(from the National Library of Ireland on The Commons. We recommend a similar treatment for your own target audience as this target is receiving; skill with a bow and arrow is actually sometime required of all our authors. We do not provide lessons.)
What is a ‘target audience’?
What that term refers to is to the BEST audience for a book. It is not inclusive of all the audiences for the book, just the ones we feel the book is best suited for.
What does that mean? Well, for example!
[Example 1: TARGET AUDIENCE: ADULT]
We just published a graphic novel about mermaids, Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain. One of the main characters is a mermaid, she spends much of the book not wearing a top while being depicted in a moderately realistic sort of way. This is one of the many reasons why the target audience for Sailor Twain is adult. Not that a perceptive sixteen or seventeen year-old (or even a super-perceptive fourteen year-old) isn’t going to read this book about mid-life creative crises and fall in love with it, but looking at the content, we feel that the ideal reader is going to be the one who has the best relationship with the situations in this book and can best deal with the sensuality of the artwork in an appropriate way.
[Example 2: TARGET AUDIENCE: TEEN]
We’re currently in the middle of serializing Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks’ graphic novel Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. It’s about some teenagers who are in high school. They’re dealing with high school politics, relationships with parents who are having a divorce, making friends and keeping friends, and also robots — all things (besides the robots) that are situations particular to the teenage experience. So when we look at this book, we say, ‘the best reader for this book is going to be a teenager.’ Not that I don’t think this book is super-awesome, and not that an eleven year-old wouldn’t be able or eager to read it, and not that I and that eleven year-old shouldn’t read it, but here the reader that’s going to get the most out of this book is someone who’s currently experiencing the same things as the book’s characters.
[Example 3: TARGET AUDIENCE: KIDS AGES 7 – 10]
We all love the First Second Winter 2012 title Giants Beware!, about a girl perpetually thwarted in her desire to fight giants and her probably very unwise reaction to that whole clearly oppressive situation. The main character, Claudette, is pretty young — as is everyone who would feel like wandering off in the forest without any weapons to fight giants with is an appropriate way to solve your problems. Like Sailor Twain is a book for ADULTS and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a book for TEENS, Giants Beware! is clearly a book for KIDS.
But! It turns out that kids are a trickier group of people to establish target audiences with — because they require additional specificity. Just think back to the time that you were two or three. Were you reading the same books that you were when you were twelve? Probably not! (I mean, when you were two, you were probably eating books instead of reading them.)
Even ages closer together than two and twelve are marked by huge gaps in reading comprehension — probably when you were five, you were reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar (a heavily illustrated/minimal text picture book), but when you were seven, you were reading Amelia Bedelia (an early chapter book with very large font and lots of illustrations that was maybe sixty pages long), and then at ten you were reading Goosebumps (a middle grade novel with no illustrations maybe a hundred pages long in a regular-sized font).
So when we’re trying to figure out who the target audience is for a book with protagonists younger than high school, we think: ‘Is this book for kids just starting to read on their own?’ ‘Are the characters in a specific school grade or said to be a specific age in the story?’ ‘Is this a book kids are going to be able to read only with their parents help?’ and all sorts of helpful questions like that to determine what age reader the story is for. And we examine the content carefully so that we’re not saying something like, ‘this book in which the mother is depicted dying a terrible, painful death of cancer is perfect f