As a writer, I am often asked what kind of audience I think I am writing for. “Who, Mickey, is going to read your silly fantasy stories?”
To be perfectly clear… I started out as a writer intending to be a YA novelist, writing for more mature middle school and high school readers, probably more female than male. But any good YA writer writes stories that appeal to the adult, even if it is only the adult part of teenagers. Books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Giver, The Hunger Games, and Ender’s Game are well known because of the adult readers who read, love, and praise those stories. I’m not saying you can’t intentionally write for a young adult audience. But I am saying you can’t write down to those readers, or you will certainly offend and lose them before the end of your story. You have to understand that they are becoming adults.
But you can’t please all readers. Two readers who left devastating reviews on two of my books basically over-reacted to what I wrote, and let me have it with both barrels of their “Save-the-world-from-icky-Mickey” crusades. One thought Sing Sad Songs was reprehensible and evil because two of the characters, young Valerie, and Francois, the boy from France, experience sexual attraction to each other, and then both have to deal with the emotions it causes by talking about it with friends and families. The reviewer insisted that children should not talk or think about sex in a story. That was a moral violation according to her, even though no actual sex scene occurs in the story beyond a French kiss. The other lady reviewer objected to depictions of the nudist Cobble sisters in The Baby Werewolf. She claimed that the depiction of the girls, particularly Sherry, was entirely too “creepy” even though the book is a horror comedy and built on creepiness in the central conflict. Authors apparently have to have a thick skin, as every kook and prude is entitled to their own opinion.
On the positive side, though, I have gained a lot of readers who are nudists because of the Cobble Sisters and their status as at-home-on-the-farm nudists. Particularly in the companion book of The Baby Werewolf, Recipes for Gingerbread Children. The idea of nudist characters and naked people in a story makes many potential readers turn up their noses, assuming it is something perverted or pruriently sexual. I think, though, that I have successfully depicted nudists as they actually are, having been a part of the Texas nudist community, at least on the fringes. They are definitely not perverts and sex fiends, as the girls are routinely explaining to their non-nudist friends.
But I can basically describe my personal philosophy of writing for a target audience this way;
I write with an imaginary member of my target audience reading over my shoulder. Sometimes they sock me in the back of my head for things I have written. But I am not writing for him or her. I am writing for me, the things I want to write, like to write, have to write, and need to write to live.