How I know I’ve Hit My Target Audience

Oneof the biggest challenges writers face is knowing whether or not they’ve hit the mark with their target audience. One of the most valuable pieces of information book reviews provide is insight into whether you are hitting the right notes for potential readers. In this sense, whether the review is glowing, positive, or negative is less important to me than whether the readers/reviewers picked up on the intended themes or tone.

Two pieces of feedback recently brought this home for me for A Warrior’s Soul. The novel is grounded in martial arts, but I was hoping the story and characters would have broad appeal. As a writer, while I wanted the martial arts to be real, martial arts really served as a vehicle for moving the story; it’s an integral part of the plot and emotional arcs of the characters. But I was concerned that the broader theme of bullying, self-defense, respect, and personal courage might get lost in the fight scenes, action, and pace of the story.

The first tidbit of feedback came from an eighth grade boy. He had been given the book by his teacher. He finished it in 24 hours (a good sign). When the teacher asked him what he liked best about the book, he said: “It just seemed really real to me.” Bingo!

The second piece of recent feedback came from a review posted on the blog LiveTeachCreate maintained by another middle school teacher (in a separate city and state). The reviewer starts her review:

When I first began to read this it was hard for me to get into because I knew nothing about the culture or detail behind any form of martial arts. I quickly got past that and took the book for what it truly was, a story of how a young teenage boy deals with the struggles of bullies that seem to not be noticed.

All I could do was say “YES”!

I then gave a big sigh of relief.

Author: SR Staley
SR Staley has one more than 11 literary awards for his fiction and nonfiction writing. He is on the full-time faculty of the College and Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University as well as a film critic and research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. His award-winning Pirate of Panther Bay series ( has won awards in historical fiction, mainstream & literary fiction, young adult fiction, and reached the finals in women's fiction. His most recent book is "The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution" due out in April 2020 (Routledge).