Thursday, May 9, 2013

Getting To Know Your Target Audience

If you haven’t read David Farland’s “Million Dollar Outlines”, you might want to check it out. He drops some interesting psychological tidbits about what appeals to certain age groups.

He talks about his experiences with film. Basically, movie studios can predict fairly accurately how well a film will do, based on the emotional appeal of the story to specific groups. Consider these things as you choose your next story idea and target audience. 

I am going to shamelessly draw from Mr. Farland’s wisdom. He says:

If you want to succeed, pay attention to what the most powerful draws are for your audience age and cater to their tastes.

Here are some of the emotional draws that are important to know:

Very young children – ages 0-5: like wonder and humor in that order. Note that spooky stories may attract them, but can easily terrify a toddler. Mysteries can also attract a little one.

Children – ages 6-11. Wonder, humor, and horror are the top three attractions, with adventure beginning to draw young men. A great example of what you’re trying to accomplish can be seen in R.L. Stine’s Goosebump series.

Girls – ages 11-19. Wonder, humor, and horror are still important, but by age 13-16 romance becomes the primary draw. Also, note that this is the time when girls become more interested in coming of age stories. They’re trying to understand the world and cope with their own growing powers, and they’re trying to understand their place in society.

Boys – ages 11-19. Wonder, humor, and horror are still important, but by age 11 adventure becomes a primary draw for young men, so they find themselves enticed by stories set in football camps or on road trips. By age 16, young men also will become more drawn to sexual content.

Women – age 20-40. By age 20, women are drawn primarily to romance, but they also enjoy humor and horror, mystery and some drama. As they age, the interest in romance declines, and drama and mystery become much stronger draws.

Men – age 20-50. By age 20, men are drawn primarily to adventure, and this remains the strongest draw until about age 50. As men age, they too become more engaged by dramas and mysteries, leaving behind the wonder literature in their youth.

Mr. Farland explains these things in detail in his book, as well as many other pearls of writerly wisdom.

I’ve attended classes he’s given at WIFYR (Writing and Illustrating For Young Readers), and have been quite impressed. For anyone writing mid-grade, or literature for younger children, consider this tidbit of his—in his own words: “Food is to young children what sex is to young adults”. In other words, all those feasts, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, and butter beer in Harry Potter? Gold mine.

Mind you, as you look across Mr. Farland’s lists above when considering Harry Potter, you’ll see that J. K. Rowling hit the bull’s eye – wonder, horror, humor, adventure, little bits of romance, and yes, many edible things.

Small wonder, that besides the fantastic writing, the books did so well. Hm. Food for thought, no pun intended.

P.S. (The book bomb is still going to benefit David Farland’s son who was in an accident. If you’d like to help, simply buy any of his books. If you’re interested in “Million Dollar Outlines”, it’s an e-book for only $6.99.)
Here is the Amazon link:
And the Barnes and Noble link:


  1. I first met Dave Wolverton at a book signing where he was touring with one of his former students, author Brandon Sanderson. Later I took a class from Dave, and also went to a seminar where he was one of the speakers. His theories about fiction fascinate me, and seem to have made some people an awful lot of money. Thanks for sharing.

    1. He's given me some new ideas, that's for sure. Where did you take your class from Dave, Rebecca?

    2. Writing and Illustrating. I sat next to Leisha.

    3. : ) I hope to see you this year. Are you and Amber coming?

    4. Not this year, we have a family reunion that week, but I hope you have a great time.

    5. That sounds fun, and we'll miss you.

  2. I was in Dave Wolverton's class (with Rebecca-remember me?) and he told us much the same thing, but it's certainly something I need to be reminded of a lot!

    1. Good advice never goes out of style. Thanks, Ashton!

  3. I just started a MG horror book, which is turning out to be a lot of fun. Knowing that horror, humor, and wonder are important to boys this age played a big part in my choice. Thanks for the great post!

  4. Thanks, Leisha! If anyone can write a great MG horror book that doesn't cross the line, you can. Can't wait to read it!


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