To me this seems like a fairly obvious question to ask when planning on writing a new book. Coming from a technical background involving new product development, the very first thing considered before embarking on a new development is primarily whether there is a market for the product. Then secondly what are the product requirements that will fulfill the customer needs? In technical terms, the latter is the product specification.
Well clearly there is a market for books, all manner of them, and in both printed or digital formats. Although I sometimes feel when I read a book, that an author has somehow crossed boundaries and managed to alienate what could have been a significant market sector as a result. In the analogy, they have got the product specification wrong!
Who is your intended audience
You really do need to consider which genre you are going to write for and then who your target audience is. Are you interested in fiction writing or producing non-fiction books for educational or reference purposes for example. In many ways non-fiction is easier to write than fiction, there are clearer objectives that need to be met and certain criteria that needs to be fulfilled, most of which can come from your own expertise or the research that you do. That said you do still need to think about your target audience, whether you are trying to communicate with a layman or someone that is already a technical expert. You could be targeting a younger audience or looking to appeal to a more adult and mature sector, maybe you are ambitious and want to target the whole caboodle.
Regarding fictional writing the borders can become significantly more blurred. As a writer you are just letting your imagination run, once you start the words will appear to materialize from your subconscious mind and whatever pops in there is likely to appear in your story line. This is after all the artistic aspect of writing a book, something that is written completely and entirely from the imagination of the author. Often you will, even for a fictional book, have to research places, times and events to add credibility to a story. Not always, sometimes that can be completely invented as well.
But once you have that first draft down and it is there in black and white for anyone to read, do you then stop and think about your customer requirements. Part of the editing process should include whether you have considered market expectations and more importantly have you met them. Did you just write a book that would be a brilliant story line for children to enjoy and then for some reason go and add a section that included some explicit sexual content. Because if so you could just have alienated a whole customer base that the book may well have had a large appeal to.
This example is intended to illustrate that one small chapter dedicated to explicit sex could rule a book out as an option for children or teenagers but may not have sufficient adult content to keep the interest of a mature population looking for something that is gritty and hard hitting with sexual content i.e. something in an adult reading category. Somehow you may simply have gotten the customer requirements wrong by spanning two completely different sets of requirements that were not compatible with one another.
Don’t take this completely the wrong way, you shouldn’t get so hung up about the requirements that you stifle your artistic flow, rather just give some thought to the direction you would like to go in before starting and just check that you haven’t drifted too far off course when you have a first draft to review. If you do drift off course and prefer the new direction you have taken, then just make sure you have gone far enough in the new direction to engage that new audience.
The bottom line is this, if you are writing a book that you want to appeal to an audience and that you want to sell on a commercial basis, then that is a product and a product typically must have a demand and then must meet certain specifications to fulfill the customer requirements generating that demand.
For many reading this it may seem to be a case of stating the obvious. But it is surprising how easy it is to ignore (or simply forget) about the intended audience and to just hope that the end product appeals to someone, anyone, when it is finished. Truth is that there will always be an element of people a book will appeal to, but with a little thought about who you are writing for, as you follow the process, there could be so many more.
Things to think about
- Intended genre
- Book categories
- Age range of target audience
- Audience gender
- Audience intellectual level
- Audience expertise
- Search terms that might be used to find your book
These are a few things worth having a think about when you are planning your next book, particularly from a target market perspective.
For more information and help writing a book why not take a look at what this experienced editor and author has to say.