Hi Gang! Craig with you once more with something to consider. There’s an old bit of advice about making presentations, or producing an article, that still applies, “Know your audience.” This means don’t speak over their heads with a lot of technical jargon, acronyms, and industry-speak. Make it relative to the attendees and readers. It also applies to fiction, but not in the way you might think.
I believe the lines are blurring with the advent of Amazon and self publishing. Let’s face it, the old genres are more like guidelines than rules these days. Mashups are all the rage, so you get sweet romances during the apocalypse, or weird westerns where cowboys hunt zombies. These kind of things are popular, too.
I’ve got to confess that my first audience is me. I write to please myself and hope there are other weirdos like me that could be entertained by something I produce. Writing something along the lines of a regency romance just isn’t going to trip my trigger, and that will come across in the final product. Don’t expect to see a book of poems from me any time soon. (Hmm, what rhymes with Nantucket?)
I was surprised that most of my readership are women of a certain age. This is both delightful and concerning at the same time. Delightful, because it’s a readership dynamic I never expected. I feel like most of my stories would appeal to a younger more nerdy crowd. That’s largely because I misinterpreted things. I was around before comic book conventions, video games, and computers. It seems stupid in retrospect, but if I was here and like these stories, why couldn’t they have been here and feel the same way.
It’s concerning because we know women read more than men. My father was in his eighties when he read his first novel. (Probably an extreme example now that I think about it.) It worries me that perhaps the younger crowd aren’t reading at all. All the fancy covers and catchy blurbs in the world aren’t going to land a sale from someone who isn’t shopping for a book, or getting deals in their email in the first place.
Maybe the bigger question is how to target our audience. Once I’ve written something I enjoy, I spend time with the Amazon categories. Let’s face it, there are many ways to pigeonhole a story. I write a series that could easily be called urban fantasy, magical realism, paranormal, supernatural, dark humor, adventure, and even superhero themed. Amazon won’t let me choose that many.
I told you that mashups are all the rage, but this is what you’re up against.
I also slave over my blurbs. I want to be truthful so readers aren’t surprised in a bad way. Believe it or not, there are some who would read a story about ghosts, but panic if a demon shows up in chapter three.
Be true to yourself. I’m my first reader, and I expect to have a good time. None of us are getting rich at this, and personal enjoyment is important. We dedicate a lot of hours to our stories, and if we aren’t getting wages, the fun has to be there. If that’s all you take away today it’s an important point. See the robot girl on the way out and she’ll validate your parking.
After you publish your story, it is possible to change and update covers, blurbs, and categories. If you think this could help, give it a shot. Maybe your target audience is just outside the categories you initially chose.
Targeting isn’t the same as marketing. There are smarter people who can help you with that. Jan Sikes has a wonderful series right here on Story Empire about marketing. It’s well worth a revisit, because she can give you ideas about how to make your readership aware the story even exists. The most recent post is here.
Accept that you’re allowed to enjoy this process. Be true to yourself, and I promise there are likeminded people who will love your stories. Be honest in how you categorize and pigeonhole them so shoppers get an honest idea of what to expect. And if you figure out how to get product placement inside a video game let me know.