Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Clarifying your target audience and their felt needs

Gosh, you make one little comment about how sometimes you write blog posts when you don't feel like it and suddenly your inbox is flooded with emails of thanks. (Why am I writing in second person? That's weird. Shifting now...) Guys, on Monday when I said that thing about posting, I didn't in any way mean that I deserve gratitude for deigning to post regularly on Go Teen Writers. I get all the thanks I need just "seeing" you guys on here. Seriously, I love talking to you all. All I was trying to do was demonstrate why a professional writer shouldn't just write when the feeling hits and what it means to love your readers. I did not mean to set myself up as requiring/needing/deserving thanks. Again, anytime you read a post or leave a comment or click "follow" or enter a contest, that is thanks enough.

Yikes, moving on:

Last Friday, I made a list of everything you should do before you start querying agents. Today we're going to talk more in-depth about 2 of those things - your target audience, and the "felt need."

We'll start with target audience because it's the easiest. The agent/editor wants you to clarify who your books intended for. The target audience for the Skylar books is 'Girls ages 13-18." Have women in their 40s read and enjoyed them? Yes. Have men read and enjoyed them? I hear they have. But in this section you're talking about your primary audience.

Sometimes I see more elaborate target audiences. Like: "Women—will appeal to the traditional readership aged 30-50, but will also draw in those in their 20s." Or, "Women between ages 25 and 60 who enjoy clean romances."

Something you should not write is, "Everyone." That will only make the agent/editor write you off as an amateur because that kind of information isn't helpful to them. And, really, it isn't helpful for you either. If my primary audience were teenage boys, I would talk about very different things than if my primary audience were men and women in their 30s and 40s.

Moving on.

Felt needs. This might be similar to your theme ... or it might not. The question to ask yourself for this one is "what does my audience need that my book will satisfy?" For one of my manuscripts floating around on editors desks right now, the felt need is listed as: "Will encourage teenagers to go after dreams they have regardless of how impossible they seem." That's not the theme of my book, but it is a message in there. Here are some more examples of felt needs:

Will help women who have been victimized to realize they have a voice.

Will strengthen new mothers on their adventure, and minister to women who are unable to have children.

Another way you can think of the felt need is what do you hope someone in your target audience will say about their own lives when they finish your book? ("I feel a new sense of hope about my marriage" or "This makes me want to call my dad and tell him I love him.") That might help you target your felt need.

Again, this is something you might be doing primarily because an agent/editor asks for it, but it's also something that can help you as you write/edit your story.

Tomorrow the beautiful and talented Laura Kurk is going to be here talking about her experiences with self-publishing. Then on Friday will talk about author bios. Have a great Wednesday, everyone!


  1. In a marketing class I took, they encouraged you to be VERY specific in your target audience. As in, "I am targeting women in the age of 30-50 who have completed at least some college education and are in the middle to upper-middle class income bracket." I don't like getting that specific, LOL, but that's apparently what the marketing team will come up with, so you're a step ahead if you can pinpoint it that much.

  2. This post has helpful:)

    Its weird, its 10:13 pm in Australia

  3. Roseanna, I didn't know that! Thanks for sharing.

    Anonymous-in-Australia, glad it helped. And thank you for sharing what time it is there, because I've often wondered. And am always too lazy to look it up :)

  4. This was a good post! :) Trying to find the felt need is actually something I try to do first, even before the story is totally fleshed out in my mind. That way I can base my characters to make them most relateable to the specific audience who could be inspired by said "felt need". :) It may be a little backwards, but it's always worked for me.

  5. Clare, that is BRILLIANT. Figuring that out from the get-go helps a lot with plotting, character development, all that stuff!

  6. Do you have to have your target audience figured out before you write?
    I understand the importance of it but I'm still on the fence about fully settling in a genre. I guess there's two I'm interested in and they are closely related but I'm not sure how to choose the best one for me. Does that make sense? If so, is that something I need to be concerned about when I'm starting out?
    I'm guessing maybe not, I remember you saying that when you first pitched the Skylar series they asked you to change the age, correct? I sort of feel like the book I'm composting right now could easily have the age range changed to fit either target aufiene I'm interested in

    Also, that is one of my favorite things about the prompts! Well, it's the feedback to be exact but it feels like, for me, the feedback has helped me to narrow in more on what is natural for me to write. I know which prompts I've written that have flowed and what have been a bit more forced, I can tell the difference in the feedback.

  7. You are so awesome Stephanie :)

    Great post! I always try to be specific in target audience but this gives a few great exapmles. Thanks. Roseannahad a good one too.

    I am looking forward to Laura's talk as well.

  8. Thanks, Stephanie! This really helped me out! Now I know what a "felt need" is and how exactly it fits into fiction... :)

  9. Tonya, just realized I never answered you. Shame on me. I wouldn't stress about your target audience yet. First I'd focus on writing the stories that are on your heart, then figuring out which genre they go with, and then nailing down a target audience.