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How do you Determine Your Target Audience?


Who are you writing for? You'd think that would be a fairly simple question to answer, but I just can't figure it. I write stories I would like to read. I have a story to tell and I write it the way I think it should be written. I don't write it wondering who would like it. I just write what I would like to read. If I knew which audience to target, I wouldn't need a publisher or agent, would I? I'd just self-publish. So how do you determine your target audience? If I write stories I would like to read, what demographic do I represent? I've often encountered people who were fans of genres I'd never have expected them to be fans of, so what useful information can demographics tell me? What demographics are useful? Education level? Favorite television programs? What? My story would be considered either high or epic fantasy, very character driven, exploring what goes on in people's minds. The two main characters are warriors, so there's a lot of fighting. Fighting with edged weapons is pretty gruesome and I see no point in flowering it up. If it were a movie it'd definitely be rated R for violence. I have absolutely no idea of ow to determine what group of people would be most interested in this kind of story. How do the rest of you figure this out?


Honestly, I don't think you should worry too much about it. Just write for people who enjoy reading fantasy books! The specifics will come later, when your publisher starts figuring out marketing and whatever.


Ditto. Just write. 'Target audience' is generally just 'people like you.'

Or even more self-fulfilling: 'People who enjoy reading what you write.' :)

Johnny Cosmo

I agree with the previous posters for the most part, but I guess it'd nice to at least have an idea of your target audience to help keep your writing consistent to a certain type of reader. If you don't have a problem with that, then yeah - just write.
Are you asking more about age or about genre? I understand how it can be confusing. My stories would probably be considered
YA, but to me they're an older YA, and really on the verge of adult (not content-wise, but concept-wise). My characters tend to be in their early 20's, so older than most YA, but it's definitely not high or epic fantasy.

I have problems placing it in a genre, too. It's fantasy, but there are a million sub-genres these days. I'd call it Urban, because it takes place in "this" world in modern times, but then, they're not in a city. It's got romance, but that's becoming less of a central point.

To guess, I'd put my target audience at females 16 and up (though the more I get into it, the more it moves away from the romance and into the adventure, so I would hope for a few male readers, too). If it were ever to be published, the best place for it would probably be the YA Fantasy/Romance section.

A good resource could be any readers you have. I have a handful of people that read for me, and one that I really trust to know/be honest about things like this.


I see the logic of knowing the target audience from a purely business standpoint. Much of what I've read about writing is knowing your target audience, but I'm not an agent or publisher. I just write the darn things, so I agree with you all.


Sometimes you don't really get to pick. Trudi Canavan wrote hers assuming it would be for adults, and it's marketed as YA.

So sometimes you write with your target audience in mind and no one else agrees, and you don't get a say in it at all. So may as well write whatever you want and set it loose :)
The target audience is fairly simple to determine in most cases. Think about the language. Is it complex enough that no one under the age of 16 or so would be able to follow it? Is the content matter specific. It's not just fantasy, but follows a certain group or sub-genre. Finally, have a variety of people read it for you. They don't have to be literary critics. If they enjoy it, or don't, either way, ask them who they would recommend the book to. That will give you an idea.


I write what I like, but if you're in it to get published, you should definitely know your target audience. What you'd want to do is find books that are similar to what you're planning to write, and look at who is reading them. Once you know who is reading them, you'll know what that group likes to see. If you want an example of works specific to a target audience, look at Robert Heinlein's books. Most of his early work was very much directed toward a YA crowd, while the later stuff is definitely not. But it's not all about age group. There is also sex and lifestyle to look at. Heinlein's early work was exclusively aimed at boys. Most of the paranormal genre is aimed at women and features strong female main characters. The action genre is aimed at men and features strong male characters (and weak females, interestingly enough). There is an increasing genre aimed at a black audience.


Ditto. Just write. 'Target audience' is generally just 'people like you.'

Well said!

Initially, when I started writing, I was expecting to write the next big fantasy series that would appeal to all audiences and make loads of dough.

Naive? Absolutely!

After spending so much time rereading and revising and reediting and reformating, I finally realized my target audience was really just me, and people just like me. Not really the best audience to make money, especially since people like me don't really buy books and are, for the most part, cheapskates. Would I like to earn more money from my work? Of course! But unfortunately, this isn't really the best genre to make it rich. Publishers and agents know this, and so most stay away from swords and sorcery. And that's exactly why I plan on eventually writing murder mysteries. And when I've perfected my craft and self-publishing skills, I'm going to break out into chick lit and give the reading masses exactly what they want: another contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Then, I'm going to make it rain!

Boo hoo ha ha ha!