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Don't Try to Write for Everyone

Hey fellow writers!

Welcome to the IABX Wednesday Writing Tip! Today, we're diving into the mistake of trying to write for everyone.

Everyone makes mistakes—even writers—but each mistake is a learning opportunity. The Writer's Digest team has seen many mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify and correct them early. Note: This series focuses on big picture mistakes, not grammar rules.

Why Writing for Everyone Is a Mistake

Common sense might lead a writer to think that the best target audience is the largest audience, so writing for everyone seems like a good idea. However, writing for everyone often means writing for nobody.

Nonfiction Example

Including recipes in a book on automobile history makes no sense. A presidential biography isn't the place for how-to instructions. Mixing both results in a muddled mess.

Fiction Example

A novel can't cater to both light-hearted romance and edge-of-your-seat horror. These genres are too different to combine effectively.

Writing for a specific audience is better. The clearer your target audience, the higher your chances of success.

Mistake Fix: Define Your Target Audience

This can seem like a chicken-egg scenario for some writers. Which came first: the target audience or the book idea? Luckily, it's okay if both evolve together. In fact, many successful writers take both routes.

Steps to Define Your Audience

1. Identify Where the Book Would Be Shelved:

  • If you're writing a novel, is it a romance? Horror? Mystery?

  • If nonfiction, where would it go? Walk around a bookstore and think: Where would this be shelved? And yes, you have to pick a section and can't just say it would go in the front of the store.

2. Identify the Age of Your Readers:

  • Are you writing for children? Young adults? Parents? Grandparents? Retirees?

3. List Out Special Interests:

  • If you're writing a science fiction novel, what kind of science fiction do they like? Near future? Space travel? Time travel?

  • If you're writing nonfiction, try to peg down possible hobbies, incomes, etc.

If you don't have a specific book idea or have many ideas, identify your audience first. For example, I wrote "Smash Poetry Journal" for poets who enjoy fun prompts, not academics. Knowing my audience guided my writing and marketing.

When publishing, it's okay if you started without knowing your audience. But now, figure out who your readers are to make it easier to get your book in their hands.

Happy Writing!


***Source: Writers Digest

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