How Much Do You Know About Your Target Audience

Recently, I picked up a book from the library with a main character in her 20s, even though I left that age behind long ago. She was terribly immature—more like a 16-year-old—and that kept me from bonding with the character. I never finished the book.

Has that ever happened to you? You failed to bond with any character from the story and consequently never finished the book?

No doubt the author’s target audience was women in their 20s, not those over 55.

“Target audience?” you ask. “Why is knowing about the target audience important?”

You’re a writer with a great idea for a book, fiction or nonfiction. But as you begin to write, whom do you envision as your ideal reader (aka target audience)? Maybe you’re writing to women, but you need to know more than that. After all you can’t reach all women anymore than you can reach all Christian women.

Often the message you hope to convey through your fiction or nonfiction dictates a lot about who the audience is. For example, I wrote Carried by Grace because I wanted to help women…who were Christian…with children…who had been sexually abused. Additionally, I narrowed the age range to mothers who were 28 to 40.

Before you start to write, gain as much clarity about your ideal reader as possible, all the way down to their needs and struggles (this is critical if you blog). People read to meet a need in their life.

How your target audience steers your writing

Affects the language you choose, fiction or nonfiction

  • Are you writing to reach the unsaved?
  • Are you seeking to encourage or inspire believers?
  • Are you trying to reach both unsaved and saved?
  • Are you speaking to a specific sex and age group?

You can’t use words common to the believer and expect the unbeliever to know what you’re talking about. A reader must understand your message; you’ll use different words in writing to different audiences.

Determines aspects of your fictional characters

  • Does your genre appeal primarily to men or to women? Should the main character be a man or a woman?
  • Are your major and minor characters 20-something, over 50, or everything from 1 to 99?
  • Is your main character a dog lover who carries her Yorkie everywhere she goes, a coffee fiend, a cowboy?

Will a book with nothing but 20-somethings appeal to a reader over 50? Possibly. Genre will also have an impact. Remember, it’s important for your reader to bond with your main character.

Guides your word count

  • Are you writing for children, young adults, adults?
  • Some genres such as Love Inspired (which has a specific audience), require a specific word count

Each of the above mentioned items affect who your book will appeal to. The more you know about your ideal readers—their struggles, their needs, and how you can meet that need—the better you can write a book that will appeal to those particular readers.

Who is your target audience? Put your answer in the comments below.

Want to get published but don’t know where to start?

Maybe you have a finished manuscript or just an idea stuck in your head. Email me today at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com, and let's discuss how I can help you reach your dream of publication.


  1. “People read to meet a need in their life.” I need to remember that and also learn more about my ideal reader. Some great advice here. Thanks Deb.

    • A reader’s need can often be as simple as to be entertained. To escape from the daily real life struggles was a common answer in a recent survey a publisher did. But you can see how that would affect what you write, if your main purpose is to meet that reader’s need for entertainment.

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