Identifying Your Audience

Monday, February 18, 2019
As I finalize a series proposal that I’m working on, I’ve had to face up to the fact that I’ve put off my least favorite section. Who is my audience? Maybe it’s because I’m a nonfiction author who loves her concrete facts. But trying to define a faceless group of people drives me a little batty.

Then I read a Writer’s Digest guest post by Dina Sitar. She recommends that when we write this section for a query or proposal we picture someone specific.

How would that work for me? I’m working on a proposal about urban wildlife. Who are my young readers?

To answer this, I climbed into the Jeep. Twenty minutes from my suburban home, I climbed out at the Riverlands. Families come to this conservation area all winter long. They can walk riverside trails but on twenty-two degree days like the day I visited they gather in the visitor’s center. Conservation biologists and docents have set up spotting scopes. Young nature lovers and their parents get to see cardinals, pelicans and, best of all, bald eagles.

Many of these kids know their wildlife, calling out the names of the birds they see and even asking about those they don't see. “Where are the trumpeter swans? Have you seen one?” But there are also new enthusiasts who are trying to learn the difference between a mature eagle and an immature eagle. And what do bald eagles eat anyway?

These kids and their parents came from all demographic groups including economic levels. There were boys and girls from preschoolers to middle school. These are the readers who form the audience for my series. And now that I can see them in my mind, I can write about them.

So who is your audience?

If you are writing a how-to or an inspirational piece for the Muffin’s “Friday Speak Out!,” they are your fellow women writers. They are people who, like you, are working to perfect the nuts-and-bolts of writing and marketing their work while juggling family, day jobs and life in general.

If you are writing a romance, maybe your audience is your best friend. This can mean something very different if you are a 30 something professional who likes steamy reads vs a Boomer who wants the roses and wine but not the how-to. Picturing your friend who would actually read your book can help you describe this person to an editor or agent.

Remember, you are describing this reader for someone who doesn’t know them. So get specific. How would your would-be publisher find this person among a group of varied readers? What distinguishes them from someone else who is female, forty years-old, and educated?

When you picture your readers, get specific. See their faces. Know their reactions. If necessary, go out and find them. Then get busy with that description. There are, after all, specific readers who need what you are writing.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins March 18th, 2019.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--I've done a similar exercise when I'm having trouble with a piece. I picture a critic--one who isn't crazy about my work--and I write a letter to them. I explain what my piece is about, where I'm struggling and what my future plans are when it comes to the piece. It's amazing what becomes evident as that letter is written.

My critic is always in a ratty bathrobe, she has on cat-eye glasses, and she's smoking a cigarette (the ash is really, really long).

I'm glad you can now picture your audience. Good luck with this series. I hope they jump up when they get your proposal and immediately give you a contract.

Renee Roberson said...

Sioux, your description of your critic cracks me up. It reminds me of that character that had a whole line of greeting cards created around her. What was her name again?!

Sue, since I've been mostly writing YA, I tend to look at my kids and their friends a lot. And for me, having a specific list of comp titles is built into my current queries and hopefully lets an agent know what type of audience would enjoy my books. When I'm entering contests, I try and research what previous winners wrote about and pay careful attention to who the judges are. I'm not going to enter a horror story with a judge who writes romance or literary fiction, etc.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Do you mean Maxine?

Honestly, it sounded like you were describing my mom!

And thank you for the food for thought, ladies! Cause I seriously need more to work on.

But I do hope this proposal sells. A whole series of my very own...


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