Who is your audience? To put it another way, who are you writing for? How many audiences do you have? What does my audience want and need?
If you haven’t identified your target audience, you can’t answer those questions. What kind of story are you writing? Lately, I’ve been writing paranormal cozy mysteries. I have also written a science fiction story (Accidental Colony). I have another science fiction story in progress. It will be a year or more before that is ready for publication. That’s because I realized that I had a much bigger book than I first thought. I actually wrote two books using these characters. Then I realized that the two books were two halves of the same book. So I’m merging them and revising them. More on that later.
I aimed my cozy mystery series at those people who like magic and mystery. I aimed my science fiction at people who might like to explore and experience new worlds. My paranormal cozy mystery audience is a small niche within the mystery genre. They represent the place where mystery reader intersects the paranormal story readers. The science fiction audience is larger.
You need to study your genre to know what your audience wants. Then write to fill those needs. That’s over simplistic, because it’s not that easy. It’s a broad view of the task. There is no way to ever know exactly what the audience wants. Not without polling everyone in the audience, which is impossible. There is a way to find out what you want to know — the best seller list. To put it in simple terms, what is selling? That is the advice of the ‘expert’ which is why we have so many vampire romances out there. You do want to differentiate your story so it isn’t seen as a rip-off of the leader. You need to find a niche for your work. Write what you want to write.
If you want to read a story, you likely are not alone. So write the story you would want to read. Of course, once you have written your story, marketing it comes into play. That’s where the information about target audiences comes in. You want to reach out to them and let them know your story exists.
So your target audience has less to do with your writing and more to do with marketing. Know the audience is a marketing tool. It’s where you need to focus your attention when. An audience is out there. It might be small, but it is there. Commercial success depends on targeting the right audience for your story. That’s the hardest part of the publishing process. Everything else is easy by comparison. So study your genre’s sales data. Learn as much as you can about your target audience. Then use your marketing tools to reach your audience. You will get sales from that. Don’t give up, and good luck.