Know Your Audience

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by Suzanne D. Williams

One of the biggest mistakes I see writers make is not first considering who they’re writing for. By way of example, I’ve written everything from young adult stories to historicals to romantic suspense. Each of these genres appeals to a different type of audience and requires a slightly different marketing technique.

Let’s be honest. Marketing is more than half the battle of independent authors. We not only have to write an excellent book, we have to get it into the hands of people who want to read it and will enjoy it. That’s the ticket! You want the person who reads it to be someone who will love your style of writing and especially that particular storyline.

A writer of children’s books also needs to appeal to parents as well. A writer of young adult books needs to speak in the language of youth. A mystery writer needs to find that core group of mystery enthusiasts. These seem like simple thoughts, but believe it or not, I’ve seen books that are supposed to draw in a certain readership, but seem directed at another.

Young adult novels, for example, are written largely by adults and, being frank, some adults are incredibly out of touch with the young mindset. I can recall one in particular that sounded more like a recollection of the author’s childhood. It would have appealed far more to history buffs or readers of nostalgia than to teens. I heard of another that markets their books as YA, yet sells mostly to adults. Need I say that that makes no sense?

I’ve also read poorly written YA that is too graphic for any teen to read. Don’t call it YA if it’s really an excuse to write erotica. Young characters alone do NOT make it a young adult fiction novel. There are subjects young people do not need to read and content that should be avoided.

This problem extends into other genres as well, but those examples come immediately to mind. From the book’s contents to the style of writing to the book cover itself, all should all be directed at a particular audience. I’ve seen wonderful books with the wrong book cover. The fact is certain styles are seen in certain genres and you will get more sales if you try for something that appeals to the current market. You will get more reviews if your historical romance is in the hands of a historical romance reader than if it looks and feels like a mystery novel.

This means making decisions. There are times when scenes in the story will not fit with who I’m trying to write for, and I have to cut them out entirely. What I would include for a general audience, I can’t include in a Christian fiction book, and what I’d include in a book written for adults, I cannot put in a book written for teens. Sadly, the book cover I loved had to go; the intimate scene that probably happened in real life got cut. In both cases, I did what would help the book sell and generate positive reviews.

Which brings me to short stories. I love short stories. I write a lot of them. But people looking for 80,000 words get miffed when the story is shorter than they wanted. People looking for 20,000 words get miffed when the book is 80,000 words. You have to be clear on the length of the book as well as the content because the fact is people will leave a low review simply because the length didn’t fit their perception. Be sure to say it’s a novella or short story in many place (the blurb, the subtitle, the book cover) and leave the reader with no reason to be ignorant.

By careful consideration of your book along the way and by making informed decisions on storyline and appearance, you will become a successful author, not simply because you write well (which is very important), but because you understand how to get your book into the hands of people that will love it. Hearing those words is the best feeling of all!

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Suzanne D. WilliamsBest-selling author, Suzanne D. Williams, is a native Floridian, wife, mother, and photographer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors. She is co-founder of THE EDGE.

To learn more about what she’s doing and check out her extensive catalog of stories, visit

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