Who Is Your Target Audience? Discover Whether They Actually Exist with This Simple Trick

Defining your target audience can be challenging for new writers without any established readership. We  offer a technique to identify them effectively.

Do you truly know your audience? Understanding who your readers are and why they engage with your content is crucial. It’s common to gravitate towards writing what you love or to impress peers and editors. While this may result in good writing, it doesn’t guarantee reader engagement. To attract and retain readers, you must write with them in mind.

Someone has probably told you at some point in your writing journey to think about your “target audience.” So you went through the exercise: stated their gender, age, location, occupation, income bracket, and relationship to your subject. You imagined them in a bookstore, picking up your book, loving it, and demanding a sequel. You wrote pages about why they’d love your work more than your competition’s. You were ready to write a book they’d love and convince a publisher exactly why they’d love it.

But have you met these people? How do you know they’ll love your book? How do you know they… exist?



Defining Your Target Audience

A significant stumbling block for many novice writers, myself included in the past, is attempting to define a target audience before actually having any real readership.

You start by choosing what you want to write: perhaps a food blog, cozy mysteries, or self-help ebooks. Then, you embark on the target audience exercise, crafting a profile of an ideal reader who would adore your work. You might even give this hypothetical person a name and a face, plucked from a stock photo. But alas, books cannot be sold to imaginary readers.

Thus, you find yourself in the paradoxical predicament of needing to identify your audience before you’ve even begun to build it. After all, to construct an audience, you must first understand who you’re aiming for. It’s a maddening Catch-22, to say the least.

Here’s my strategy for extricating oneself from this conundrum: As you delineate your target audience, strive to envision five individuals who embody its characteristics.

Consider someone like a middle-aged woman in her forties, residing in the suburbs, holding a middle-management position with an income around the median, and relishing mass-market romance novels. Once you’ve conjured up a few names, delve deeper.

When was the last instance you observed them engrossed in a romance novel? Do you comprehend why they were drawn to it? How might they react to that titillating scene you penned in chapter 13? If you were to describe your book to them, would they grasp its essence? Would they feel compelled to dive into its pages?

Going Beyond Demographics

Kim Wright’s advice underscores the importance of deeply understanding your audience beyond mere demographic categories. It’s about knowing them as individuals, understanding their experiences, desires, and preferences. This insight allows you to tailor your writing in a way that resonates authentically with them.

Identifying real people you know or are familiar with as your target audience serves as a litmus test for the viability of your writing project. If you can’t pinpoint individuals who fit the profile of your hypothetical audience, it might indicate that your target audience is too vague or perhaps non-existent.

Moreover, envisioning real people reading your work compels you to consider their specific reactions and preferences. For instance, if your target reader is someone like your colleague Amy, who enjoys sweet romance but shies away from explicit content, it’s crucial to tailor your writing to align with her preferences. If you’re adamant about including steamy scenes, it might be wise to reconsider whether Amy is truly your target audience or if you need to identify a different demographic.

Additionally, involving real people in the feedback process provides invaluable insights. Running your ideas by individuals like Amy allows you to gauge whether your intuition aligns with their reactions. If not, it’s an opportunity to conduct market research and refine your story accordingly.

Ultimately, Wright’s advice encourages writers to move beyond abstract notions of audience and instead engage with real individuals to ensure that their writing resonates authentically and effectively. So, have you identified the real people you’re writing for?