I know I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth saying again: As a writer, YOU MUST KNOW YOUR READING AUDIENCE.
If you think you are writing a book for everyone, you are most probably writing a book for no one. That’s because there is no one book that all readers will embrace. (Look, if God couldn’t do it with the Bible and Shakespeare couldn’t do it with Sonnet XVIII my hope for you is, well, how should I put it… justifiably cynical.)
I say, don’t even try. There is no way to write a book that will appeal to everyone. However, their is value to be had in embracing the converse. What I mean is, by being more and more and more specific about knowing the audience for whom you are writing, your chances of reaching a wider and wider audience are greatly enhanced.
Ironic, I know. Though it may sound counter intuitive it’s the truth. Eats, Shoots and Leavesis a perfect example of this phenomenon. It was a “small” book which was originally penned for aficionados of grammar, written in a witty, smart voice targeting readers who enjoyed an appreciation for the nuances of punctuation.
Not an immense reading market one would think. And yet, one would be wrong.
That book sold over 3 million copies. Why? Well, I’d posit that it was because Lynn Truss (the author) was so lasered in on knowing her material and her audience – witty, smart readers who enjoyed an appreciation for the nuances of punctuation – that in her specificity she found an almost universal appreciation.
Readers like wit. Readers like laughs. Readers like to learn. Readers like to discover. Readers like to have their horizons stretched. In Eats, Shoots and Leaves readers got to all the things that readers like to do.
A thousand bestsellers have followed this same script. The authors didn’t try to write a book for everyone; they tried to write a book for readers who appreciated a certain, specific something. And I am convinced that when it comes to good books, eventually, they all do find their audience.