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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Should you Write for Yourself or for an Audience?

I've been thinking a lot lately about my motivation to write, and I have come to the conclusion that I like to write for myself.

My first book is an example of this as I have allowed the words to flow, without a thought for the genre. It was only when I had the book ready to go that the problem of not having a specific category came to light. When I was in the middle of writing the manuscript, the last thing on my mind was where a potential bookseller would shelve the book. Would it fit in with the autobiography/memoir or travel section? Would it even end up with the erotica as there's no denying the steamy sex scenes found within.

As I began to market the book on popular social media sites, my concern grew. I had no idea who my target audience were because the themes in my book seemed to cross over in so many directions. Should I market the book to everyone in the hope that someone somewhere will like it, or should I just focus on one specific group of people and hope that they spread the word for me?

In the end I decided to target as many people as possible, letting them decide whether they wanted to take a chance with my book, and as a result I have some very mixed reviews. But here's the thing: Out of the people who have notified me that they have purchased my book, the people who have definitely not been in my target audience seemed to have loved it, and the people who I thought would love it have hated it.

After I finish my second book, a continuation from my first, I plan to write my third book in a specific genre. It will be interesting to see how I find this as I will have to make sure I follow certain themes of that specific genre. I will also have to write with that audience in mind.

So my next thought is: When I receive reviews for my third book, will I take them more to heart than I have done previously? After all, I have written my first two books just for me, and if people love them it's a huge bonus. But if I write purely for an audience, will bad reviews upset me? If I receive a bad review I will think I haven't satisfied that particular reader, and therefore have not done my job properly.

So, what do you think? Is it better to write for yourself or for an audience?


  1. LK, I appreciate this blog post sooo much. In the years I've been writing, I too have struggled when someone in my critique group asks for genre classification or who my target audience is. It locks me up creatively when I try to classify, so I suppose I've cheated by asking my group (after they've read it) what their classifications would be. So I've taken to writing what I enjoy without locking myself up in trying to decide how to put a square peg in a round hole. If you're involved with a writers group, I'd ask them to help - but AFTER you're done with at least the first draft. Those who care about you and your writing will be more than happy to help - I'm so grateful to my fellow group members!

    D.A. Bale

  2. Hi DA,

    Thanks for commenting.

    I think you raise an important point here. Thinking of your book's genre when you first start out writing can be a difficult point to consider. You might have the most fantastic plot outlined in your mind, but if the plot doesn't quite fit the genre then you may begin to stumble.

    So long as you have a great plot it doesn't matter whether you're writing for an audience or just for yourself. A great book is a great book, and surely most people will be able to appreciate that.