Who is the Target Audience for My Memoir?

“Have faith. There’s someone out there who has waited their whole life to read your story. Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo in his closing speech, The Drive to Write, at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in NYC, January, 2012.

The above words struck me so deeply as I sat in the closing session of the conference that tears welled up in my eyes. For that moment I was spellbound by the vision of someone, a reader holding my book in his or her hands. It made me question,

Who exactly am I writing for?

Photo Credit: "Captive Audience" from tattooed JJ downloaded from Flickr

I needed to define my “target audience”, the people who will be interested in and moved by my message and story. Otherwise why would they go to the trouble of buying  my book or downloading it on their e-readers and why would they spend their time with or even care about my story? Why would they want to follow my blog or follow me on Twitter?

The answer to that question  only came when I could answer another question:

What is the purpose of sharing my life story?

Mandee Sears poses these questions in  her blog post on Who is Your Audience/Memoir:: 

“Am I writing to leave a legacy for my family? Am I writing for mainstream publication? Am  I just journaling for the pleasure of getting my emotions down on paper for myself?”

These are important decisions that must be made before we as writers can decide how much time and energy we are willing to put into our efforts.

Underlying all of this is a commitment to put our best work out there.

Jane Friedman defines target audience as an essential component of an author platform,along with “visibility, authority  and proven reach” in this post on  A”Definition of Author Platform.

I have set a goal to publish my memoir.  For the  past three years  I have been learning my craft of memoir writing and building my platform.

I would like to share what I have learned about defining my target audience from taking Dan Blank‘s Build Your Author Platform Course and beyond.  Dan’s course laid the foundation for defining, focusing, targeting, creating, sharing and growing.

As I was thinking about redesigning and upgrading my website  I responded to a tweet calling for volunteers to have their  website reviewed online by Caitlin Muir of Author Media. As a result of this critique  I arranged a consultation with Caitlin to discuss website strategies  This included identifying ways to improve my readership by building a community around a core idea which for me has been chronicling my memoir writer’s journey including memoir writing/publishing/social media tips and sharing hope one story at a time around my kitchen table.

Caitlin also has an excellent post on “How to Build Your Community on Your Blog” which sums up the process. She asked me these questions:

How can I differentiate myself from others who blog about memoir writing?

Who am I writing for, both on my blog and in my memoir?

Where do I find them?

Caitlin suggested that I write with personas in mind and directed me through a series of questions about my audience .  She asked me to describe three different “personas” in these terms:

*What is the name?

*What motivates that person?

*What are they trying to accomplish?

*What are their goals, their attitudes their behaviors in relation to what they want?

From there, we developed strategies for helping each one.

Here’s an example of one persona:  Molly Memoirist is a middle-aged woman who has always had a dream to write.  She is full of stories but doesn’t know where to begin. She has a loud inner critic that she doesn’t know how to silence. She just needs a friend to show her the ropes. She’s had a painful past that she doesn’t talk about. She’s plowing through the pain.”

Now that I can visualize Molly, I can write to her by sharing how-to steps, ways to get started, ways to deal with her inner critic or share my own story so that she may gain some hope for herself.

Based on this profile Caitlin also suggested doing a blog series on “Blogging for Retirees” and package it as an e-book.

The main idea is that if you specifically define your target audience , you can focus on meeting their needs.  I have learned that it doesn’t work to say that your blog or your book will appeal to everyone.

It won’t.

Knowing my readers by listening to what they are saying, what they value, what they are looking for  has helped me to find and build my audience.  I have found them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn Group Discussion groups, Google+ and through tapping into my established memoir community- National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW), Story Circle Network, Fireheart Writer’s Institute and Women Writers and Artist Matrix, Yahoo Lifewriter’s Forum as well as face-to-face meetings at writer’s conferences.

Once we meet , I can invite them around my kitchen a table  at Memoir Writer’s Journey for some  writerly conversations and sharing hope one story at a time so we can all continue to learn from one another.

Know that I appreciate all of you and I hope to keep connecting with new people.

Here are a few resources I found this week related to the discussion of target audience that I found helpful:

How to Attract an Audience by Integrating Content,Social and Search- a fascinating radio interview by Copyblogger Media’s Copywriter, Robert Bruce with Lee Odden, Author and CEO of TopRank Online Marketing Team.

Writing for an Audience Can be Dangerous- an interesting perspective by Author and Editor, CS Lakin.

How Do I Get Attention in a Crowded Field?- an inspiring how-to blog post by Author and Book-Marketing Educator Jonathan Fields.

Identifying your Unique Message:The Core of Your Marketing Strategies- an enlightening  blog post by Author and Business Woman, Marsha Friedman on steps you need to take before developing your marketing plan

How about you?

Who are you writing for? Do you know your target audience? Do you know where to find them? Do you know what they are looking  for?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this~

Please leave your comments below~

 

This Week: I’m also over at Sonia Marsh’s blog  with “My Gutsy Story.”

 

Next Week:   Blogger  and Author, Nick Thacker will discuss how to keep your audience once you find them in “How to Develop and Win a True Audience Through Social Media.” Hope to see you there ,too.

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    Kathy,

    This is an AWESOME post, one of the best ever. Month by month, I am watching you grow into this role of community builder, memoir writing advocate, and champion of personal development. It is a pleasure being in your company. Thanks for pouring all this good energy out into the world. The more we write memoirs, the more we will understand ourselves and each other. After a lifetime of trying, I think we’ve found the secret to world peace and eternal youth. :)

    Jerry
    Memory Writers Network

    • says

      Hi Jerry,
      Thanks for your generous comments! I’m happy you found the post useful. I never dreamed when I set out to write my memoir several years ago that there would be so much beyond the actual writing to learn.I feel like I’ve been in grad school but it certainly is for a good cause. I’m very happy to share all I have learned with others. I think your statement” the more we write memoir, the more we will understand ourselves and each other” should be our mantra. And the vision of finding “the secret to world peace and eternal youth”as a fringe benefit of all that trying, is certainly refreshing! It is my pleasure to be in such amazing company.:-)

  2. says

    Kathy,
    Thank you for the kind words, and WOW what a great helpful post!!! Lots of great links (I still have to click some of them), but I am a big fan of personas as well.
    Much appreciated.
    -Dan

    • says

      Did you hear yourself talking in this post Dan? You set the foundation for all I continue to learn about the business angle of writing and publishing. It’s been a great ride. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  3. says

    Thanks for a weighty, helpful post, Kathy. When considering what topic to blog about each week, I wonder, “what will resonate for them?” It’s a fine line between writing for them and writing at them. In the former, I’m serving their needs (my goal). In the latter, I’m serving a more material god.

    Can’t wait to follow your always-useful links. Best wishes.

    • says

      Lynne, I hope you’ll enjoy the links. CSLakin’s post is an intriguing twist on the topic of writing with the reader in mind. I’m interested in your take on it. Your blog is targeted to Boomer women whom you are attracting in droves so take a look at what you are doing right. For one thing, you have excellent , thought-provoking, well-researched content consistently as well as a unique, “shoot from the hip” humorous voice. Thanks, as always for stopping by and commenting.

  4. says

    Kathy, it’s so nice to grow with you! You’ve got a LOT of interesting, meaty stuff here, my friend, and I can hardly wait to delve into all those links! I have yet to figure out my target audience — if I can’t finish this work-in-progress, though, I guess I won’t have to worry about that! Funny, when I started writing my novel, I, too, thought all I had to concern myself with was the actual writing. Now we know there’s so much more — connecting with readers, promotions, etc. What a fascinating time we live in!

    • says

      You bring up a good point,Debbie about concentrating on your W-I-P first to make sure you are putting out your best work.I really believe that producing excellent content is a priority. I’m hearing that the biggest challenge comes with marketing the book once it’s written. I see your delightful blog increasing in comments every week so you are getting a sense of who you are appealing to.Your target audience is beginning to find you. The question is, are there other ways to extend your reach so when your book is finished ,more people will know about it and want to buy it. Just a thought. Thanks for stopping by and adding your perspective to the conversation!

  5. says

    Kathy, I remain in awe of your depth of knowledge about all facets of memoir writing. Like the others, I can’t wait to follow your links. I admire your courage in selecting your topic and getting your blog out there. I still don’t know who I want to write a blog for–women who have survived abusive relationships? I’ve been in that situation, and it’s the topic of my memoir, but I’m not a therapist. It’s a little unnerving! I will figure it out one of these days, and your blog sure does provide great information as I ponder that all-important question. Thanks for continuing to inspire me and other memoir writers!

    • says

      Hi Libbye, I am amazed how much one has to learn to write a memoir! It seems the more I learn, the more I realize I need to know. But it has been a great ride. As far as your blog, sometimes you just have to start it and figure it out along the way-like the Field of Dreams .”.Build it and they will come”. Call me or email me and we’ll brainstorm some ideas. The most important thing ( and the most difficult) is to start it. Just Do It! I appreciate your kind comments and thank you in return for all you have done to inspire me along the way. We all need each other for as we all know, memoir writing is not for the faint of heart!

    • says

      Thanks Nick.! I’m looking forward to your guest post next week and our ongoing discussions about making and keeping meaningful connections through social media. See you back here soon!

  6. says

    This is beautifully done from beginning to end, Kathy. The rest of us learn slowly compared to you, but you offer us your hand to help us keep up with you. Love your generous spirit and your formidable skills at networking and learning online.

    • says

      Wow, Shirley, I am so touched by your kind and generous comments. Thank you so much! I have learned so much from so many others and it truly is a pleasure to ” pay it forward”. We are all so fortunate to live in an age where we can readily connect with so many amazing people and learn so much from one another. The benefits far outweigh the noise and distractions that go along with all that connecting :-) I am so grateful our paths have crossed!

  7. says

    This post is packed with helpful information–thank you! I have put some of the links in my favorites so I can go back and read.

    Thinking about who I’m writing for will be helpful for both my blog and my memoir. It may even help give me some much-needed structure.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Welcome,Tina! It’s so nice to have you stop by. I’m glad you found the information useful and hope you’ll stop back and keep us posted on your memoir and blog. Appreciate your comments!

  8. says

    Hi, Kathy.

    Hope you’re well. This is a great post! I appreciate the reminder of Chris Baty’s words as I begin to formulate plans for my future book.

    Looking forward to Nick’s post next week.

    Kind regards,

    Casey

    • says

      Hi Casey, Thanks so much for your comments. That quote by Chris Baty still inspires me in my writing. Good luck with your future book and I look forward to seeing you back here. Nick has some great social media tips to share next week. Happy writing!

  9. says

    Excellent, valuable info here, Kathy. I’ll put a link to it on the memoir FB page.

    I love the idea of sitting around your kitchen table. Delightful!

    Linda

  10. says

    Kathy, you’ve done it again! Here is a post filled with a wealth of information on how to determine my audience. Who knew how to go about this? Right now, not me. I’m going to be tiptoeing in your footsteps for days, weeks and months to come. My gratitude for your sharing of so much of what you are learning is filling a cup much larger than Starbuck’s currently sells coffee in, and as a retiree with limited income who wants to write and tell her story, I’m not able to attend many conferences or workshops. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart (and my overflowing cup) for all that you’re doing for the rest of us who write.

    I’ll be checking out those links and thanks to Evernote, I can save this hefty post for re-reading and re-reading again.

    • says

      Sherrey, you have paid me the biggest compliment! I have learned so much from so many others and it is my pleasure to share it. To hear that it really is helping you means a lot to me. We all have so much to share with one another. Together, we will find our way! I appreciate you stopping by and commenting and look forward to staying connected. Thanks for accompanying me on my journey!

      • says

        Kathy, you know how Hillary Clinton coined the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child,” or maybe it was someone else she was quoting. That’s how I feel about the writing community currently. It’s like having your own personal village motivating and encouraging you along. This week has been an awesome example of that for me. Coming home drained and exhausted, knowing I need to be more into my writing and blogging, I felt I couldn’t face it. That if I could just catch up on emails and blog posts and do the laundry, I’d be doing well.

        Then I read your recent posts and today had a phone call with Kendra Bonnett. All of these, plus a few other lines read here and there, have just spurred me along to get my arms back around my project and get busy! I’m so glad you’re a part of my village!

        • says

          Oh my gosh, Sherrey, the “it takes a village” phrase is my favorite in describing the memoir writing experience! Thanks for showing us all how it has worked for you. I’m thrilled that you are part of my village too.Thank you so much for taking the time to comment again. Yes, we’ll get by with a little help from our friends. :-)

  11. says

    Hi Kathy
    I like this post so much that I plan to link to it from my book blog. I hope this is okay. This information is too good, not to share it.
    I have just published a memoir type book about House sitting and I learned so much from the process. It has been an incredible journey and an adventure, and I can’t wait to do it again with a second book. Good luck with yours.

    • says

      Welcome, Nikki! Your comments are very much appreciated. I’m glad you found the information on target audience helpful. Congratulations on publishing your memoir on Housesitting. I’m interested in what you feel you learned from the process that makes you feel ready for your next book. I will check out your website. Hooe you’ll stop back. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  12. says

    Greetings from sunny London, where the temperature was like southern California, yesterday.
    I was just having this conversation about “who’s my audience” this morning with my English friend’s husband over a nice cup of tea. I told him that it’s mainly women from age 35-65. Whenever you have a story about family and relationships, I think women are more interested than men. Although I hope armchair travelers will also be interested in reading about life, and culture in Belize, and how starting a business in another part of the world, especially Central America, may not be what you expected.
    An editor from a small press once told me not to spend so much time with social media, and more time writing articles for magazines. She also stated the importance of speaking to groups and I find it’s easier to write articles, get visibility and speaking engagements once you have a physical book to promote, rather than before the book is out. What do you and your readers think?

    • says

      Hi Sonia from London! You bring up a very interesting question about how to approach our writing careers. Here’s my opinion: Social media and book promotion are no longer optional but the question we each have to ask ourselves is how are we spending our resources since both social media and writing take a gnormous amount of time,energy and creativity. There are many different opinions on what to do but the main idea that resonates with me is focus on the writing outweighs focus on social media because delivering your best work to the reader is a priority. So having a tangible book in your hands certainly gives you an advantage. On the other hand, becoming known before your book is done has an advantage too. It seems to me that we are writers and we need to write while developing a platform via social media. We certainly shouldn’t spend the bulk of our time on social media if our prime reason for being there is to write a pageturner.

      OK, that’s my take on it. What do you all think? This is a great discussion and I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences on this. We can also take this discussion over to a LinkedIn group discussion (Writer’s Cafe, Writer’s Network) Jump in everyone!

  13. says

    Oh, Kathy, I’m so behind on reviewing my blogs/emails and it’s my loss. This is a great post and gave me much to consider. I tend to have a vague picture of who my blog/book is for, someone who is experiencing similar things to what I have, but other than that, there isn’t much definition. I can see that I need to work on that. Maybe a keener focus will help me refine the writing. Thank you.

    • says

      Hi Sam,
      Not to worry but I am very happy to see you back and read your comments about finding the post on target audience helpful. We are all a work-in-progress and lifelong learners and we can learn so much from each other. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again! Take good care~ Kathy

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