When people hand me a proposal or manuscript for a nonfiction book or article and ask me for an editorial opinion, we’ll talk about several issues, but I have one chief diagnostic question. Almost anything and everything an author has to say flows from the answer. It tells writers what kind of vocabulary and images to use, how long the piece should be, how to organize the material, what to leave in, what to take out, and even where to try to publish it.
This is the question: Who is your audience?
If we don’t know clearly who we are writing for or who we want to reach, we are writing with a pen that has no ink, with a laptop that has a dead battery.
The immediate instinctive (and wrong) response is to say we are writing for everyone. A book that is for everyone is for no one. It will be too broad and general to interest any particular readers. We shouldn’t even say we are writing for all parents or all voters or all pastors or all women or all business people. We have to be much more focused than that.
When thinking about our audience, we should try to be as specific as possible – age range, economic status, religious background, ethnicity, geographic location, life experiences, and so forth. In fact, I encourage writers to pick out one person they know that they would love to have read their work. Then write for that one person.
from “Write Better: A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality” by Andrew T. Le Peau, Intervarsity Press