Who is Your Constituency?

by jan on July 1, 2012

When we talk about writing a book we often talk first about defining the audience – who is a likely reader for your book. What types of people would likely be in your audience if you were speaking about your topic?

For considering your audience when writing a book, I find a more useful way to look at it is not from the speaking to a crowd perspective, as if your words and thoughts would fix their problems if they would only take in your wisdom.

Instead of considering them as a group, think of them as individuals each with their own problems and concerns which need your exact intuition and expertise to solve.

I love the word constituency for this way of thinking. And in an election year, this seems to be appropriate. Let’s say you ran for office in your home town council. You might imagine this means you run an office of employees, you go to lots of meetings and community events and you work with your staff on making your budgets. All of this is true, but the real heart of the job is to fill the needs of your constituents. How can you be of service to them?

On a typical day you would get letters, phone calls and emails asking for something your constituents need – brighter streetlights, a stop sign on a busy corner, bus route changes for an assisted living home, and many more things I can’t even think of. Your most important time would be spent in researching solutions, connecting constituents to the right people and making sure the job got done.

Your constituency for your book is the people who need what you are able to provide. Which questions can you answer for them or what can you give them that will make it easier for them to find their own answers? When will you say “no” knowing a “yes” would not best serve them?

I don’t like to use the word audience (although I do since it is such a recognized term in publishing) because it is about selling something once it comes out. There is no audience for thoughts inside your head unless you write them or speak them. Audience members often pay to hear you or read what you’ve written. They pay you.

You pay your constituents. That is what writing a book should be about. About doing the job you chose to take on and were elected to do by your passion and expertise. In other words, they request things of you and you use all of your resources to make their wishes and needs happen. Audience is all about self. Constituencies are all about the needs of others.

So let’s talk about how this works in the book world. It is why I don’t like to talk about marketing with an aspiring author until that individual completes at least half of the book. Don’t focus on marketing, meaning how am I going to sell this to the most people. Focus on your constituents, meaning how I am going to give as much as I’ve got through my work. What is going to make it easiest for people to understand and grasp the message and use it to make their lives better?

Marketing asks, have I convinced you to love me enough to spend money on what I have to offer?

Constituency asks, what else do you need? I’m here for you for whatever that is and I believe I owe you, not the other way around.

When an author calls me for help, they often don’t know what they need. They just know they don’t know what to do next or why something isn’t organized the right way or doesn’t sound right in their writing.

When an author’s assistant calls me for help, they are looking for resources, direction on how to do something better or they aren’t sure how best to help a client in a given situation.

Working on a book has so many detailed parts and involves many decisions which are subtle in their distinctions – like the right words for a title or the colors and type fonts on a cover. And inside the book, every word, every sentence and every paragraph could be changed, added to or deleted over time.

I feel my job as a book coach is first to listen until I can translate the frustration of an author or author’s assistant into a solvable problem and then either solve it for them or preferably, help them solve it.

Dedicate yourself to your clients and serving them. Share their dreams and visions and collaborate in a way that uses the best of both of you – and others who might be part of your team. When you are frustrated yourself, stop and think, go around the problem, find another answer.

The only thing I would define as failure is not caring enough to do all you can to give what you’ve got to those who are your constituents. They voted you into office when they hired you and it is up to you to make good on all your campaign promises.

It doesn’t mean you are a bad person if you don’t feel like giving your all. You may just not have found your true meaning or purpose. Keep looking for what stimulates your energy and write about that or work on that. You have to serve yourself well before you can serve your constituency.

Whatever you are working on, eat dessert first. Go with what you love and what means something to you. Find the constituency you find joy in serving and dedicate yourself to that service. Each mistake or fall is a challenge to be met and an opportunity to learn. That is what creates expertise. Never give up on your dreams and when you see them through the eyes of your constituency you will have found meaning in work and in life.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: