When I read this question ‘should we write for ourselves or our readers?’ the answer seems simple: we should write for others. This stance stems from marketing indoctrination that says we must know our reader, our market, our niche…that fundamentally, we must write for someone other than ourselves – and at all costs or we risk failure.
Recently, though, I have read books that seem to be written as much for the author as for the reader and it has made me question our blind belief in the marketing mantra of ‘know your market’. It has made me wonder what sort of book we would create if we wrote for ourselves instead of others.
The risk in this approach is that a book could become too introverted and personal to reach the reader. But then I believe I see books that the author felt driven to write because there was a message or point of view that he or she simply had to express.
This led me to realise that when we write for ourselves, we also write for a more universal Self; one that we are all in some way connected to. So even if we write in a way that is ignorant or disinterested in the reader, we still write for our own internal reader. In doing this, we connect with other readers because we all have that seed of commonality that brings us together rather than moving us apart.
This, though, does not remove the need for most of us to consider our readers and our market and that is mostly because we can be driven to write many sorts of books and some, especially the how-to type of book, can only work if we write for our audience first and ourselves second.
The answer to the question is neither yes nor no. Instead it is about recognising what kind of book we are writing and understanding which approach is most appropriate. As writers, we always seek to communicate, but the nature of that communication will dictate how far we fit our book to our external reader or our internal reader. That is a decision you can only make with the aid of honesty with yourself and the instinct of your gut.
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