Monday, January 14, 2013

Who Will Read Your Stuff?

Many writers say, with great pride, that they “write for themselves,” as if this means they are a “real” writer, in touch with their Muse. But this is only true if you are writing a journal, meant just for your eyes. 

Books, articles, blog posts, indeed anything written, are communication vehicles. Effective communication is two-way. The written word is no exception. You have to know what is important to your reader. Otherwise, he or she will not read your writing. People have a choice to read your book or blog, or not to read it. It’s as simple as that.

How you present your ideas must be done in a way that your readers will understand or be entertained by. Yes, I am talking about slanting your writing.

Some people think that “slanting” your writing to what your reader cares about is selling out, betraying “the muse”, pandering, or manipulation. No! Slanting your writing so that your reader can “get” you is simply good communication. It shows respect for your reader. You are paying attention to who they are and what they care about. Aren’t you more likely to listen when people pay attention to your interests, and offer you respect by talking in terms you understand?  Of course you are. It’s the same with writing.

Tailoring your writing to your readers’ “care abouts” will allow you to elicit emotional responses from them. You want bells to go off in their heads, or for them to snap their fingers with delight, or be dazzled by the brilliant light you have poured over them. Emotional responses lead to action or change. That’s ultimately what you’re trying to get from your reader – you want them to do something, learn something, or feel something. 

You can only emotionally hook them if you know what they care about.

You might be tempted to think that your particular topic is something that everyone needs to know about. Maybe so, but no matter what you think, not everyone is going to be interested in what you have to say. So the first step in writing for your readers is to define who they are.

It is true that with written work going out into the big wide world, you cannot know for sure who will be reading what you write. But you can know two things:  you can know who is most likely to read it; and you can know who you want to read it. Is the topic of your writing going to appeal to men more than women, or vice versa? Will it appeal to people in their thirties and forties, or seniors over 65, or teenagers? Are you writing for experts in your field, or laymen? Do you want to win over the liberals, or the conservatives? Are the people who will want to read your
thoughts going to be intellectuals or jocks, engineers or artists, or of a particular ethnicity? Get as detailed as you want. For instance, are your hoped for readers middle-class moms, or environmental activists, or people challenged by cancer?

Why is this important? Because you are going to tailor the writing to whomever your audience is. Different people respond to different kinds of words, different slang, different metaphors, different jargon. This does not mean you are pandering or betraying your own muse. All it means is that you are treating your readers with respect, and paying attention to who they are.

After all, the reason you write is so someone else will read it. It’s not about you.

As a ghostwriter, my topics are all over the map, and so are the readers. So I’ve learned some tips to define these elusive creatures. Next month I’ll share some more ideas with you.

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit


  1. I write for people who have similar interests and philosophies to me and who care about the same things I love ;-)

    Seriously, though, it's important to be upfront about what these elements are so that you attract the readers who will love your writing. The last thing you want is a whole group of people picking up your book thinking it is something it is not, and then hurling negative reviews at you on Amazon or Goodreads.

  2. Audience identification is a must if we want our books to sell well. Will reader interest extend beyond that target audience? Often it will; however, being true to our story and our audience helps to establish us as savvy writers. One size does not fit all.

    Great information, Kim, that all of us need to keep in mind, no matter how long we've been writing.

  3. Interesting points, Kim. Defining our audience is important, and I look forward to more tips from you next month. Marketing and branding are definitely my weaker points in this wacky world of writing, and I appreciate learning from those more savvy than I.

  4. To whom will my stuff appeal? Evidently, very few ... I wait with baited breath for those tips, Kim.

  5. I have a series started about niche markets, an area I believe offers the greatest potential for writing success. Getting that "slant" right for a tight group of readers is a smart way to make a living as an author. Christopher... I've been meaning to talk to you about that baited breath. ;)

  6. Dani, niche marketing is how I was most successful selling my own books (especially my book about a dog -- you gotta love dog people!) I look forward to your series. And Christopher, although today "baited breath" is used more & more, it's really "bated breath" -- bated comes from the word "abate" meaning to lessen or reduce. The phrase "bated breath" was first used by Shakespeare. To me, "baited breath" sounds like you've scented your breath so you can catch something, or someone. I'm a nut for word history, sorry.

  7. Of course if you truly want to write something specific in a certain way that pleases you, you can decide later what audience would like it, such as "erudite intellectuals with a lust for vengeance." But if that ends up being too small of an audience to make any money, you only have yourself to blame!

  8. Kim, Christopher knew that. He's just baiting us. And there still is that issue of the fishy breath, right? :D

  9. Kathryn, I'm now wondering where "erudite and lustily vengeful intellectuals" hang out, so if I want them for readers I can find them. Maybe they have a club or a Facebook page ... LOL

  10. If they don't already, they may soon! Mercy, we have good ideas around here. LOL.

  11. Very good points, Kim. I think the idea of "who are we writing for" is often overlooked or forgotten.

  12. Bated vs. baited ... no, I didn't know. Hanging out at the BRP keeps me humble.

  13. I'm very glad I've found this community of bloggers and commenters. I've come away from each read with useful information and also some chuckles. Very glad that folk here can laugh at themselves and with each other.

    Kim, I join the chorus of looking forward to reading your tips.


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