Do you know how to tell what type of audience your novel will attract?
I once had an interesting conversation with my husband about how most readers read books with main characters older than themselves. I had learned this in school and was explaining it to my husband. Then I thought, it’s writers who need to understand this.
A huge part of writing a successful novel is understanding your audience. You want to make sure your word choice, sentence length, and content is appropriate for your intended audience.
So, let’s talk about how to know what audience your writing will attract.
And why it matters.
What Audience will Your Novel Attract?
Why Readers Read Books with Older Main Characters
Characters in books become role models for many readers. We look up to others. We don’t want to read about those younger than us or the same age. We’ve already been there or are there. We want to read about what we can become. We want to know what cool things we have to look forward to. Has a book you read ever influenced what you thought was cool? Maybe the main character had a Star Wars obsession and you thought that was the coolest thing. Maybe you were a kid and you read a book with a character older than you who had already started middle school or high school. If you could read books about being in middle school or high school before you started, maybe it would be easier. Maybe you would be a cool middle schooler or high schooler.
I remember waiting for my letter to Hogwarts when I turned 11. So, I must have read Harry Potter before I was 11. Of course, almost everyone young and old has read Harry Potter, so there are definitely exceptions and we’ll talk more about that.
Knowing what Audience You are Attracting
If you really like writing characters that are 11 or 17 or in their 20s, it’s important to realize your readers will be a few years younger. Especially the younger the reader. What might be appropriate for a 17- or 18-year-old wouldn’t be for a 12- or 13-year-old. The length and complexity of your sentences will be different depending on the age of your audience.
If you want to attract a certain age group your main character needs to be a few years older than that age group. Knowing the age of the characters you should write will help you come up with story ideas. If you want to write books for middle schoolers your characters should probably be in high school.
Why Knowing Your Audience Matters
If you know your audience and work hard to tailor the book to their wants and expectations, you will sell more copies and have more devoted fans. If the content and reading difficulty are appropriate for the audience, they will enjoy it much more. This will make them more likely to tell friends and to read other novels you have written or will write.
But, if a young reader has a difficult time navigating complex sentences or is discouraged by too many unknown words, they might not even finish the book. Or, if an older reader thinks the reading is too easy they can feel that their level of intelligence is being insulted and they can become bored. They too might stop reading. In either case, the reader probably won’t recommend your book to anyone else, and you’ll be lucky if they read another one of your books.
Exceptions to The Rule
Occasionally there is a book that gets enough hype everybody reads it whether or not they are part of the intended audience. The Harry Potter series is probably the best example. I recently read Wonder even though the main character is 10. It was made into a movie and I’d been hearing a lot about it.
Although I’m in my 20s I still read tons of YA literature because that is what I want to write. So it is important to keep in mind that your book could be read by anybody, but likely the vast majority of your readers will be two or three years younger than your main character.
What audience are you attracting with your current WIP?