01 February 2010

Know Your Audience

Hey, Friends!

How was your weekend? Mine was good. I ended up going home to pack some more things up and cuddle with my poodle. I'm happy to report that my new bookshelf is now full! Hoorray!

I feel like every day I get more and more used to being here. It helps that I've been involved with AIM for over three years and have spent the past four months driving up and spending a couple days a week in my new hometown. Still, the first week was full of emotion. I take a while to adjust, so I'm just taking things as they come and trying not to overreact.

So, one of the aspects of my job is arranging travel for our teams. It's a little more involved than just using Priceline.com (love them!) or something because there are a lot of other issues to work out and spreadsheets to make. We hope to send up to 300 students to up to 15 different countries this summer. It's complicated tracking that many people across the globe! Last week a salesman with an airline visited us and gave his pitch on why we should consider sending our trips with them. I can't give any details, but I'll tell you that this was a carrier I'd never heard of and never flown on. It's not well known in the States.

I was intrigued as a seasoned traveler and as a potential client. And as a former college student who battled her way through Intro to Speech (don't even get me started on how horrible that professor was--it was the only negative review I ever gave in college), I was interested in the actual art and format of his presentation.

Probably the most compelling thing about this meeting was how this man knew his audience. He did his research before coming to meet us. He introduced himself to each of us and then remembered our names. At the very beginning of the presentation, he asked each person what he/she needed from this airline in terms of our programs (locations, number of passengers, etc.). He wrote down our comments and referred to them throughout his talk, calling us by name when he needed to. Whenever he came to a point where he needed to explain (or just wanted to impress us), he referred to past clients of this airline, clients we as missionaries recognized. These were specific examples. And since I'm positive this airline's clientiele exists of more than just Christian organizations, I'm sure these examples were custom-designed for us.

We need to know our audience as well. As authors in a specific genre, people come to us with different needs for a story. Some want intrigue, others romance; some a thrilling chase and others a deep literary discussion. They all have different reasons for what composes a story, what makes them pick our books up in the first place, and what will keep them coming back. Stories are personal--not just to their creators--but to those who read them as well. Readers invite our characters, plots, and words into their homes, minds, and hearts. They quote them, discuss them, give feedback, and hopefully recommend them. But to attain that treasured spot on their shelves and in their minds, we need to know what they're looking for. And we need to meet those expectations.

The elements are different for each genre. I'm not so much talking about branding here as I am about the Story in the form of Romance, Mystery, Women's Fiction, etc. I'm one of one of the few who right now has no desire to write outside of her genre (women's fiction). That removes some conflict for me. I can pinpoint mine, savor it, and study it at the same time. Because I am my own audience, I know what I'm looking for--what makes my heart race when I read a certain line and what plots leave me disappointed. My hope is to create a stronger story each time.

So much goes into this--voice, word choice, plot, characterization, setting, etc. We have so many options available to us in how we craft our novels. Most of us in the blog world hope to see our books on the shelves. We love to write and will keep doing it no matter what, but we don't feel called to write in a vacuum. If we did, we wouldn't be building our platforms, creating an online presence, and studying the craft. We want an audience, preferably one that keeps coming back. To do that, we have to get to know them.

What do you do in order to know your audience? What are the specific ways you engage your genre?

See you Wednesday!


  1. Hmmm, good question. To be honest, I write what I write and submit to markets, letting the editor decide if my work is an appropriate venue. So far so good . . .

    I feel there are different considerations and more research necessary when crafting a novel, though. Good luck finding your comfy niche.

  2. Well, one thing I'm doing right now since I'm trying a different is READING a lot of that genre to get a feel for the kind of stories being published.

  3. I really work on my voice. The images I create with my words. It's getting stronger with each story. So is my ability to write tension on a page.

    I have the same hope as you, Kristen. That each of my stories will get stronger. :)

  4. great question Kristen. I'm not sure what I'm doing. I write from a place inside....that speaks to me and pray it will hopefully draw others in. Maybe I need to be more focused on who exactly I'm writing for. Great points to consider.

    Hey matzel tov in your new place....new job....totally exciting. Sarah

  5. Great post! I think I'm still learning my audience. Writing women's fiction appeals to me because it's what I like to read, but there is still a vast array of materials that don't appeal to me that hold this title.

    I'm still doing my homework- a lot of reading!

  6. I think my knowledge of my audience evolves as I read novels in my genre. I know that I must constantly improve at this.

  7. Kristen, I'm praying over you during this transition time. Glad you got to love your poodle up this weekend.

    Knowing your audience...that's a tough one when people are so diverse, but still there are commonalities we need to appeal to when writing for sure.

  8. I'm sure that was an interesting meeting, Kristen! Did his method seem like "too" over the top, like he was trying to hard? Or did you appreciate all of the effort he took? Just curious? :-)

  9. The best thing I can do is read, read, read in my genre. It's the only way my brain realizes what the language is, how the craft of that particular genre works.

  10. I write YA, so I rely on my daughter and her friends to help me out with getting to know my audience. They are very helpful.

  11. I write YA, so I read a lot of YA and find out from nieces what they like to read.

  12. Since my audience is mostly women, I do as much shopping as possible with them! ahahahaaaa!

    Really, I am on several Pastor's Wives groups on Face Book, to find out what they need. I also look at what sells to my audience, so I peruse bookstore shelves in my genre.

    What is it about college speech teachers? Mine was a nut case!!!

  13. I'm a teacher, so I get to be around my audience all the time. Between my students and my own children, I'm good to go! :-)

  14. THis is a hard question--what am I actually doing besides reading books like I like to write? What should I be doing?

  15. Glad you're settling in. And I loved hearing your analysis of this guy's pitch. Thanks!

  16. Since I'm an avid romance reader, I feel like I know the audience pretty well, but I still hope that I'm making my stories incredibly strong. :-) Great analogy, and he sounds like a pretty good salesman.

  17. A filled bookshelf can make a huge difference!!!! Home is where the books are. :)

    I read in my genre. And I love listening to my kids and their friends when its my turn to car pool. And I write what I like to read in my genre of upper middle grade.

  18. great post. Glad you're getting settled. That salesman sounds like a wonder - I'm terrible with names. Very good analogy - knowing our audience is very important. One of the ways I try to know my audience is by reading the blogs of teenagers also I read a lot of YA. My critique group has a 16yo in it and I love to get her feedback after she has read one of my chapters. If she loved it - I know I'm doing something right.

  19. Know your audience - such great advice! In many ways, I am my audience, in that an upcoming fiction project is aimed at readers like me. That makes my research slightly easier:)

    Glad to hear that you are settling into the new place. Blessings!

  20. Hey, Karen! Thanks! That definitely does make it easier!

    Reading blogs--that's a great idea, Mary!

    And the poodle, Laura! Ha! :0)

    Thanks, Jessica!

  21. Glad your bookshelf is full and you had lots of cuddle time with your doggy. Hope your week is great! :O)

  22. Thanks, Diane! You too!

    Thanks, Jill!

    I think you're doing it, Terri. The only other thing I can think of is reading a book on craft or taking a creative writing course if you wanted it.

    That's great, Shannon!

    Ha, Jeannette! Shopping with them is a great idea!

  23. Susan and Patti, your one-on-one time is a great idea!

    Me too, Diane!

    No, I think it was "just right", Jody. Sometimes that can come across as too much, but it really didn't for me.

    Thank you, Eileen! You are so right!

  24. Me too, Heather.

    That's a great think, Tamika! Enjoy it!

    I feel like I'm getting better little by little, Katie! Just keep growing as a writer.

    Thanks, Sarah! Writing from the heart is so important. I think an audience wants that more than anything else.

    Short stories are their own complication... congrats on yours, Rebecca! I know that's a great feeling.

  25. Kristen, I love your posts and can't wait to read your book. You've got an audience here. :)

    I've been writing futuristic suspense, but find myself hanging out with romance authors and reading romance novels. One of these days...

    Susan :)

  26. Write what I love to read. There must be one other crazy out there like me.

  27. I'll echo the idea of reading, reading, reading. It's really the best way to 'research' your genre of choice, imho. Plus, it's fun :D

  28. This is such great advice. I don't really think about my audience and that's really bad... I usually just write whatever's in my head and hope that someone out there will want to read it. I should probably start thinking about gearing my work towards certain readers if I want anyone besides myself to see it!

  29. This is helpful to me on so many levels. I'm doing a presentation in April and am scared to death about it! So I need to remember this post. And I think it applies to what we write on our blogs. I mean, we have an audience there. And then to our writing as well.

    As others have said, I do a lot of reading in my genre so I know what's popular and published out there.

  30. So glad to hear you're settling in. I love how you listened to this guy and analyzed what was working. Elizabeth Gilbert says she writes for one person - or in the case of her newest book I think it was 23 specific people. For me as a memoirist, knowing my purpose is the beginning of knowing my audience.

    This is a great post. Thank you.

  31. God has been teaching me a lot about the importance of audience. I've been studying Jesus' life, and I am amazed how He always knew His audience and was prepared to present information in a way that was best suited for them.

    Sometimes He told a story, sometimes He added visual aids, sometimes He was straight forward, sometimes He was very animated, sometimes He used dialogue....

    He was absolutely always prepared; it was like He was constantly mindful of the audience (all the peoples of the world across time)!

    Now there is a master speaker!!!

  32. Kristin,
    get to know the other contemporary fiction writers and READ READ READ. Also, publicity and teaching stints help me mingle and connect with the reader!!
    Great post, as usual!
    p.s. would you shoot me an e-mail with your snail mail addy????

  33. Susan, thank you so much for your incredible comment! You made my day!

    Me, Linda!

    So true, Tess!

    I'm trying to do that too, Julie!

    I'm glad it helped you, Elana!

    That's great advice, Deb!

    Thanks, Patti! I like that "perscription"--READING!