“Novelist, Know Your Audience” – New Advice? Or Not?

New? Or Not?

Be A Novelist“Know your audience…” No matter if you’re a freelance writer, novelist, or even a blogger, this is a sound piece of advice. But has it surfaced only in this modern age of technology?

The warning (or admonition) has certainly been more prevalent in recent years; especially since the entire planet is at our fingertips. But still, is this a new concept?

Check this out…

Your first object is to discover for what there is a demand. There is always a demand for new ideas that appeal to the stronger emotions of humanity, and there is always a demand for old ideas of like nature if they are presented in some new way. Having produced your article, you wish to sell it.

If instead of a manuscript it were potatoes, what would you do? Would you take them to a dealer in dry goods, to a manufacturer of shoes, to a man who dealt exclusively in fish? You would know better than to do this. Yes, no doubt; but I can safely say that one-half the people who write articles make just as stupid mistakes as these would be in attempting to dispose of the manuscript. You must watch carefully the different newspapers and magazines in order to know what sort of thing each wants. ..

This is word-for-word the opening paragraphs of piece published in a writer’s magazine dated 1887! Yes the writing is a bit more formal than we use today; the examples more archaic (haven’t been selling a lot of potatoes lately), but it amazes me how ageless is the underlying premise here. And novice writers are still apt to make the same mistakes today — writing for the whole world rather than aiming at a target audience (or a specific niche).

Here’s the closing paragraph where this writer sums it all up:

In conclusion, let me emphasize this: Always have an idea before you write; if you have an idea some editor wants it. There may be an overproduction of articles, but there will never be an overproduction of ideas.

Magazine Articles

Be A Novelist Obviously this writer is referring to articles, in a day and time when busy writers could sell articles to a wide variety of magazines and newspapers. (I actually got my start in writing by selling magazine articles.)

However, if we change the word articles to novels, or non-fiction books, or e-books, or blog posts, or what have you… And then change the word editors to readers, or audience, one can immediately see the ageless truths shining forth.

  • Have a strong, viable, working idea, and then
  • Know who you’re writing for – don’t take your potatoes to the fish merchant!

I don’t know about you, but this makes me smile – and makes me feel intrinsically connected to all those hard-working, diligent, committed writers who have gone before us.

It also reminds me once again that in our current publishing industry, intentional, targeted marketing is still crucial

Be A Novelist

Be A Novelist

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These clean teen reads, while authored in the past, offer timeless story lines that teens love.


Be A Novelist

2 thoughts on ““Novelist, Know Your Audience” – New Advice? Or Not?

  1. Ellen

    So true, Norma Jean! Understanding the audience — target readers — for a piece of writing will answer all the other questions a writer has about it: am I telling too much or do I need more action? That depends…. Is the narrative voice the best choice for this story? That depends….
    I’ve always seen every piece of writing fulfilling an agreement with my readers: they come to the novel or article or short story with certain expectations. I need to meet those expectations, and I can only do that if I know who those readers are.

    When writers accomplish that, then the marketing and promotion take care of themselves, don’t you think?


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