This is something I think about professionally more than as a writer. As a writer, I really have an audience of one: me. But it IS something I have thought about. It IS something I circle back to on occasion.
You see, I learned in late high school/early college that the top two selling genres are (in order) Romance and Horror. These are my worst/least favorite genres to write. Hell, I can barely read them.
I would love to be a world-famous J.K. Rowling/Steven King sort of author. Household name. Comfortable income from writing & movie deals. See people in cosplay as my characters & creations. Who wouldn’t? But I decided a long time ago that fame & fortune shouldn’t be my focus. When I try to write “to” or “for” an audience, I usually end up hating the novel I’m working on. Not the content per say, but the whole project.
Audience is an after-thought to the writing. I want readers to follow my world, my characters & my journey. But I only do that AFTER I wrote what I want to read. First, I write the story I want to write. THEN I figure out (a) who my audience may be (who might actually enjoy this) and (b) edit to see if I can make it successful for that audience.
The other thing I have to remind myself is that old adage, “you can’t make all the people happy all of the time.” I may not write a book that everyone loves. I probably won’t (has anyone ever done that?) And if I spend too much time thinking about how to make everyone happy – I end up making no one (including myself!) happy. I end up in this spiral of competing audience demands that are impossible to all meet.
Because people are different – and that is ok. In fact it’s awesome. So I pick one person, me and I write to her. Then I consider who else might enjoy this and try to make sure they know what they need to so they can enjoy it as much as my original audience. I doubt I can do that, after all – my original audience knows all the secret workings of the world that I may not share with any other audience.