Writers must attend both to their topic, and to their audience. They must learn things both about the topics on which they write, and about the people who will evaluate their writings. But to which of these do they attend more? For some kinds of writers, idealists say that they mostly attend to their topics, and for other kinds of writers, cynics say that they mostly attend to their audience. Who is more right?
My impression wrt books (based fuzzy inferences from many fuzzily-recalled acknowledgement sections) is that the consultation ratio of experts vs typical audience members may be 4 to 1 give or take a factor of 2.
It's getting ahead of Robin's request, but I don't see why it's necessarily cynical to assert that an author has mostly attended to her audience. Unlike Stephen Diamond I think that experts often share blind spots when it comes to understanding the mental models of typical audience members. I therefore believe that, for an author who knows she knows her topic, but is in doubt about how effectively she has communicated it to her target audience, attending more to the audience is just the wise & responsible thing. .
Actually, I can't see any writer preferring the opinion of a typical member of his audience to an expert's opinion. Typical opinion is cheaper, in whatever coin is paid; it's sought because one can only "afford" a few experts. An expert will usually be better able to tell whether you've explained something clearly to the typical reader than would a typical reader. Perhaps a typical reader would better predict whether the material is interesting to a typical reader, but there's not a lot you can do if your material doesn't interest many readers. Academicians don't tend to care much.
Here's a condition: separate your population into two groups, one that doesn't need the money (guaranteed stipend, or already rich) and one that does. I bet the first group will be more concerned about the accuracy of the topic of their writings
Indeed, my first thought was that if I'm writing something for my students, I may ask my wife or one or two students to look at it because I already know the topic as well as I need to, while I don't know (and am frequently surprised by) what my students will find clear/easy and what they will find confusing/complicated. This may fall within the scope of Robin's penultimate sentence, though: direct feedback in this context is the easier means by which to learn about audiences, and is not necessary in this case for learning sufficiently about the topic.
I didn't say only book writers.
Experts when developing ideas; typical readers at the book stage. This seems simply rational.
"When a writer solicits commentary on her drafts, does she mostly seek out people who know about the topics on which she writes, or does she mostly seek out people who are or are like or who can predict the audience she must please?"
The latter, but mostly that has nothing to do with ideology, just with trying to ensure the book will sell.
If your answer depends on something, then feel free to give conditional answers. That applies to pretty much all questions, btw.
What kind of writing? For example when I write a textbook, ignoring what my audience is likely and unlikely to understand would ruin the value of the textbook. Generally, if I don't get the message across, being technically corect is not helpful. This is one kind of attention to the audience. Another kind would be writing in a manner optimized for making influential readers happy. Not the same category. (For example, if I write a text for children, avoiding complex words would be an example of the former; emphasising that readers should obey their parents and teachers would be an example of the latter.)