In anything and everything we do, we have a target audience. That audience is who we hope to influence by what we do. Parenting, entertainment, teaching, especially writing, advertising, and almost anything else, has an audience. So, it may be something we need to take into consideration. Everyone is different, therefore we have different needs, interests, etc, and are part of different audiences.
Knowing your audience is the first step in effectively reaching them. I will be going through principles that relate to writing, but they may be applicable to other aspects as well. You need to have your target audience in mind and understand their particular needs in order to have any influence. Think about your story or project as I go through some of the most common audience categories.
Children’s or Picture Books
A picture book is directed to the youngest audience, which is actually a complicated target. This audience requires short and easy to understand stories for the young audience and short attention spans. However, the words used, depend on the reading level within this audience. A lot of picture books are intended for adults to read to children, but there is clearly a need for the learning readers as well.
Most stories have a protagonist that is the same age as the target audience. This increases the relatability of the story and works well with appropriate themes. In any consideration for an audience, the themes of a story should match the life situation of the audience. So, children’s books will be about sharing, being kind, making friends, and not giving up. These are struggles the age group are able to identify with.
One of the most important things to remember about this category, as well as the next, is that gatekeepers are involved. Young readers are introduced to books by their parents and teachers. Therefore, the book must appeal to the adults as well as the children.
A category breaking into chapter books and advancing readers. Here is where you find the stories about fitting in, building friendships, having a crush, and school. This audience is concerned about how they fit in with their classmates. Themes should portray the concerns and struggles of the age group. The words should still be fairly easy to read, but now you can challenge the young readers with longer adventures.
Gatekeepers are still heavily involved with this audience because middle grade readers still aren’t buying their own books and can still be guided by librarians, teachers, and parents. But again, this category can still have some enticing adventures. Here is an audio discussion of some tips to make your middle grade story more interesting.
Probably the most popular category is young adult. Read by advanced middle grade readers and up to adults, this audience generally has a wide appeal. These readers are buying their own books now. Being involved in social media, having an online presence and being aware of the technology buzz is now required to reach these readers.
The themes involved are now more about fitting in the world and discovering who you are. With readers who are teenagers and getting ready to decide what to do with their lives, the concerns are getting more complicated.
The newest audience category, may still have some overlapping with the two on either side. But this is where you may find young parents and five or ten years older and younger. The internet is still the hot spot where you’ll be finding this audience, but stores are another place, where this audience includes the “adulting” portion of the population.
The concerns of this audience is more about the world. Current events, social responsibility, and what impact an individual can make on the world are the topics of interest. Themes may become more complicated and intellectual. The reading level may also be fairly advanced, with dictionary types of words, depending on the genre.
While this may have a reputation for “adult content”, it doesn’t have to be. Adult books can still be clean, or family friendly. What differentiates this audience category from the others is still just the themes and topic matter. The readers here may be concerned about still being relevant to friends, family, and the world. A whole new level of fitting in the world can be explored through stories about middle-aged protagonists and retiring characters.
The themes here may include “bigger picture” ideas such as the purpose of life, dealing with death, and other more sensitive topics. While the stories may still include adventures, the discoveries are more likely to be increased understanding. These readers are found in more traditional locations, they look for books in libraries and bookstores, and may be following suggestions of family members and close friends.
This has just been a brief overview of age categories. The next part of reaching your target audience is looking at the genre.