One mistake I see authors consistently make is trying to make their book relate to everyone. You cannot write for everyone. Choose a target and hit it on the bulls’-eye. Let the residual or secondary audience present itself organically.
Don’t be afraid that you will leave someone out. Don’t let this fear keep you from making a distinction about who will benefit the most from your book. Don’t let this fear keep you from writing the best book you can write.
Think about how much more impactful your message will be when you write directly to the heart of a person you can picture (hairstyle and all) who needs to hear exactly what you have to say. Ask yourself, “Who wants this message the most?” (Notice I didn’t use the word needs. See my post on felt needs to learn why.) Then realize there are hundreds and thousands more people just like that one person. They are your target.
Let these inspired, empowered, and moved targets spread the word about your book to other people outside of the target. If your book really resonates with your target audience, word-of-mouth praise and recommendations to their friends and colleagues will happen naturally.
Writing for everyone will essentially mean you will write for no one, as the manuscript will be unfocused. You will have a hard time reeling in your points and writing confidently because you are trying to reach everyone. You’ll write something and think, “Oh, I shouldn’t say it this way because it might offend or they might not understand...” But guess who will get it? Your target. Your crew. Your core audience.
Not having a clear target will cause you to be unsure, insecure, and unclear in your writing. By not having a pinpointed target, you will miss the mark. You’ll end up with a well-watered-down message, or a message that just has too much going on.
It is the same principle that applies to person-to-person relationships: you cannot please everyone. You can’t say yes to everything. (Just a side note and something to explore: Some of us have issues here that may spill over into our writing. Writing is deep and spiritual. A lot what’s in us come out or causes us to be blocked in writing.)
Be decisive. Choose. Set boundaries. Commit.
It’s amazing how many authors will—in a very nice way—argue this point with me. “My book really is for everyone,” they say, just before listing them all to me.
If you know that in your day-to-day interactions with people that you won't please everyone, that everyone won't like you, then shouldn't a similar thing be true for your relationship with readers?
Choose a target audience. Then write passionately and boldly for them.
If you are having trouble identifying who your reader is, get help from someone who can review your concept objectively and give insight.