This is a question I wish more beginning authors asked, and when I ask it from each new writer the
most oft reply is, “Everyone. I want to reach a broad audience, and sell lots of books. So I will have
something for everyone.”
My reply to that is, “Try to be something for everyone and you end up being nothing to anyone.” Think
about the books you really enjoy or found of value. Were they a hodge podge of ideas with a suggestion
for everyone or did they speak to you specifically?
The first thing I do when working with a client is ask them to develop a typical reader. To do this we go
through and list as many characteristics as possible and even give the reader a name, let’s say Francis.
Then when you sit down to write, Francis is with you, as you have that conversation while writing.
Francis is now getting the information needed from you. I even suggest writing at an open desk so you do
not face the wall but rather can imagine Francis across from you when you write.
When clients submit each chapter and if it has gone off on a tangent, I ask, “How will this help
Francis?” If they cannot tell me, we rework the paragraph or delete it. The goal is to write a book so good
that Francis will recommend it to their friends.
At the beginning of this series we listed the 4 most common reasons for writing a book, credibility,
legacy, recording history, and its cathartic process. Whatever your reason for writing a book the process
remains the same, think of your target audience, define them and then write for them specifically. Solve a
problem or give them something they can use, and your book will be valued.
Most importantly don’t forget that the first person you are writing for is, you. You are putting a piece of
yourself on the page for others to see and in many cases that is not easy especially if it is your first time.
However the more you do it the easier it becomes.
I notice a real change in most authors around chapter 5 or 6 when they become more familiar with the
ISRI system and then a real change at about Chapter 11 when they become comfortable sharing their own
feelings and emotions. Most writers find they have to do much less editing after chapter 11 because their
writing has improved that much.
I’ve spent nearly two decades working in radio and trying my best not to involve my personal bias in
the story I was covering. Then in the last 5 years I was given an editorial spot where I had two minutes to
address any issue, no holds barred. I would not have been able to do that early in my career but by that
point I was able to address the issue and speak directly to my listeners. Those comments, “From the
Gatepost” were the most fun I had in radio, and still get questions a decade later.
Find your audience and define them, then speak directly to them in plain language and you have a best