Before You Write: 3 Audience Questions You Absolutely Must Answer

Man Writing and Looking Off in Distance

Got a winning idea for a book? Maximize its potential by answering these three questions about your audience—before you even write the first word.


While we would all like to believe that our book will appeal to everyone in his right mind, and perhaps a few others as well, that’s just not true. Sorry. “Get over that,” counsels author and speaker Nick Morgan “and focus on who really will read your book. Segment that audience as specifically as you can.”

Narrow your audience definition. For example:

  • If your book is about homeschooling, will it appeal most to parents who already homeschool? Parents considering homeschooling? Families on the road? Lawmakers studying educational trends?
  • If your topic is gardening, will you write for master gardeners, or people who don’t yet know a turnip from a tulip? Gardeners going organic or gardeners who love their chemicals?

Hold that focused picture of your audience. Now you can write to them with fine-tuned power. You can write in a voice that appeals directly to them (think: word choice, sentence length, humor vs. seriousness). You will know whether they need tables, charts, or glossaries. You’ll even get a handle on whether this book had better be a quick read or an in-depth reference.

And as marketing time rolls around, knowing your audience will tell you:

  • whose endorsements will impress them
  • what kind of cover design will catch their eye
  • what kinds incentives will prompt them to sign up for your email list
  • and much more


Your book needs to make a promise and keep it. What do you intend to do for your reader? (If you write fiction, this post may get your ideas flowing; if you write nonfiction, check out this one.)

If you arm yourself with a statement of your book’s promise, you’ll write like you’re on a mission. Then during editing, you’ll find it easier to ditch the sentences and scenes that don’t deliver the goods.

Clearer focus, smoother process.

So think carefully about this question. Is your book a how-to that will simplify readers’ lives? A memoir that will inspire them with hope? A novel that will ignite their imaginations? The answer is crucial.

Once you have it, write that answer down. Stick it to your computer screen, where it can be your muse and mentor as you write. Announce your promise to your readers on page one.

Later, incorporate that promise into your cover design. The right reader will pick up your book because he or she needs what your book promises. Meet that need.


“Wait,” you’re saying, “I’m just starting to write my book. Why do I need to answer a marketing question like this right now?”

Because now is the time to begin courting your audience. You want to woo and win them before you pop the question, “Will you buy my book?” They need to know, like, and trust you so well that when your book launches, they’ll snap up those first copies and write glowing reviews.

In order to court your audience, figure out where they “live.” Which social media platforms are they on? Or are they the folks with fifty years of adulthood under their belts, who join book clubs and swap pages of the morning paper at the local diner? Do they like ebooks or print editions? Do they camp out in bookstores or skim through Amazon listings?

Do some research to get to know your future fans. Then go “meet” them where they are. Introduce yourself into their circles by doing things like:

  • Leaving meaningful comments on their favorite social media channels
  • Joining their online interest groups and adding value to their conversations
  • Following the influencers in your niche and relaying helpful information to your future readers
  • Blogging on topics related to your book, which your future readers crave
  • Attending live events like conferences and talking face-to-face with the people you want to write for, and those who influence them

All the above are win-win activities. You can earn name recognition and respect from your target audience. You also earn attention from future agents or publishers who see your crowd of followers. “It’s immensely helpful to point to a growing and engaged readership devoted to reading just about anything you publish,” says publishing expert Jane Friedman. So grow that fan club now, even as you begin writing.

But your audience wins, too. They will gain a book written by someone who has taken time to understand their thoughts, frustrations and dreams—you. You will genuinely serve your audience. They like that.

And your book sales will reflect their delight.

I can help you with planning your online strategy to connect with readers, crafting content for your author or book website, or even writing your book. Don’t let anything keep you from getting your ideas out to the people who need them. Call me today.

Start working with Karen today

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The Woman Behind Karen Ingle Freelance
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