Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.
– Bruce Springsteen
The concept of an audience was something I rarely thought about when I first started writing my novel. I imagined that I could write a story and my audience would just form itself after. I soon realised that if you don’t consider your audience when actually formulating your novel, you might find it difficult to attract readers to your work at all. Identifying and speaking to an audience is one of the most important tools for you to utilise in writing a good book.
It is something that all effective authors do well: appeal to their market. You have to understand the mind of the people who are going to pick up your book, what their opinions are and how they view the world. This not only ensures that your novel will have a higher chance of selling when it (hopefully) eventually gets published but more importantly that it will resonant and stay with the reader long after they’ve put it down.
I’m currently reading the Strike crime and detective series written by J.K. Rowling under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith. What I’ve noticed is that because Rowling writes from a male perspective to the presumably male market of that genre, the way she writes, and the subtleties she infers predominately appeal to a more male audience. She obviously couldn’t have written like this in her children’s Harry Potter series, taking a more neutral tone. Her voice changes to match her audience.
However, no matter how niche your market is, you must always make sure your story is accessible and enjoyable for people who aren’t necessarily part of your targeted audience. This is much easier said than done.
An author that excels at this is Kevin Kwan. His novels follow the lives of the mega-rich of Singapore, Hong-Kong and mainland China, appealing predominately to an Asian market. However, Kwan’s storytelling is so engaging, funny and relatable that it appeals to almost any reader. He even includes footnotes and small explanations of common phrases used by the characters, and of certain landmarks and history, to help those that aren’t submerged in his audience to enjoy the story. This willingness to engage and inform all readers has made his books the bestsellers that they currently are, and one of my favourites of the year.
In short, we don’t write in an echo chamber. Your audience must influence your writing and storytelling if you wish to be a successful author. If you ignore your audience, disregard their ways of thinking, what angers them and what appeals to them, how can you expect your story to resonate with anyone at all?