Targeting the wrong readers?
So you’ve spent hours meticulously planning and writing your best work ever.
As you pull the trigger and release this one out to the world, you just know this is the one that is going to get you noticed.
But when all is said and done – what do you get for your efforts? Crickets. No one reads it. And if they do, they certainly don’t think enough of it to say anything about it.
It makes you want to pull your hair out, doesn’t it?
You know you can write – and you know that you have something interesting to say. So why doesn’t your work connect with more people?
First of all, you need to understand that every writer finds themselves in this position at some point.
It’s a particularly frustrating phase of audience building that we all go through, so don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong.
In fact, the truth is quite the opposite: This problem is an unfortunate byproduct of doing something right.
Let’s take a closer look at what causes this frustrating situation.
In The Beginning: On The 9th Day, You Decided To Write
When you first commit to writing – be it in a book, on a blog, or in print media – you start with an idea, a ton of enthusiasm… and not much more. Everything else has to be learned from scratch.
And what does an intelligent person do when they want to get better in a new endeavor? They start studying and following the most successful people in that field.
It makes sense, right?
The advantage of studying the strategies of those who are already successful is that you can learn a lot fairly quickly. But there is also a disadvantage associated with that strategy – particularly as it relates to audience building.
It’s a perspective problem that makes you view the world through blurred lenses. Just like actual farsightedness, writing farsighted makes it difficult for you to see things that are right in front of you. Focusing on distant objects is relatively easy. Symptoms of writing farsighted include a blurred focus that makes you view yourself in the same light as the more established people you study and follow.
You may have all the potential and talent in the world but if you’re not on top of the heap already, you can’t operate as if you were. Makes sense?
You Can’t Start At The Top
We’re talking about building an audience here. A task that is on the very top of your priority list – and a little further down on the lists of your heroes.
Apples and oranges, my friend.
When you see “the big guys” with their throngs of loyal followers who love every word they type, remember one thing: They didn’t start in that position. You’re seeing the end of a process, not the beginning of one.
Whether we are talking about relationships, growing a business, teaching geometry, or writing – you don’t go from zero to mastery all at once. It’s all about steady progress in the right direction.
Ask The Tough Questions
The million dollar questions, then, are: Who are you as a writer and who is the right audience for you?
Don’t kid yourself. They’re tough questions and they can only be answered by you. Answering them takes time and effort.
It would be nice if you could swipe your credit card on some amazing machine and have the right answers pop out into your hand, but that’s not how it really works here on planet earth, is it?
My experience in business has taught me that when I encounter someone selling fast or easy answers to complex questions – they are either misinformed or disingenuous.
So while no one can wave a magic wand and solve this issue for you, there is good news: The first steps to addressing this problem are fairly easy. It all begins with casting a narrow net and targeting the right readers.
Seven Tips For Casting A Narrow Net
Here are seven tips that you can use to immediately begin targeting the right audience for you.
1: Adjust Your Focus.
By “adjust your focus”, I mean that you need to focus on building the right audience. Not a huge audience, not any audience – but the right audience. Your goal is to attract the people who connect deeply with you and your writing.
2: Stop Writing For The Masses
What if you had to cook one dish to feed 10,000 people? By the way, 2,000 of them are vegetarians, 1,800 of them hate the taste of garlic, 750 can’t have salt, and 1,326 of them won’t eat anything with gluten in it. What would the finished product look (or taste) like?
This comparison might appear to be a stretch, but that’s exactly what you are trying to pull off when you try to write to please everyone. When you take out all the spice and all the zest to accommodate all possible tastes, the flavor disappears for everyone. Whatever you do wind up producing that way would be as bland, boring, and unmemorable as the dish above would be. I’d pass on both.
3: Toughen Up
No matter what you do, not everyone is going to like you or your work. Some are even going to flat out dislike it. Consider your favorite actor, author or sports star. They’re undeniably successful, right? But are any of them universally loved? If you go to the mall and start handing out $100 bills, someone will have a problem with it. Accept that you’ll never please everyone and you’re on your way to pleasing the right ones.
4: Don’t Mimic
Whether intentional or unintentional, avoid copying others. Be vigilant in ensuring you don’t become a carbon copy of your favorite writers. Learn good habits from them, be influenced by them, but don’t mimic them. Crowds don’t flock to the Replica Eiffel Tower or the Faux Sistine Chapel. Be original.
5: Lay It On The Line: Be You, Be Bold
Call it authentic, call it genuine – call it whatever you want. Your personal experiences, your style of writing, your attitude, your opinions, and even your flaws are what make you interesting. They are the flavor and color that readers connect with. Don’t hold back the real you. Let it fly.
6: Write to Your Biggest Fan
Think of your current biggest fan (who isn’t your mother) – and write to them. Pick the person who most intellectually and emotionally connects with your work. Write to the one reader that you would love to have a thousand of. If you don’t have that person yet, make up your ideal reader. Define them in great detail and write to them.
7: Learn How to Alienate All The Right People
I’m not suggesting you start insulting people who don’t get you, but I am suggesting that you take control and begin selectively deciding who you do – and don’t – want to attract. Seth Godin writes about not waiting to be picked. That applies here as well. Stop waiting to be picked by your audience. Go out, find the right people and pick them!
Shoot for progress not perfection.
Remember, this is a process. It takes time, effort, and the enduring of a certain amount of growing pains. Don’t expect immediate, dramatic change.
Enjoy Your Uniqueness
Have fun with this. Our whole lives we’re instructed to get along, keep it down, and blend in. All that is off the table now. One of the coolest things about writing is that it’s all you without any teacher, parent or boss telling you who to be.
Put these tips into play purposefully. Open up and be you. Not everyone will like you, but those who do…they are going to love you.
What kind of writing pulls you in? What type of readers do you attract? Share your thoughts with me in the comments.
About the author:
Gary Korisko (@RebootAuthentic) writes about business strategy, market creation, and integrity selling on his blog Reboot Authentic. His eBook, How To Alienate All The Right People, is a real-world guide to breaking away from the herd and doing something special.
Image: woman with dart courtesy of bigstockphoto.com