Writer’s Digest is an excellent resource for writers. You will be inspired and challenged by the advice you’ll find at the site and in the print magazine. One recent article asked this question: Who do you see as your target reader?
Aim towards. Keep in your sight. Hit the mark. Those words came to mind as I thought about the term.
Do you think about your target reader as you write? Should this be a regular practice for writers? I think it should, and I admit it: I rarely gave thought to the reader when I began writing my stories and blog posts. That’s starting to change, though, as I learn and grow in the writing life. The best writing advice that I study always points to the reader. This quote convicted me and I hope it does the same for you. We write because we love the craft, but we also want our work to resonate with readers. If we don’t pay them any attention while we write, then it seems we are only defeating our writing purpose.
But the Writer’s Digest article points out that there is another purpose for having a target reader in mind. Being ready with a well-defined statement will impress agents, editors, and publishers. “Who do you see as your target reader” will be one of the first questions that these VIPs in the publishing world will ask.
The answer they’re looking for, though, isn’t as simple as “Women in their 20’s and 30’s.” This is the paragraph from the article that gave me an “Aha!” moment after I read it:
This question is an enormous opportunity. When an editor or agent asks it, they aren’t just looking for a demographic – they’re looking for your motivation. Ideally you answer not just the surface question “Who’s the target reader?” but also the implied question behind it, which is “And why are you the right writer to tell this story?” – Kim Wright, author, WD, 4-8-12
I love that: the right writer. One commenter describes it as the writer’s emotional connection to the story.
Ask yourself these questions, for starters, as you work on your novel or wait for responses from query letters:
- Why do I want to write this story?
- What is it that moved me to begin writing it?
- Who do I want to influence or move to action with my story?
Agents and editors do not want general answers to these questions. If the only thing you say to an agent about your target is “teens,” then you will sound like just another writer in the pool of a zillion.
Instead, you’ll describe your target reader as, say, “13-18 year old teenagers” and then go on to explain the pain of your past as an orphan who went through the foster home system. You’ll add how you hope your book will help other teens to avoid the same ugly situations that you barely lived through. The agent who hears that will know you have a compelling reason for writing the story and are committed to having it told. What agent wouldn’t want a client like that?
Now is the time to zero in on your target reader. Who do you want to be touched and influenced by your wonderful story? Use this definition to keep on track as you write, and to present when that important question comes your way.
Have you pinpointed your target reader? Inspire the rest of us by leaving your description in the comments.