Who are you writing for?

How awesome has this weather been? Did any of you get out and watch the meteor showers the past few nights? The sky has been crystal clear. Up here in the hills with no light pollution, the stars have been spectacular. We saw dozens of meteors, some so full and close that you could see the tails burn a trail across the sky. I’ve also taken advantage of the great weather to do some kayaking and gardening. It’s just been too beautiful to stay locked in my writers cave. But lest you think I’ve been totally slacking, my brain is always in problem-solving mode.kayaking pic

I find myself working through scenes and bits of dialogue in my head while I’m weeding or paddling. It’s almost like the information needs to percolate for a day or so before I can get it on the page. I also bring my business hat with me on these outings. The question most churning in my mind lately is “Who am I writing for?” This is a two-fold question for me that needs to be answered before I can move to the next level in my evolution as a writer. Intrinsically, I need to answer the question “am I writing for myself because I enjoy it and feel passionate about my art? Or am I pressuring myself to write and publish to fulfill some need to be accepted, revered, or even loved?  Not that I don’t have all of those things already, but there were certainly times in my life where I felt none of that was true.  Perhaps my reasons are a little of both, but I know that I need to be clear about this. If I’m not fully committed to believing in myself and my own potential, I will unconsciously put road blocks up for myself to sabotage my success. Essentially, I need to ask myself, “how much do I love writing/publishing, and how badly do I want success and all that comes with it?” I bet I’m not alone in my musings.

From a business perspective, the question means something entirely different, but equally as important to answer. “Who am I writing for?” In other words, who and where is my audience? This isn’t a new concept, and in fact was one of the first exercises I did with Jennifer Fusco of Market or Die two years ago when I first decided to self-publish. The question remains unanswered for me, even though Jennifer made me examine my “target audience.”

For HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, ON THIN ICE, and SAVAGE CINDERELLA, my intended audience was 14-18 year-old girls who like to read Contemporary Young Adult romance. I didn’t realize that the majority of my readers for those first three books were going to be women between the ages of 20 and 50. I had lots of ideas about reasons why the books seemed to transcend genre and resonate with adult readers, but the reality is that those were the people I was targeting with my marketing efforts and who my stories appealed to.

If you look at it from a “sphere of influence” perspective, my first layer in my sphere of influence is my friends and family. Then comes my writing community, mostly women between 20-50ish and all avid readers and supporters. These are the people who follow me on FB and twitter and read my blogs. I’ve been able to get some exposure to my original target audience through the parents of teens since many of my adult readers have teenage daughters.

But what about other teen readers? How do I target them? And not in a creepy way of course. And which group do I target. The 16 year-olds that want to read Contemporary or the Sci-fi/fantasy geeks who want dystopian? When I veered off course last year and began a dystopian trilogy, my target audience changed—a fact I hadn’t take into account! The readership I’d gained writing Contemporary YA romance did not necessarily follow me over to my dystopian, sci-fi/fantasy story, despite that it’s still a teen romance at heart.

Some readers are eclectic and will read anything by a favorite author, while others will only read within the genre/sub-genre they favor. Also notable is that my adult readers tend to be “over” the whole dystopian hype and aren’t flocking to read more of the gloom and doom stories. To compound the difficulty with discover-ability, the categories that SP authors can choose to list our books under at Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords don’t offer Young Adult Romance or Young Adult Dystopian. The closest category is Juvenile Fiction, which historically has applied to middle grade and younger teens–which is not my audience at all…uggh!

If I list my books in the adult sections, teens won’t find them and readers looking for an adult book will likely be disappointed in the heat level of my stories. Again, I’m marketing to the wrong crowd. Retailers aren’t making it easy for us.

In general, the answer to my business end of the question is that I need to find where teens hang out and then put my books in front of them and see what happens, perhaps delineating my efforts and focusing on specific groups for each type of book I’m marketing. Whether that means focusing on high schools and library visits, or hanging out on Wattpad and Goodreads in YA chat rooms to connect to readers, that may be where my marketing time is best spent. So much to learn and so much to do!

One thing I do know is that I need to give my readers of Contemporary YA romance another book–soon. Rest assured, I happen to be working on a project as we speak! More details to come.

Do you authors know who your target audience is? Where to find them? How to reach them? How to get your book in front of them?

In respect to the internal question, are you clear about your goals for success? What does success look like to you and when will you know if you’ve achieved it? Do you sometimes feel that the job is more than you expected and not worth the effort? Are you forging on because you have the passion and drive to see your dreams come true, or are you plodding along wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into and why you’re making yourself crazy?

C’mon…dish people! You know you want to comment.

I’m giving away an audiobook copy of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES to one lucky person who comments and requests to be considered. HIFH_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)Just leave me a valid e-mail address in the following format to enter. email address(at)—(dot)com. I’ll announce the winner next Tuesday!

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9 thoughts on “Who are you writing for?”

  1. I know who my audience is and I write for them. I know not everyone will like my books, but that doesn’t mean I have to change the way I right to attract them. Because to do so would mean letting my target audience down. And also myself. I know when I am writing something that I shouldn’t be. Nothing goes right. Staying true to my brand is the path I take.

    1. Excellent plan Katy Lee. It surely helps that you are writing for a specific line within a publishing house. Their guidelines don’t allow for much deviation and they have already “created” an audience for your work by branding the line with other books of this type over the years. It’s a nice bonus that you love what you write and you’ve found your niche. WTG!

  2. Paula, your blog today was great. Do any of your young readers write to you? For me, I do know who I want to reach, so it will be exciting when I put my story out there, discovering if I have reached them.

    1. Hi Gail, yes, I have gotten some wonderful comments from teen readers so I know I’m reaching them with some of my efforts. I have an especially avid teen following on WATTPAD where I’ve posted Savage Cinderella and have it available to read for free for six months. There have been over 650,000 reads in the past two months and about 600 comments, mostly all very positive. I comment back as often as I can and am happy to have found a following there.

  3. Sometimes I think I’m just writing for me — writing the story I want to read. My problem is I read everything–from romance to horror to literary. Can you say ADD? Yep. That’s me. So I’ve narrowed it down to mainly paranormal.

    But, yes, I need to find my audience and soon.
    Thanks for the post.
    Mitzi Reinbold w/a Mitzi Flyte

    1. This is a problem for many writers, Mitzi. I wrote two adult paranormal/fantasy manuscripts and two romantic suspenses before I found my YA voice and realized that’s where I needed to go with my writing. But i couldn’t NOT write the dystopian story I had in my head, so I forged ahead thinking my audience would follow. Not so. Some have, but I’ve really not been targeting the YA sci-fi/fantasy folks well enough and my contemoprary YA readers have been looking for my next book in that genre. It’s a tricky business, but it makes sense to focus on just one genre to build your readership. Hard choices are just another part of being in the business of writing. Even Nora has an entirely different audience for her JD Robb futuristic crime novels than her Nora Roberts romances. Readers want what they want.

    1. It is a long learning curve! I feel a little dense that it has taken me this long to figure out how to streamline my efforts. geesh! Thanks for stopping by, Brenda.

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