Know your audience before writing a book

Many writers get this part wrong. Do you really know your audience? The question ‘Who is going to read my book?’ tends to come up (more by chance than by design) somewhere during the course of writing the book, or worse, towards the end.

Whether you are writing fiction (novels, novellas), non-fiction (how-to guides, reference books), short articles (for newspapers, magazines, internet sites), the first question you need to ask yourself is – ‘Who am I writing this book for?’

Why is this question important? Because there are too many ‘specifics’ that come into play that will define whether your book, article or reference guide will be read and appreciated by the right set of readers.

Why you should know your audience before you start writing a book

Let’s look at the four key reasons why you need to spend some time to know your audience and what they’d like before you start writing.

1. The readers of your book may fall in a specific age group

If you are writing fiction, the story may be about fairies, dragons, and wonderful mystical characters. Kids under 10 may probably lap the content in the cute little story book, but teens / young adults may get turned off by it.

But then it’s not necessary that the stories that have mystical creatures and magic are solely targeted at children. The Lord of the Rings is a case in point. Not that it had any dragon love-making scenes narrated in graphic detail that’ll make it inappropriate for younger readers, but just that the treatment for these two sets of readers is completely different.

2. Your readers may have a specific common interest

You may be writing a non-fiction / reference book that’s only relevant to a specific profession (lawyers, consultants, medical staff), or a special interest group (e.g. pet lovers, astronomy buffs, Rajnikant worshippers).

You need to give this group something they can relate to, something that they feel strongly about. Respect the knowledge that they already have about the subject and give them something that makes it worth their time.

The principle remains the same for fiction as well.

There’s a huge amount of diversity here. A niche book, written for a passionate group that’s been ignored by the mainstream publishing world for years, may be exactly what the editors were looking for. So don’t dilute it by trying to include the bigger interest groups just to increase the market.

3. Your readers may connected by a specific geography / language / culture

Take the example of a reference (non-fiction) book about India, and written for Indians. Or it may be about India, but written for folks outside India (the Lonely Planet series). Depending on your readers, you may make certain assumptions (how much they know or don’t know about the region).

Extrapolating this to fiction, you could have generous doses of Hindi in an English novel (being fully aware that this might still alienate a lot of Indian reader who don’t speak Hindi). If you had written this book with an international audience in mind, you’d have take care to reduce the Hindi words or provide a translation wherever you can’t avoid it.

4. There may be specific writing styles that your readers like

You have your own writing style and your unique voice. That’s your forte. But knowing about your audience beforehand will allow you to do justice to the genre you are writing for.

For non-fiction, especially reference books, colloquial language (or switching languages, unless it’s something like a language translation guide) is often a strict no-no. the writing style is more formal vis-a-vis the spoken version. However, colloquial language is almost a given in case of characters in a novel talking to each other.

Your personal style adapted to the writing styles that are typically associated with the target genre that your book falls in, will define the end product.

With so many specifics involved, it is highly unlikely that your book is going to make everyone in the world happy.

So it’s good to write a book from your heart. But don’t end up in a situation where you complete the book and then start wondering how to position it. There are clear genres that have already been defined within the publishing industry. Publishers, distributors, retailers follow this structure and categorization pretty religiously. So make life easy for them and ensure that you know your audience and the shelf where your masterpiece should reside.

It is much more difficult to try and fix a book after you finish it. So be aware of what the end product should look like before you pour your heart & soul (assuming both are available in liquid form) into it.

By the way, this post was written for a bigger audience – writers who may be interested in writing fiction, non-fiction, smaller articles. So, unlike the other niche topics that we write on, this one would come across as a little generic, and intentionally so.

Hang around for more specific inputs on how to write a book across various genres.

4 thoughts on “Know your audience before writing a book”

  1. Sagar Mulani

    Sameer,
    I am a young writer and am writing for the very first time. It’s a tragic-love fiction and I am too much certain because this type of genre is not very uncommon. And I know it has to be splendid. I have made a lot of efforts on this particular project. I just wanted to know that what exactly makes a manuscript prone to rejection?

  2. Sameer Post Author

    Hi Sagar,

    The reasons could be many and highly subjective. The publisher may not like the plot, the writing, the author (or rather the author platform), the commercial potential.

    The publishing world is filled with stories of rejected authors who’ve gone on to sell millions of copies of the same book. So, don’t let a few rejections stop you.

    And don’t aim to create a ‘perfect’ book. Perfection like many things in the publishing world is also highly subjective.

    See if this related post gives you some food for thought: Query letter rejections

  3. Sonal

    Hi….
    I’m a student of class 11th.
    I read the article and found it to be very informative, especially for a person like me-who dreams to be a writer but has absolutely no idea of the hurdles in her path.
    I have a plot and have started working on it but to be quite frank I’m just a 16 year old and I feel that the odds for becoming an author especially for someone so young and inexperienced are drastically less.
    what do you suggest…1. I do to increase those chances
    2. About consulting local publishers
    3. Can cover for the book be designed by the writer
    4. Can being a juvenile writer provide me with some advantage?
    I’d be highly greatful if u take the pain of solving my queries.

  4. PUNEET SHARMA

    Hi buddy

    Would anybody help me out bcoz I need to come to know the all procedures to get my own novel or short stories published for a special recognition, fame, & money.

    Actually I am very new to this aspect & I don’t have any acquainted ones in my knowledge.

    Thanks in anticipation

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