Author Dan Balow

Imagining Your Reader

Most mass communication originates in solitude.

Before delivering a public speech, pressing the Post button on a text-based article or blog, delivering an audio podcast or webinar, or taping a video, the creator of the material sits alone and ponders what they will communicate.

During this alone time, a content creator should also be thinking of an audience. For authors, since you are rarely present when your book is read, imagining a reader is difficult.

Or at least it should be.

If you find it easy to imagine your audience, then you are likely homogenizing individuals into a stereotypical mass audience, which is not an audience at all. There is no such thing as a book for everyone, just like there isn’t a book for all women, men or teens, except for the Bible–and that needed divine inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

For the mortals among us, the only effective way to write is to imagine a very specific audience and write to them.

Example of This Concept

If a guest speaker comes to your church, they deliver a well-organized and rehearsed presentation which is good in many ways, except for one. It is a generic message the speaker could deliver at any church, on a variety of occasions, and probably has. It’s an all-of-you message.

But when your pastor or another home-grown speaker stands in front of your church, they see specific people they know personally. Their words are for that particular group. It’s an all-of-us message, which is far better, as it shows the speaker knows the audience.

Both types of communication have their place, but the best speakers, just like the best writers, tailor their message for the audience. They make their listeners or readers feel like the message is just for them, and the way this starts is by imagining a specific reader.

When you are afraid of missing someone, you miss everyone. This happens when aiming too wide.

Imagine Your Reader

Think of one person you know by name who would benefit from your writing.

Think of one person in Scripture by name who is most like your target audience.

Use some technique to continually remind you of both people throughout your writing process, whatever works for you.

Write to them.

NOTE: This is an exercise to keep you focused during the writing process. You don’t name someone in your book unless it is appropriate!

Final Note about Audience

I know many authors want their Christian-message books read by unbelievers. But writing for unbelievers makes you guilty of the same stereotyping mentioned above, which is rarely effective. The recommendation to name a person still holds.

Maybe this isn’t a problem for you, but it is always a good idea to check your compass occasionally to see if you are still headed in the right direction.

Thinking of a specific person you are writing to is simply good discipline, keeping you focused, aware, and human.

After all, every reader of your book has a name.

Leave a Comment

Original Writing

Several years ago, I reviewed a proposal on a subject commonly addressed in Christian books and quickly noticed it was not entirely original.  It wasn’t plagiarized from another author, but the proposed nonfiction book was comprised almost entirely of the best-thinking from other Christian authors on the subject. There was …

Read More

Knowing What to Expect

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it (Spanish philosopher George Santayana). Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it (Winston Churchill). If you remember the past and learn from history, you can see some things coming a long way off (Dan Balow, …

Read More

Platform Planning

The never-ending struggle of an aspiring author to meet the requirement of publishers for a big enough “platform” can be frustrating at best, or worse, discourage someone from writing at all. Platforms are always built on content, not the container. Social media doesn’t give you a platform; it is the …

Read More


Last week I wrote about being successful and fruitful and how those qualities direct our paths more than our education, training, experience, or plans. I believe when God allows us to be fruitful in a certain way, He is illuminating a road before us that might have been dark and …

Read More


I am using the 20th year remembrance of the death of Clifton Hillegass as inspiration to make a larger point about the direction an author’s life can take. Clifton (pictured above is his statue in Kearney, NE) was the creator of CliffsNotes and passed away in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the …

Read More

Ready for Pushback?

Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you (1 John 3:13, NIV). One of the lovely aspects (I’m kidding) of ubiquitous communication in our world today is that nothing goes out without a comment in return. Positive and negative comments abound. Something written in passing or …

Read More

The Art of the Soft-Sell

“How you sell is more important than what you sell.”– Andy Paul (author, speaker, podcaster) Whether you are traditionally published, self-published, desire-to-be-published, or whatever other combination resides between traditional and self-publishing, you are involved in the lively art of selling. Trying to convince an agent to represent you? Trying to …

Read More

Made for Such a Time

Today is a difficult day for Christians as we remember the final full day of Christ’s life before his crucifixion. Deep down, I wish Jesus didn’t have to go through all he did. Reading through the Gospels, it is clear the events of this week were part of a plan …

Read More

Steps to Writing a Book

Each week I attend a Bible study with other men where the only other significant unifying trait is that we are Christians navigating our way through life. Actually, it’s enough. Three of the guys have something else in common. They are accomplished athletes who run, hike, or bike long distances …

Read More