On Thursday, October 6, I'll be hosting a live session on Instagram with Shana Danielle Parker where we'll discuss target audiences. In preparation for this, I began to ponder on the concept of audience and came to a profound realization. Before you ever ask "Who am I writing for?", you must first ask, "Why am I writing this?"
Over the years, my reasons for writing have varied significantly. Sometimes, I write to impart a lesson; at other times, it's purely for entertainment. Occasionally, I write to clear my mind, jotting down thoughts that just need to be out of my head. Some of these things I've shared, while others have ended up in the trash or left to sit on my hard drive.
There are countless potential audiences for whom we might choose to write. However, a more effective and less overwhelming question to consider is: "Why am I writing this?"
In a world full of noise, I don't want to add to the chaos. I've seen movies and shows lack great storytelling, books that ramble without imparting wisdom, and songs that, despite their catchy tunes, fail to inspire. On the other hand, I've encountered songs that uplift me during tough times, shows and movies that transport me into their make-believe worlds, and books that impart more wisdom in a paragraph than a two-hour lesson on the topic.
I believe the key difference lies in how we answer two essential questions: "Why must I write this?" and "What is my mission?"
1. Why must I write this?
People create for many reasons, but I believe we can narrow it down to two primary motivations: personal benefit or the benefit of others.
There's no shame in producing work that generates income. But when your sole purpose is financial gain, recognize that you may need to adapt your output to fit market demands. If the market starts demanding topics in YA novels that were once taboo, you'll need to rise to the occasion to maintain your revenue.
However, if your focus is on creating impact—say, by producing wholesome YA novels—and you stay true to your vision regardless of market trends, you'll carve out a niche for yourself. When the market sees a surge in YA novels with taboo topics, conservative readers will turn to your work.
In short, if you're producing content for income, you'll need to invest heavily in market research to stay aligned with trends. If you're producing content for impact, you'll need to ensure high-quality output to attract your target market and establish as the go-to brand.
2. What is my mission? Or who am I looking to impact?
Do you understand why your product needs to exist? Some creatives produce what they themselves would like to see on the market. I've written stories that I wanted to read. There's nothing wrong with this approach, but it's crucial to identify who else might be interested in your kind of story. Otherwise, you risk marketing to the wrong audience or, worse, not marketing at all.
If your mission is to entertain, then ensure your book is indeed entertaining to your intended audience. If you write a book with a female lead but haven't researched women's experiences, your book may fail. The same applies if you're fifty and writing about friendship for children, without having spent time with children or researching their perspective.
In short, if you aim to create an impactful book but haven't adequately researched your market, you'll end up with a beautifully bound paperweight—an unread book.
For instance, with my Emotions We Bear series, I aim to help parents, teachers, and counselors discuss difficult topics with children. But if I write children's books at an adult reading level, I'm failing in my mission. My book, Solly Bear and the Broken Mirror, offers adults a way to discuss eating disorders with children, without mentioning specific disorders. This is because the book targets elementary-age kids, many of whom haven't heard of anorexia or bulimia. Because I understand my mission, I can write for my target audience—children—while also serving the adults in their lives.
Many authors abandon writing due to frustrations that often tie back to a lack of understanding about their target audience. Understanding your audience boils down to one key task: research. Whether you're aiming to profit from your book or create impact, you'll need to do your homework to ensure you're planning correctly.
If you have questions about identifying your target audience, post them below. Let's start making the impact and income you desire with your story. And don't miss our LIVE conversation on Instagram, October 5 @11:30AM CST.