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How to Find Your Audience

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Tue Jul 13, 2010 8:33 pm
lilymoore says...

Knowing your audience is key for any writer if you plan on pursuing publication or even if you just want to write a story for a good friend. But sometimes, figuring out what audience your story is geared towards can be difficult but it’s not impossible.

You might be wondering why you would even need to know the audience you’re writing for. But often times, when submitting a query letter to a publisher or editor, they will ask what audience you’re gearing your story towards. Also, knowing your audience helps you understand what elements you should include in your book.

One of the first steps is determining what genre your story fits into. For instance, your story could be literary fiction, which highlights most strongly on style, depth, and character. Literary fiction contains less action and movement and more dialogue and thought. More often than not, they are stories with one major theme or lesson drawn out and reinforced throughout the entire novel. They have a slower pace because of the time they spend focusing on thought and description. Examples of literary fiction include John Updike’s Of Mice and Men and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Commercial fiction is often the opposite of literary fiction. The plot and the story are often the major focus of the story. They are packed with action and movement and spend more time focusing on the plot than on characters. Examples of commercial fiction are wide ranging because commercial fiction is often broken down into smaller, more specific genres whether that genre be historical, science fiction, romance or horror. They may even be a blend of one or more genres.

Determining what type of your story is key. Why? Because knowing what kind of story you’re writing will let you know what you will have to include in a story in order for most editors and publishers to consider looking at it, especially from a financial aspect. You may think that the more original you are, the better chance you have but most, though not all, editors and publishers will see a story with a marketable plot as having a better chance on the shelf.

Once you know what you’re writing, you’ll be able to better picture who you would be writing for. You may start off writing a novel, imagining you audience is a single friend but just envision how many other people, with a similar taste as your friends, would want to read it. It might be narrow, especially if your friend is only interested in post-apocalyptic stories about panda bears but if it’s also a funny story, then you would be able to focus on readers who have a liking of humor. These would often be people who read books by authors like Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams.

On the other hand, maybe you want to look at your audience as a giant, nameless, faceless mass. Perhaps you’re writing a romantic teen drama. In this case, your audience will more than likely be a blob of screaming, fan girls (and their moms) who imagine themselves married to your male lead.

Knowing your audience, humor-lovers or teen drama fans, will help you understand how to connect with your readers through your writing. The teenage audience would rather read about finding true love in high school over the trials of a cowboy settling into the uncivilized West. In the same respects, humor-readers aren’t going to want to read about the political ponderings of a modern-day senator’s aide.

And now that you know the audience you’re writing for, you have a better idea of what you’ll need to include in the story to make it marketable and make your story more appealing to the big wig publisher sitting behind his big wig desk.
Never forget who you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.

The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee; my heart is at your festival.
— William Shakespeare