3 Essential Questions for Every Author

by | Nov 1, 2017

By Judith Briles

How many times have you spoken with authors and asked them about their book … and they go on and on, not really connecting with you or your question? How many times have you met a new author and asked them about their book marketing and receive a blah response? How many times have you asked an author who they are writing for and your sense is that they don’t know?

There are plenty of components that go into a successful book; a successful roll out; and certainly, success as an author.

My three essential questions to authors and writers are:

  1. Who are you writing or did you write your book for? (the target reader)
  2. Where do they hang out on the internet and in person? (book marketing focus)
  3. Can you summarize your book in less than 30 seconds? (your pitch to lure and hook the listener/buyer)

For me, not a day goes by that I don’t get the “deer in the highlight” response. Stumbling with words and descriptions; not being able to respond with clarity, or quickly.

Who are your writing for?

Oh, they loved the idea and the art of writing. But, really, “You want me to tell you who is supposed to be reading, buying my book? Me?”

Why yes, that’s exactly what was being asked … and expected to be answered with a quick and clear response.

Yet so many fail.

Do you know, really know:

  • Who you are writing your book for?
  • What their needs are?
  • What their pain is?

Can you state them and follow up with a line or two that offers “relief” to it?

And if you have book in hand, write your book for? (the target reader)

The very first step toward author success is to be clear and succinct about who, and what, your reading audience is. The kiss of book death is the response: everybody. It is not everybody.

For example:
Are you writing about women? For women? It’s a basic category, but it is not just all women (or men or children, etc.)—that’s a huge ding. It may be for women … but which women?

  • Young women?
  • Women over 50?
  • Women who have the child-bearing clock ticking?
  • Divorced women?
  • Working women?
  • Women who homeschool their children?
  • Women who work at nickel and dime jobs?
  • Women who have had cancer?
  • Women who have had a specific type of cancer?
  • Women who are single and loving it?
  • Women who are single and hating it?
  • Women who are serial lovers?
  • Women who have affairs (or want to)?
  • Women who work in health care?
  • Women who were wild in college?
  • Women who were abused?
  • Women who have deep secrets?
  • Women who are getting married?
  • Women who want to get married?
  • Women who don’t want to marry?
  • Women who want to be kept?
  • Women who are addicted … and to what?
  • Women who were raised in cults?
  • Women who just want to have fun?
  • Women who are hoarders?
  • Women who hate cooking?
  • Women who credit card binge?
  • Women who love animals?
  • Women who run?
  • Women who …

You get the picture. Dive down. Drill deeply. Know who you are writing for to the core of his, her, their fiber. What nuances; what hiccups; what the beliefs are.

Imagine spending time with them. Being at a restaurant and ordering your favorite beverage. Selecting a new movie to watch together. Who are they; what are they; what are they hopes, dreams, fears; what is their background; what brings them to your topic; what will your book do for them?

Where does your reader and book buyer hang out?

  • What is his or her social media platform of choice?
  • What about groups that membership might be a part of as a career necessity or social preference?
  • What blogs would they be following that you should also be following and making comments on so you become visible?
  • How about your book competitors and bestselling authors in your genre—who are they and what social media platforms are they using?

Don’t be a bore … Pitch fast with the right lure to hook

In March, I shared a column on pitching to the media. It’s no different in pitching to a potential reader or book buyer. Keep it short … don’t go on and on. Remember the scene in E.T. where Reese’s candies were dribble in a trail leading the kids to him? Your pitch needs the right mix and timing of dribble to lure in your reader and book buyer.

I’m not a reader of horror, but I am a huge fan of Stephen King. His book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, is one that I routinely recommend to all of my clients. Some of my favorite words that’s I’ve saved over the years that he wrote:

”If a book is not alive in the writer’s mind, it is as dead as year-old horse-shit.”

Here’s my take:

“If the reader for the book is not alive in the author’s mind, it’s yesterday’s poop.”

Know exactly who you are writing for; where they hang out so you can deliver focused marketing; and be able to say what your book is about in a succinct way within 30 seconds.

With clarity, your writing, and your marketing, is so much easier. And that’s a very good thing.
Photo: BigStockPhoto. Amazon link contains affiliate code.

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  1. Chuck Jackson

    From a novice writers viewpoint, I found this as good advice as I’ve read in a long time. Without the reader, the words are words on the page only. For a novice to be able to identify our target audience is also difficult because of our inexperience. I could answer in general terms my audience, but I would have trouble getting specific as your recommend. Perhaps I’m writing for the wrong reason. Let me explain.

    I started writing after I retired from an accounting profession. A few individuals knew my life story and those that knew said it was a story that spawned books. I spent two years writing a manuscript. When done, it was too long and a poorly written document. I divided the manuscript into three distinct parts. Parts one and two have been written and part three is in process.

    My story is one of tragedy and heartbreak and the lessons and strength I gained from it. With each book, the audience could be different, yet there is a connection with each that spans them together. In essence, I wrote this book as a healing process for myself and to share with individuals that have or are living in similar life. If this a recipe for an unsuccessful book, then I’m following the wrong recipe. In any case, this is a great post and I appreciate you sharing it with us.

    • Judith Briles

      Hello Chuck … good for you for splitting a ‘long” book up –so many times, it’s a natural and seeds the ground to keep delivering more to developing fans. Lessons learned are essential–I’ve always said that my own success didn’t come from the accolades, degrees and awards … it came from some of the dumb things I’ve done or gotten involved in over the years; from the tragedies I’ve encountered; from sticking my neck out and making mistakes. Keep writing and sharing what you’ve learned–you never know when that someone picks it up and connects and feels you speaking directly to him or her. Judith

  2. Tom Gould

    With writing I believe that you have to write a book that you would choose to read yourself. You really have to be able to connect with your characters as much as your readers. Like you said if you cannot connect with your characters the reader won’t be able to either. Always imagine that the characters would be the closest friends that you could have or that readers would want to have and imagine how good it would feel if you were with them.

    Tom Gould

    • Judith Briles

      Hear-Hear Tom. As a writer, I suggest that authors imagine dropping the top of their laptop or turning away from the desktop and “see” the person who is sitting across from them. Have a cup of coffee, glass of wine–whatever. Have a conversation with them. Put themselves right there. I’m with you. Judith

  3. Jean M Cogdell

    Judith, I’d never thought of breaking the questions down like this. #3 every writer understands but going deep on #1 is a great ides. Thanks

    • Judith Briles

      Thanks Jean … sometimes just do a quick breakdown of the who and what will take the author in a quick direction. That #1 question is the most consistent “deer in the headlights” is when I ask, “Who are you writing for? … Who is your target audience?”

      So elementary … So essential. Judith



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