Who Is Your Audience?

When you’re writing a book, it’s crucial to know who your audience is and to write for them.

That sound obvious, right? It’s harder than you think. Many indie peeps will write to the audience immediately around them, the folks I call alpha fans. They’re super easy to write to, because they already have a buy-in to what you think. You can engage in minimalism with them to a lazy degree. And if they’re the only people who you expect will ever buy your book or play your game — like you’re just making something for your friends — cool.

But a writer honest with him- or herself has to go farther than that, to imagine what other people outside of the alpha fan group will likely be checking this out. After all, how else are you going to grow that group? (I should point out that you’re doing this for two sets of folks: you, as a creator showing that you care about a broader group of people; and your alpha fans, who probably want more great people to play with.) So then you have to consider who, realistically, is going to check out your fan, should for some reason you break out of a small circle of folks who know about your thing and into a the notice of a larger population.

This isn’t just fantasy land. Look at Wil Wheaton pimping Fiasco. Something like that could happen to you, perhaps at that scale, perhaps smaller but still larger that your own sphere of influence.

So, who is that group? That’s something we had a discussion about with Fate Core, which ended with to following notions of audience:

  • There are a lot of alpha fans of Fate. They get the ideas, which is to our benefit. So we shouldn’t write solely to them. We’re still writing for them, but we should be writing to their friends, folks they want to introduce to Fate.
  • There’s a non-insignificant who want to get away with reading as little as possible, until they’re sure they’ll like something. These folks are more focused on kinesthetic learning (whether due to preference of brain makeup, whatever). So let’s make it so they only need to read the short Basics chapter, as long as someone (ideally the GM) reads the rest of the thing. And we’ll declare that to be the case upfront.
  • The Fate veterans will need to have spelled out some of the terminology & rules cleanup we’re doing for Core. Since there are a bunch of different implementations of Fate right now, we don’t know which ones someone will have in mind when they’re reading Core for the first time, so we’ll have to make sure we don’t confuse them while writing to their friends.
  • We will not be writing to an audience not aware of roleplaying games. Evil Hat doesn’t have the sort of advertising budget to reach out to totally new people. Like with almost every other RPG producer, we rely primarily on word of mouth & exposure to get new people to try out games. Very few people are actually exposed to our hobby directly from a book these days; they are from friends who have already been exposed. So we’re not going to waste time trying to explain our hobby to someone completely new.
  • And because a game can live and die by the loudness of its alpha fans, we’re definitely still writing for them. Just not solely to them.

This conversation about audience came after some of Fate Core was written, and Lenny & I had a sit-down to talk about how we need to reflect to our audience. This solidified which of the two approaches for Core we were looking at:

  • The first was a purely toolkit model. After the Basics & Aspects chapter, every single thing in Fate is entirely modular. We were going to focus solely on how to built your own Fate game from that modularity.
  • The second was to take a slim setting example and build around that, so we had some finalized Core rules that embodied Fate Core, the sort of thing we could use to start with, and then drift from that central point in future discussions of toolkitting.

Because we realized the primary text focus should be to folks new to Fate, not new to roleplaying, and likely have a friend around who knows this but not necessarily, we went with the second approach. Once we understood this model, we were able to put the toolkit element — which is critical to Fate Core — in context.

What that means for the text, well, we’ll show you when we can. But for now, I just wanted to write a bit about thinking on your audience.

– Ryan

P.S. This is the core of my problems with I used to talk about Apocalypse World’s text. Which I stopped doing because rather than actually engage in conversation, the fans I talked with just said “Well, I don’t see that” and shut conversation down. Of course you don’t, you’re in the alpha group. But that’s a possibly future post, about how that phrase is toxic slime in various geek cultures.