Seven things I learned from writing and publishing my memoir (Part four - Who is your audience?)

This week is the Queensland Writers Festival and as my tiny contribution, I am writing a post a day in a series called seven things I learned from writing and publishing my memoir. This is part four.

4. Who is your audience?

Before you put pen to paper, you should consider who you hope will pick up your book and read it.

When you know your audience, you have a better idea what they want from your book. Knowing your audience can help you every step of the writing process.

Having a typical reader in mind allows you to check your writing. If you can picture someone reading your book, it will help you as you decide what to put in and what to leave out. For both my books, I cut almost as much out of the book as I left it. I pictured my reader sitting there and realised that some parts of the story were just filler.

Maybe you can test your finished book out on some people from your target group before you publish or submit to a professional publisher. Later you will have a better idea how to market your book when you know your typical reader.

For example, if a book is written for teens, you might have more success marketing on Facebook. If it is for older adults, you might have more success meeting groups of people at library or service group presentations.

In my case I want to share my stories with other women moving into the “empty nest” stage of life. I hope to motivate people who want to get out into the world and do something different but are not sure how. Now I know to advertise where older women gather. I can picture my typical reader and speak directly to her.

Deciding your audience early on does not mean a teenager will not pick up your book about your life in the fifties, or an older person won’t identify with the story of your first teen romance. One of my first fans was my brother-in-law who read my book in one sitting and then came back with some complimentary comments. I never thought about a man reading my book.

When you have your message, your story, and the tone of your work, then it will probably lead to your audience. If not, choose one. It is much easier to write a book for one group. If you try to make it please everyone it will be tough. Do you leave out profanity or will your readers expect it? What about modern jargon, such as text speak or computer jargon? Will your readers understand it or should you explain?

Not everyone will love your book and that is okay. Not even the most famous authors in the world are loved by everyone. But if you have a target audience, and you know who you hope will pick up your book, you have a great place to start when writing, editing, and marketing.

Tomorrow’s blog: Lose the boring details.

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