Posted by: Phil Anderson | January 19, 2014

Searching for my Audience

One important thing a writer has to do in order to be successful is choose an audience. I don’t mean specific customers who are going to buy their work (although that is eventually a critical need). An audience is the general group of people an author is writing for and trying to reach.

They are primarily defined by two things: age (children, teens, adults) and genre (non-fiction, fantasy, romance, etc.). I’ve found people online who seem to be trying to write an all-ages dystopian fantasy romance thriller, but I don’t think that’s the way to go. Bookstores (and even Amazon) have to pick a section to put the book in and only people looking in that section will find it. Very few customers browse the whole bookstore. An author who tries to write for everyone will only be read by few.

For myself, I’ve settled on fantasy. It’s my favorite genre to read, and it’s a lot of fun to write. But what age is my audience? I like teenagers. I have teenage daughters. I work with teens at church. I relate well with teens. My wife says sometimes I act like a teenager. Obviously my best choice is the teenage or “Young Adult (YA)” market. But what categorizes a novel as YA?

First, the age of the characters defines who is likely to read a book. Most adult readers don’t gravitate to stories about children. Young readers on the other hand, want to read about kids a little older than themselves. So elementary students want to read about characters in junior high; middle-grade readers like high school protagonists; teenagers like to read about people who are coming of age and stepping out into the real world.

Another obvious factor that determines audience age is the maturity level of the content or themes. This isn’t just about violence, adult language, and sex. A young adult novel will be darker and grittier than a book for middle-grade readers. Heroes will face more serious peril and some characters may die. Romance also becomes more intense, not just physically but with deeper and more complicated emotions and relationships.

How about you? What section of the bookstore do you gravitate toward? Do you read books marketed toward you or toward some other group? (A year-and-a-half ago, Publishers Weekly said that 55% of YA books are bought by adults.) Please leave comments below and let me know what you read.


  1. I read Christian fiction that edifies, some romance but not the whole theme.
    I like to see the progress to complete committment to Christ and the process to get there.

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