Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Part 4: Musings on Writing - Writing for a Genre and Audience

You have decided to write the great American novel. You know you have to choose a theme and a location. You'll have to create a compelling story and characters. But, have you considered your audience? It's tempting to think that everyone in the world will want to buy your book and that everyone will enjoy it, regardless of the topic or writing style. Realistically, I'm sure you can see the folly of this belief!

Consider some of our most successful contemporary authors. James Patterson writes detective novels and thrillers. Stephen King writes in the suspense, and some would say, horror genre. Danielle Steel writes romance novels. A simple way to start thinking about your audience is to identify the genre in which your book might be categorized. Once you have a handle on the niche market and the readers you want to target, you may think you are home free. There are many other factors in targeting your audience and I will address a few of them here.

First, when you sit down to work on your manuscript, stay focused on your target audience. For example, if you are writing a book about crime or a murder mystery novel, think about the people you know who read these types of books. What is it that attracts them to this kind of book? If you don't know, do a little research. People love to talk about their favorite authors, actors, books and movies. 

When you have a picture of your target audience, you might want to create an imaginary reader. Stephen King often speaks directly to his readers - referring to them as 'dear reader' and, more recently, 'dear constant reader'. You might even go so far as giving your target reader a name, a face and other background information. 

If you find yourself getting off track when you are writing or reviewing your manuscript, test the content against your own 'dear reader'. 

The worst possible outcome for an author is to work tirelessly on a novel and find that the target audience they want doesn't relate to the story, the style, the characters or the theme. 

Secondly, the peripheral considerations for your novel should also fit the genre and readers you wish to address. Pick a provocative title that helps the prospective reader identify your book as something they might want to buy. Everything from title fonts to the color and image on the book cover can be a potential attraction for your target audience. 

I will talk more about publishing considerations in a future blog post, but for now, it is important for you to understand that it isn't just the content that will attract a prospective reader. 

The process of writing an novel is a long journey and it can be difficult for a new author to stay on track with the story and the characters and to maintain a consistent voice (we'll talk more about that in a later blog post). There are some writers who write only for their own enjoyment but most of us write with the hope that someday a reader will pick up our book and read it cover to cover and maybe even tell friends and family to buy a copy. If that is your goal, don't lose sight of your target audience (dear reader) as you are writing your book. When the book is published, it is out of your hands. You will not be able to talk to every person who walks into a book store or searches online for the next great book. The book will stand alone. 

Unless you are already a famous author (if you are, then why are you reading this) you can't count on the existing pool of fans to snatch up copies of your novel. But, if you nailed the genre and remained focused on your target audience, you will have a much better chance of transforming your 'dear reader' into your 'dear constant reader'.