To Expand Your Reach, Narrow Your Focus

Finding your audience, as a writer, is critical. But narrowing down on a specific audience can be quite painful.

That’s because as writers, we suffer from Fear of Missing a Reader (FOMaR).

FOMar is closely related to Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), except that I just made up the term and it’s not a documented syndrome.

But it should be. Let’s make it a thing.

Fear of Missing a Reader (FOMaR)

To see FOMAR in action, go to a writing conference, choose someone at random and ask them about the specific audience for their latest book.

Some people will answer quickly and efficiently. But others, particularly first-time writers, will stumble. You may detect a hint of panic in their eyes as they respond:

  • It’s a mystery, but there’s also a sci-fi component and a love story, so the audience should be huge.
  • My memoir should interest everyone.

Would-be authors aren’t the only ones who suffer from FOMaR — so do business writers. This is what it sounds like in the workplace:

  • Our blog posts target customers, prospects, investors, employees, and the press.
  • We’re writing this article for the technical decision maker and the business buyer. And our investors. Oh, and our partners, too.
  • Our market is broad: let’s say everyone over the age of 12 in the developed world.

When you try to write for everyone, you hedge your bets on tone and style, keeping the writing general rather than hunting out specific examples. Usually, the result is boring.

Try to be all things to all people, and you’ll be nothing special to anyone.

The Power of a Narrow Focus

The counter-intuitive practice is this: To expand your reach, narrow your focus.

Specific facts, examples and stories will resonate more deeply with readers. When you choose one specific problem to solve, you can write something compelling.

Focusing on a specific audience makes your writing more effective.

By focusing on the reader, you adopt their perspective when writing. This will help you:

  • Find the most important and relevant points (and prune the excess)
  • Weed out the jargon
  • Select examples and stories that connect with readers

What if You Choose the Wrong Reader?

Choosing one ideal reader or audience means putting aside others, at least temporarily. That’s why the hold of FOMaR is so strong. You worry about making the wrong choice, and missing out on important readers.

Just because you focus and write for a specific audience does not mean that others won’t find it. People are likely to find your content if you have a base of fans already. When your writing hits a nerve, people start sharing it.

I don’t read much science fiction, but I enjoyed The Martian by Andy Weir. Weir was not thinking of me when he wrote the book.

See how this works? His passionate fans spread the word and broadened his reach.

Choose an audience — the more specific, the better. If the writing resonates with an audience and they become fans, they will help you share your ideas.

If you like this post and want to help it find a wider audience, please share it or help others find it with a clap. I wouldn’t want to miss a reader… Oh, rats, that’s my FOMaR talking.


Originally published at annejanzer.com on August 15, 2017.

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