Blogger: Mary Keeley
I often remind writers that whatever you write about, whether in fiction or nonfiction, it’s all about the reader. This will always be true. So then, this begs the obvious question.
How well do you know your target audience?
Every age demographic has its unique set of values based on family history, personal and religious experience, and culture. I saw an added dimension on how this affects readers from one generation to the next during a class taught by a respected Bible professor. The following age-group descriptions illustrate how perspectives and values change from generation to generation.
Baby boomers grew up during the turbulent 60s and 70s. Think flower children, rebellion against established authority, and the introduction of the drug culture. Generally speaking, however, when they entered adulthood and settled down to have families, they wanted to regain respectability and a good image. That’s how outward appearance and behaving the right way became all-important to this generation. To the extreme that many came to embrace legalism. Legalism penetrated the church, too, as Christian boomers came back to their religious roots.
Millennials, on the other hand, have grown up watching their boomer parents value their appearance and achievement over attention to them or a perceived concern for the hurting world around them and are unimpressed. They are more interested in transparency and relationships, less on appearances . . . and the organized church.
These are generalizations, but the examples illustrate how various age groups and people groups from different settings can view things differently. Your target readers will have additional tensions formed by individual experience and the culture around them, but you get the idea. There is more than one layer of connection with them. The more you learn and understand how your they think and perceive, the better you will be able to create authentic characters, characters your readers will resonate with easily. Nonfiction writers will understand what your readers need from your book and how best to communicate it to them. Then you will be prepared to answer this question:
What’s in it for your readers?
I don’t need to tell you that the optimum time to learn all you can about your audience is before you ever put your fingers to the keys. You will be glad you spent the time to get to know them. Editors will want to hear why your target readers will resonate with what you have written. It’s one way for them to discern if your social media followers are real potential readers, so be prepared with a description of what’s in it for your readers in your pitch meetings or a list of reader benefits of your proposal.
If you can answer the following questions with ease, you can be fairly confident your writing will resonate with them.
Are your heroine’s motivations and tensions authentic for her age and culture of the time period? Will your readers relate to her main struggle?
What is it about your voice and your characters or approach to your topic that draws your following, that is, potential readers, to you?
How will your target readers be inspired by the growth your protagonist experiences as the story progresses?
Did I speak directly to what my readers struggle with on this topic (requires that you know something about what they struggle with)? Does my message give them hope and specific answers they need?
How well did you do? What more do you need to know to satisfy “what’s in it for your readers”? Do you know why they are drawn to you? What special something do you offer them? Your answer to that question identifies part of your brand identity.
How well readers resonate with your message or characters depends on how well do you know them. Click to Tweet.
What’s in it for your readers? After all, your writing should be all about them. Click to Tweet.