Who is your book for?
While this isn’t intended to be a trick question, the quizzical looks that I often receive from writers during pitch sessions suggest otherwise.
After a few moments of chin-tapping or staring into space, here are some common responses:
- My book is for everyone!
- This novel is for both Christians and non-Christians.
- This book is for every woman out there who has gone through (fill-in-the-blank).
When I hear one of those answers, I recognize the writer’s heart for their work is to reach the widest swath possible of potential readers. Yet, when it comes to audience, think counterintuitively.
If you attempt to write for everyone, your book risks the likelihood of connecting with no one.
Imagine that you’re Beyoncé and there are 100,000 people in the audience. (Just go with me here…)
As you stand on the stage, it’s really hard to connect with any one person in the audience because there are so many. However, if you’ve ever been at a concert, some of the most meaningful moments are when a performer goes over to a single individual in the crowd and touches his or her hand. Making the connection with your specific audience is like you grabbing a select number of people by the hand and making that all-important personal connection with them.
You can’t grab every reader, but you can lay the groundwork for an emotional connection with a specific group of readers. The way that you know when you’re connecting with an audience is when you see emails or comments from readers saying: “You knew exactly what I was going through” or “This story reminds me of what I went through…”
Now, if you’re holding out on insisting that your book is for everyone, I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong. In fact, some books seem like everyone is drawn to them like Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life, Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling or Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love. However, these broadly popular books are the exception, not the rule.
So, back to earth for all the other writers out there…
As a literary agent, I’m looking for prospective clients with a strong sense of their specific audience, even if their novel or nonfiction work is driven by a strong self-interest. Of course, we want to write books that we’re interested in writing, but at some point, we’ll need readers to be interested in our books as well.
In a moment, I’ll share eight questions that you can use to investigate your audience. These questions aren’t just for marketing your book. They can bolster your confidence and creativity during the writing process. If you tend to get stuck in your head, these questions draw you back out to your audience’s wants, desires and dreams. If you’re afraid of running out of creative material, tapping into your audience’s world can fuel new streams of possibilities.
Here are those eight questions that you can use to help research your audience. Some of these questions are unusual but purposeful because they’ll prompt new creative ideas for the readers that you already know and push you to get curious about the readers that you’d like to attract.
AUDIENCE RESEARCH QUESTIONS:
- What does your dream reader wish that he or she could do but can’t (or won’t) do it right now?
- What are their “hills to die on”? (What are some of their top values?)
- What are four or five items that your target reader would have in their Amazon cart? What problems would those items address or solve?
- What are some of their unsatisfied felt needs? (For example: desire for adventure, belonging, etc…)
- What problems are your readers praying about?
- Whom do they follow on social media? What kinds of posts resonate with them the most?
- What pressures/stresses keep them from enjoying leisure time?
- What value do you offer your current audience that keeps them connected to you?
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Who is your audience? How do you get to know them? As you review the eight audience research questions, which ones might be most helpful for you?