In a recent Write to Fit blog post, I wrote about identifying your audience before you write. Two recent reading experiences underscored the importance of audience regardless of whether you present your ideas in person or in print. The first was related to presidential politics and the second to the perceived audience for a book.
In an article titled “Right Turns Only: Ted Cruz’s Radical Plan to Win the White House,” (Time, September 7-14, page 55), author Alex Altman states, “If Cruz’s politics are guided by gut, his campaign is ruled by data. . . . At the front of the office. . . sits a team of 12 data scientists working to divide primary voters into ‘psychographic clusters’ on the basis of their personalities, interests, and values. The goal is to determine their target audience and feed each segment a message calibrated to sway them.” That Cruz tailors messages for specific audiences is no surprise. I’m sure most politicians do. That it requires 12 data scientists to analyze voters amazes me.
A book’s audience
I recently read The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown because it was the chosen title of the month for my book discussion group. When I reviewed it on GoodReads, I gave it three stars because I liked the book, but I didn’t reach the level of really liking it. If I had reviewed it on Amazon, I might have given it five stars because that system is more about the quality of the book instead of how much I liked it. For lovers of the history of college rowing competitions and the quest for Olympic gold in a sport, this nonfiction book is phenomenal. Readers get a stroke-by-stroke description of every race the Washington team competed in over three years. In addition, the author tells how racing shells were made, how coaches prepared the team for competition, how reporters covered the stories, and how Hitler prepared Germany for the 1936 Olympics. But what kept me reading was the story of Joe Rantz, his survival of childhood poverty and abandonment, and his tenacity for getting an education. As for all the racing details, I started skimming them about halfway through the book.
What goes in? What stays out?
Writers often ask how much of their research on a topic should go into a book. Before that question can be answered, a knowledge of audience is essential.