Author Topic: Target Audience  (Read 640 times)

WordBird

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 344
  • Kudos: 3
    • View Profile
Target Audience
« on: May 23, 2020, 06:37:46 PM »
I've been wanting to start a conversation on this topic for a while.

1) How detailed do you define your target audience?
2) To what degree do you keep your target audience in mind while you write?
3) Do you tailor your social media posts to different segments of your target audience? (assuming readers may frequent one social media platform over another)

I am struggling with this.  Although I am crystal clear on the characteristics of my topic and my target audience, I still find myself compelled to modify my posts toward a more broad base.  However, I've heard the saying, "If you write for everyone, you're writing for no one."

In an artist analogy, do you paint what you feel inside or do you paint what people will buy?  I know I just mentioned in another thread that money is not my main motivation for writing. And that is true.  But I do want to reach as many people as I can in hopes of sharing experiences and lessons learned in life.

A friend of mine gives me feedback on every post I publish. She will either reply to the post directly or email/text/call. But the problem is that she really isn't in my target audience. So while I love the feedback because it is affirming in many ways, I don't know to what extent I should tailor my writing in response.

I'm wondering if it is advisable to write social media posts for the masses while keeping the rest of my writing more closely honed in on my target. Does that help or hinder? 

Motivation for Life

Mark Hoffmann

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8419
  • Kudos: 19
    • View Profile
Re: Target Audience
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2020, 09:01:21 AM »
I don't think at all (I could end the sentence there) about the audience or marketability. I'm not saying that's the right approach, just stating it as a raw fact.

Quote
In an artist analogy, do you paint what you feel inside or do you paint what people will buy?

I write what I'm able to write. If I try to write in a different style or genre it quickly reverts. I guess I could try harder. I'd quite like to write a straight (as in not humour) crime thriller. As I have life experience in that area I suppose it should be possible.

You mentioned "the masses" and my initial thought was that my writing is very niche. But then I thought about Hitchhikers' Guide. That reached a vast audience.

I recall something Terry Pratchett said that always stuck with me and that is that no one person will "get" all your references, but that does not matter. They only need to "get" enough of them to keep them reading.

He (or maybe someone else) also said that people like references that are not glaringly obvious because there's pleasure in spotting them. That gave me the confidence to not worry too much about the audience when writing specific gags. For example, in The Severed Hands there is a gag that is a play on words but to get it you'd need to know something of a certain 70s pop band.

I have quite a good handle on who I'm not writing for. The young. The sensitive. The humourless. And by the latter, I mean people who can't take a joke at their own expense. If a joke about vegetarians is funny it is funny. The fact I'm a vegetarian won't stop me laughing at it.
Writing humour is the hardest thing since sliced bread.

The Severed Hands of Oliver Olivovich
UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087SLGLSL
US - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087ZN6L6V

FB Author Page - https://www.facebook.com/Mark-Hoffmann-Writer-102573844786590

Jo Bannister

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2092
  • Kudos: 12
  • If this was easy, anyone could do it
    • View Profile
Re: Target Audience
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2020, 09:43:21 AM »
It's one of those How long is a piece of string? questions.  So much depends on why you want to write and what you hope to achieve by it.

If you're writing for your own pleasure, that's an end in itself.  You've only one reader to please, and if you do that you've succeeded.  Job done.

If you're writing to communicate, then you need to be clear as to who you want to communicate with and what you want to communicate.  Who is the target audience for your message.  That may be a fairly small target or a very broad one, but your message must be accessible to them.  If they don't understand or don't agree with what you're saying, that's not their fault, it's yours.

And if you're writing for a living, or in the hope of making a living, you again need to identify your target audience, but you also need to adapt your style, subject or both to the requirements of as broad an audience as you can reach.  Figure out who it is who buys the kind of books you want to write.  (In my field, oddly enough, more crime novels are bought by women of middle age and older than any other demographic.  Go figure.)  And give them what they want.  Which isn't necessarily what YOU would buy if you were the target audience.  If you sell shoes, you sell shoes to fit your customers.  Same thing if you want to sell books. 

It definitely doesn't mean writing down to them.  There are many different styles of shoe as well as different sizes.  There are writers who make a good living endlessly recycling the same basic premise, wherein either boy meets girl, loses girl, finds girl again, or the body's in the library and the butler did it.  I'm not one.  I like to stretch my audience a little; and happily, by now, my audience seems to like being stretched.  They appreciate good writing which is also creative, and don't necessarily require a denouement scene in the last three pages where the murderer is identified from half a dozen suspects.  That works for some writers: I like to go into a bit more detail in the way of character and motive.

But my audience wouldn't be happy to play along if I suddenly switched to writing romances, rock memoirs or smut.  (Incidentally, the quickest way to end a promising literary career is to venture into a field where more people want to write the books than to read them.)

So it's a damn good question, and if we all knew the answer we'd all be a lot richer than we are, but it's certainly worth every writer figuring out an answer that works for them before spending too much time at the computer.


WordBird

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 344
  • Kudos: 3
    • View Profile
Re: Target Audience
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2020, 03:48:46 PM »
I write what I'm able to write. If I try to write in a different style or genre it quickly reverts. I guess I could try harder.

It does take a lot of effort to maintain a particular style. I can hold onto it throughout one post. I can't do it across multiple posts. So there is the inconsistency, which I'm sure deters some readers.

You mentioned "the masses" and my initial thought was that my writing is very niche. But then I thought about Hitchhikers' Guide. That reached a vast audience.

Did you do any marketing to reach a broad audience or did it happen organically?

I have quite a good handle on who I'm not writing for.

Sometimes that is easier to identify.
Motivation for Life

WordBird

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 344
  • Kudos: 3
    • View Profile
Re: Target Audience
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2020, 04:11:22 PM »
If you're writing to communicate, then you need to be clear as to who you want to communicate with and what you want to communicate.  Who is the target audience for your message. 

Excellent point. Maybe the purpose of your writing should precede who you are targeting instead of the other way around. I suppose there could be arguments for doing it either way. Either you resonate with a certain group of people and write for them. OR you have a message you want to share, so you then embark on defining who the people are that you want to reach. Interesting.

And if you're writing for a living, or in the hope of making a living, you again need to identify your target audience, but you also need to adapt your style, subject or both to the requirements of as broad an audience as you can reach.  Figure out who it is who buys the kind of books you want to write.  (In my field, oddly enough, more crime novels are bought by women of middle age and older than any other demographic.  Go figure.)  And give them what they want.  Which isn't necessarily what YOU would buy if you were the target audience.  If you sell shoes, you sell shoes to fit your customers.  Same thing if you want to sell books. 

Which also goes back to the purpose of your writing. Is the message more important so that you track down your customers? OR is selling something more important so that you give them something they will buy.


But my audience wouldn't be happy to play along if I suddenly switched to writing romances, rock memoirs or smut. 

This here is part of why I posed the question. Let's say you have one topic but multiple styles.  One topic is shoes, but instead of selling just one style, you decide to sell a variety.  At this point, some customers may leave because it isn't dedicated to them enough. Maybe they don't want to walk the entire store looking for the one.

However, if you sell only one style, then you must be located where that customer frequents.  So with technology creating opportunties to post writing in multiple venues, is it possible to "court" multiple audiences on multiple platforms.  But then I get tangled up in the consistency issue again. Not to mention the complexity of trying to keep multiple personalities all separated.

So it's a damn good question, and if we all knew the answer we'd all be a lot richer than we are, but it's certainly worth every writer figuring out an answer that works for them before spending too much time at the computer.

Agreed.
Motivation for Life

Qwerty

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 19
  • Kudos: 0
    • View Profile
    • Things that Matter
Re: Target Audience
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2020, 09:41:33 PM »
My career in technical writing taught me to target my words to people with very specific skills and knowledge. After retiring, I reveled in the freedom of not having to write for anyone but myself. They were my participles, by golly, so I'd dangle them if I wanted to!

One night in a coffee shop, however, watching the audience respond positively or negatively to poets reading their poetry, I realized that poetry isn't just for poets—it's for  people too, so I would have to meet their expectations if I wanted my poetry to be well received. When I tried to publish my poetry, I discovered another target audience: editors who knew the preferences and expectations of their readers better than I did.

In both cases, the lesson was clear. Writers depend on their audience to complete what your prose and poetry has only begun. And every audience has a range of subjective and objective preferences and abilities. To be well-received, the expectations and skill levels of your intended audience must be considered when you string words together and call it prose or poetry.

Your audience doesn't rule you absolutely, of course. You can craft poems, stories and essays that satisfy your need to express yourself while simultaneously engaging the thoughts and feelings of somebody besides yourself.

Edgar Degas's comment that "Art is not what you see—it's what you make others see." plays a significant role in why I write, how I write, and for whom I write.
Words go together in zillions of ways--some ways go shallow and some ways go deep. ~ James Dickey

Jo Bannister

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2092
  • Kudos: 12
  • If this was easy, anyone could do it
    • View Profile
Re: Target Audience
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2020, 09:42:23 AM »
After retiring, I reveled in the freedom of not having to write for anyone but myself. They were my participles, by golly, so I'd dangle them if I wanted to!

Love it!  And, actually, everything else you say. 

Yours is what I think of as the professional approach (dangling participles notwithstanding!), as distinct from the amateur approach which is, I'll write what I want to and never mind if nobody else likes it.  There's nothing wrong with either, as long as we're clear about which we're choosing and what the outcome is likely to be.  If you really just want to explore your own inner world, go the amateur route and enjoy it.  If you want other people to read and understand what you have to say, be guided by the principles of professionalism.

Dansinger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4953
  • Kudos: 9
  • Home is where the cat is
    • View Profile
    • Gourmet Spoonie
Re: Target Audience
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2020, 08:03:17 PM »
I'm late to this thread, but to answer your question, no, I don't think about my target audience at all when I'm writing. I write the story I want to write. The story I need to write, because it's in there and needs to get out.

I know who my target audience is, but that knowledge was gained slowly, as I wrote my story. I write fantasy. Dark fantasy. Think Gallowglass in a fantasy setting. So, my target audience is a small segment of fantasy readers.

I've been lucky enough to find some writer friends who also enjoy my kind of fantasy. We provide each other with feedback and learn from each other.
Gourmet Spoonie - Recipes and kitchen tips for the chronically ill and disabled
The Elven Curse - Kings, priests, elves and a woman in a wheelchair

Qwerty

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 19
  • Kudos: 0
    • View Profile
    • Things that Matter
Re: Target Audience
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2020, 09:19:24 PM »
Sounds good to me. Find out what works and follow it. And I like your "Home is where the cat is." I had five. They all must have thought well of me because they followed me around our property pretty much every morning. All I had to say was "Let's go for the big walk, okay?" and they'd jump out of their boxes and off we'd go. Had to say goodbye to the last one a few years ago.
Words go together in zillions of ways--some ways go shallow and some ways go deep. ~ James Dickey

Dansinger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4953
  • Kudos: 9
  • Home is where the cat is
    • View Profile
    • Gourmet Spoonie
Re: Target Audience
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2020, 11:50:29 AM »
At one point, I had five too. I only have three now, which is actually better. Still a lot of work, but I love them so much. They follow me around, sit on my hands when I'm writing, cuddle up with me on the couch... They're the best companions a person could ever wish for.  :)
Gourmet Spoonie - Recipes and kitchen tips for the chronically ill and disabled
The Elven Curse - Kings, priests, elves and a woman in a wheelchair