Bestselling author Tim LaHaye says he writes as if writing a letter to a friend. Who do you picture when you put pen to paper?
Magazines and book publishers have well-defined audiences. If you don’t know what market you’re targeting, then you don’t know who your audience is. Are they new believers or seasoned Christians who attend church regularly? Are they from a denomination where people sit politely in the pews or one where attenders dance and raise their hands to the music? Are they moms of preschoolers, teenagers, or senior citizens? If you think this doesn’t matter, then you’re making a deadly mistake.
When I write, I picture a specific person. If I can, I develop someone who would be a reader of the publication I’m targeting. This keeps me from bringing in material that wouldn’t interest my friend. This method keeps me from preaching because I imagine eyes rolling. I also anticipate arguments to my points and answer within my article. People often tell me my articles and books feels as if I’m writing to the reader—maybe this is why.
How do you determine a magazine of publishing house’s audience? Sometimes writing guidelines or Web sites state this information. For magazines, you can figure it out by glancing at advertisements. Viagra, retirement communities, and books by well-known mainstream preachers say one thing. Pampers, exercise equipment, health foods, and Christian romance say another. If there are no ads, read the articles. You can quickly conclude the average reader by the language, the amount of scripture used, and the slant of each piece.
Doing the hard work of determining audience, creating an average reader, and then writing to a single person, takes time and creativity. But in the end, your writing will be sharper. And you’re more likely to get that coveted yes from an editor.