One person at a time


Yesterday I urged you to decide both what you are writing about and who you are writing for.

I spent much of last night at SFO waiting for my red-eye to Cleveland. There was a man in his early twenties sitting a couple of seats down from me while we waited and he was creating a book. He had prose that he’d written, printed out and cut into shapes and he had an assortment of pictures of himself with a young lady.

He carefully composed each page spread so that the pictures were balanced by the descriptive prose. Then he used markers to write captions like “Halloweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen” that he would ornament with little sketches.

He knew exactly what book he was creating and he knew the one person he intended to give the book to.

You should do exactly the same.

Write your book for a specific person. This is particularly true if your book is non-fiction and intended to explain to someone how to accomplish a particular task.

You need to know what your target audience knows already, what their capabilities are, and how to get them from where they are now to where they need to be.

We think of our audience as “they”. But when you write, write for one person. Think “he”. Think “she”.

If you write for a broad audience then no one might find your book speaks to him or her. Write to someone specific and you’ll find that actually you are talking to many people – one at a time.