One of the central tenets of marketing is that you should understand your target market segment–your intended customers. Who will buy your product or engage your service? What do those people want? What expectations do they have? How will they use your product? Most importantly, what needs do they have that your product/service will satisfy?
How does this relate to writing? Actually, it’s pretty simple. Assuming that you are not just writing for your own benefit (e.g., journals, diaries), you want other people to read what you write. You have a market segment, which we will call your intended audience. Who are your readers? What do they want to read, and what type of writing characteristics do they expect? When, where, and how do they read? Why would they want to read what you have written?
As you can see, these are the same questions as mentioned in the first paragraph above. When our editors at Precise Edit work with authors, these are the questions that we ask. Let’s look at each one briefly.
1. Who are your readers? To answer this question, you need to think about such issues as age, social/cultural background, level of education, experience in reading various styles of writing, vocabulary, ability to understand complex ideas, and reading level? The answer to this question will help determine content, complexity, vocabulary, and style.
2. What do they want to read? To answer this question, think about the preferred genre of your target readers and the characteristics of the books they read, especially those books that have become popular. What characteristics do those books have in common? The answer to this question will help determine content and complexity.
3. When, where, and how do they read? To answer this question, you need to think about the reading habits of your intended readers. For example, some readers browse a few lines on the way to work while others lie in bed at night and read 40 to 60 pages. Even others may spend a couple of hours on Sunday afternoons sitting and reading. Of course, others read what they are required by their professors. This question becomes important when you think about sentence and paragraph length, as well as grammatical complexity. The answer to this question will help determine complexity, paragraph length, and structure.
4. Why would they want to read what you have written? To answer this question, you have to think carefully about your readers’ needs. For example, some people read to be amused, others to be informed, some to escape the discomfort of their own lives, and still others to find sympathy and a reflection of their own struggles. The answer to this question will help determine content and tone.
If you want to write the next best-seller (or create the most popular blog site, or become a well-read article writer), you must answer each of these questions about your intended readers. Otherwise, one of two things will likely occur, one acceptable and one disappointing. The acceptable outcome is a different group than expected reads what you write. You might be a little surprised, but at least people are reading it. The disappointing outcome is that not enough people read what you write (or none) to make the effort worthwhile.
Our recommendation: before you first put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, think carefully about your audience and answer these marketing-type questions. You will greatly improve your chance to “sell” your writing.