Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who ARE those readers of yours, anyway?


The Kiddo allowed earlier this week how she wanted to write a book.

"Mommy," she asked from the back seat of the car, "can you write a book and not have it be, like, you know, your books, and have it just go to people you want it to go to?"

"Sure," I said. I thought about my veritable collection of trunk novels. I surely didn't want anybody but a highly select audience to see those! "I have lots of books like that on my computer. Or do you mean with a cover?"

The Kiddo seemed to consider this. "It doesn't matter. But can I type it?"

I had another question. "Why don't you want everyone to see your book?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "Because. You know. I just want FAMILY to read it. Not everybody. Can I do a book like that? And can I type it? On your computer?"

I'll keep you posted on how the WORST DAY IN SIXTH GRADE develops. I'm delighted to say that she has already plotted out the chapter titles and is now figuring out what is going on in each chapter. I have a plotter!

But she's done something else equally important, something I didn't think about until, well, I guess my second serious attempt at this novel writing business.

The Kiddo has thought about who her readers will be. Not just thought about it, but she's picked them out already.

That's powerful proactivism there, folks.

Who exactly will read your books? No, I'm not talking about the agents you query. I'm not talking about the editors you hope will one day see it. That's important, sure, but it's not THE question. The real question is, who will be standing in the bookstore, at the cash register, with your book in hand?

Think about them. Get to know them as well as you know your characters. Are they men? Are they women? Do they like funny jokes? Are they secret foodies? Do they love fashion? Or are they more comfy in jeans and a T-shirt? What (eyebrows waggling here) will they let you get away with? What (very serious here) would be the equivalent of a broken promise?

I'm not talking about writing to a market. I'm talking about finding like-minded people and announcing, "My books may not please everybody, but these folks? Well, it will knock the socks off these folks." Then get to know your new friends. If they like what you like, you may like something else they like. And it may just be something you'd like to write about and they'd like to read.

My CP Tawna Fenske has done this without, I don't think, really realizing how good she is at it. She's married her quirky voice with her blog. If you don't like her blog, you won't like her books. But if you like her blog? Well, her books are gonna knock your socks off.

My books? If you don't like slice-of-life stories that are a roller-coaster of emotions, if you've never laughed because you don't want to cry, then you probably wouldn't be interested in my books.

And you know what? That's okay. I wish you did. But it would be a mighty boring world -- and library and bookstore -- if we all liked the same book.

16 comments:

Piedmont Writer said...

I think the people who would read my books are older ladies, maybe divorced or widowed, with friends for lunch, who paint on Saturday mornings, visit their children on Sundays after church, work at a great job they love, and go on a cruise once a year for vacation. And they pack my books to take with them.

Mia said...

Great post, Cynthia. Gave me a lot to think about :) I'm a newer writer, and I'm still discovering my voice and writing style, even the genre that fits me best (though I'm leaning towards suspense). So I'm not positive who my readers are yet, but I'll figure it out someday ;) Takes time, I guess.

Lola Sharp said...

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. :)
That is So cute! I'm dying to know if she finishes it.

Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

Well, since I am writing about a specific generation of women, and only those who are moms, it's pretty easy to nail down my market. I have been working hard to get to know my audience, and have shared excerpts from my book w/them to get their reaction.

I think it is probably easier with nonfiction to figure out your market, but I could be wrong.

Linda G. said...

Smart daughter you're raising there. :)

What I get out of your post is, be true to your own voice. Write the the books YOU want to write, and worry about finding your audience later. Like in "Field of Dreams"--if you build it, they will come. :)

Cynthia Reese said...

Anne, I get along so well with your readers that I would probably listen to their advice about what to read!

Mia, that's the thing -- your voice dictates who your readers are, but figuring just who they are can help you broaden that voice. Yeah, I know. Chicken-and-egg conundrum!

Lola, she shows all promise of completing it! And it's so cute!

Elizabeth, I think you're very right!

Linda G, she resembles her a mom a bit, no? Squint now, before you answer! ;-)

Tawna Fenske said...

Great post, not just because it mentions me! :)

It's true that knowing your readers is a HUGE part of the writing process. Not that I'm still bitter about this, but as you know, I sold a book to Silhouette Bombshell several years ago. The line was canceled a month before my debut was scheduled to hit shelves, and I still think the whole reason the line failed comes to a failure to find the right readers. They were gritty, action-adventure novels with romance thrown in, but they were marketed to the same readers who were accustomed to traditional romances with a happily-ever-after at the end. It shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone that the Bombshells would appeal to a different group of readers (which I do still believe was out there) but the books never even reached them.

Er, not that I'm bitter.

Anyway, my #1 goal with my blog today is to promote my romantic comedies to the sort of readers who get EXACTLY what I'm trying to do. It's still early to tell, but I think it's working.

And BTW, that's one clever kiddo you've got there!

Tawna

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Well of course The Kiddo is a plotter! It's in the genes. :)

I thought I knew my audience when I was writing my book, but I have a feeling that my understanding is still evolving. Perhaps in time, like finding your voice, you find your audience.

Sandy Shin said...

Your Kiddo sounds likes she is a brilliant little writer. :)

This is a great post. I've always known, vaguely, who my readers would be, but I never actively thought about it. I believe people who'd like my books are teenaged girls with a love for fairy-tales and fantasy -- just like I am. :)

Cynthia Reese said...

Tawna, not to malign my lovely publisher, but you're right. They had a great product in BOMBSHELL as well as NExT and EVERLASTING, and I was sorry that they couldn't find the audience that I knew was there for each of those lines.

Susan, any similarity The Kiddo has to me just proves that Nurture outranks Nature -- The Kiddo is adopted, and a true blessing for us.

But yes, I've had people tell me she's just like me! *beam* For instance, last night, The Husband was saying something about the complicated way I fold towels. The Kiddo went whip-whip-whip and said, "Like this?" He went grrr, and mumbled, "She's just like you." YES!

Sandy, she IS just a touch brilliant. I can say that, as she didn't get a single gene from me! And your readers sound lovely!

Lickety Splitter said...

I have no writings beside my personal poems (which I love because when I pursue one with a good subject, they roll out the red carpet for me), facebook and my blog. And, I never worry about who my readers will be. Actually I am always surprised anyone bothers to read anything I write.

P.S. I always look forward to your blog posts.

Kelly Breakey said...

I just want to know where we can find the Kiddo's book once she gets it published. At her age, already knowing she wants to be published. I will be the first in line to buy it.

PS Do you think she will autograph it for me?

Al said...

Hmm, A very difficult question that you ask.
I guess I have to admit the main audience I write for is me. If I don't love it I'm not going to write it.
Other than that, I guess I aim at a mystery or thriller reader. However, I attempt to aim for a book that will be read equally by men or women.

Elliot Grace said...

...love the post, Cynthia:)

I think specifically targeting your audience is extremely important. Simply put, if you ask yourself, "So who's gonna read this thing?" and the eventual answer is a shrug of the shoulders...it might be time to regroup and rethink.

have a great weekend:)

Sarah said...

Yep, you're right about that: you can't please everyone at once! I think the people who'd like mine would be young adults and maybe also older adults..I'm not sure :P

Nishant said...

I think it is probably easier with nonfiction to figure out your market, but I could be wrong.
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