying candidly, "That was kind of boring." I not only knew who the audience was for each book, I knew their names and what desk they sat in. And they got to see how the writing process works, and two of them even showed me the novels they had started as a result.

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    1. You have the perfect critique group, John. That we should all be so lucky.

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  2. By this time in my writing life, Joe, I think I've got audience considerations seeped into my brain. I'm not really conscious of it, but it's there, and shapes the writing. It's when I edit that I get more intentional about the audience. I'm especially looking for those places where a busy reader might be tempted to put the book down--then I cut or change that section.

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    1. I don't doubt it, Jim. Like Elmore Leonard advised, "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."

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  3. This may sound horribly arrogant, but I write for me. More precisely, for someone who likes to read what I like to read. I have a pretty good idea who those people are, and what they look for in a book, but my final arbiter is, would O read and enjoy this book?

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    1. Not arrogant at all, Dana. If you write for yourself first, your love of your story will come through to the reader.

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    2. I'm like dana - Basically I write for me and readers who like what I like to read:)

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    3. I agree with Dana, Joe, and Clare. At the risk of being immodest, I decided to plow into my list of what-ifs and get out some stories because I wanted to entertain like I was being entertained. Reading is entertaining; writing is more so. And what would I do with that list of what-ifs otherwise?

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    4. Clare and Steven, thanks for sharing.

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  4. When I write, I imagine myself talking to my sister. That way whatever I write comes out sounding like I sound when I'm talking in general.

    And then when I tell my real life stories like the time I nodded and smiled at a mannequin, it sounds like me. It took a nanosecond to realize I'd just smiled at a mannequin, but it was still embarrassing even though nobody else saw it.

    See, my sister almost peed herself when I told her that story.

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    1. Great antidote and technique, Diane. That's what it takes to create realistic dialogue.

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    2. Diane--
      Ever wave to someone on the other side of the street, then realize you don't know the person, except the person is waving back, with the look on his face that goes with needing to deal with a crazy person? When this happens, I really have a great wish to go far away.

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    3. No Barry, but I once waved back at someone who I thought recognized me because they looked familiar to me. Then I realized they made a mistake...then my OCD kicked in and I wanted to hunt them down to find out who they thought I was!

      True OCD at work, I promise. lol

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  5. In the back of my mind I think I'm writing my stories for my friend John. He doesn't know it. So we'll see how he reacts. Usually, my jokes and other renditions go over pretty well. I can always get a laugh out of John.

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    1. Jim, you're already practicing the faith. Keep it up.

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  6. Joe--
    It's revealing to me about my work that I find it hard to create a profile of my ideal reader. Is that reader a woman? Probably. Seventy or more percent of fiction is bought by women. What's her age--late twenties? Thirties? What's her class? Her education? I include a few allusions or references to works of literature or art, and I don't "write down" for readers, so that's a consideration. But in the end, I don't know for whom exactly I'm writing. And I should.

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  7. Yes, you should, Barry. Beyond the ideal reader, yourself, you need to anticipate your focus-reader's thoughts and reactions. Even if it's an imaginary reader, it needs to be consistent. Don't give up. It will make you a better writer. I guarantee it or your money back. :-)

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  8. I am out in beta land now. One copy is with my bestie who is one of my 'perfect readers.' Another is in the hands of a guy writer friend who I hope it appeals to. One is in the Kindle of the TKZ's very own Jim in Missoula, another with a local friend who is not a writer and another in Canada. I've covered bases in taste and genre and we'll see how it distills.

    Terri

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    1. Trusted beta readers are a writer's best friend, Terri. You just need to determine which one is your focus-reader and write directly to him or her.

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  9. My audience is anyone who's not fast enough to get away before I start talking...then they're mesmerized.
    :-o

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    1. Thanks, Basil. I'll add physical restraint to my list of tips. :-)

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