My friend, Trevor, who reads like a sumbitch (which is Texan for “a lot”), once mentioned to me that he wasn’t a big fan of Neal Stephenson’s book, Interface.* Trevor might not remember this conversation. I think we were roleplaying trolls in Everquest at the time—also, this was fifteen years worth of beer ago—but he said the novel felt like one long rant. I was ambivalent about the book, meaning that it was quick, twisty, and clever, which made me both want to write more and to give up forever.
Who’s your audience?
When you’re writing a book, knowing your audience is king. Interface had an ongoing theme about audience categories: demographics and focus groups. It broke the demographics down into hilariously named groups. Here are a few groups from the book, which I’ve interpreted for you:
Post-Confederate Gravy Eaters
Mall-Hopping Corporate Concubines
Activist Tube Feeders
Trade School Metal Heads
Middle-American Can Stackers
Now, fast-forward fifteen years, and I find myself working in the marketing department of a very large corporation for my day job. And we use the same demographic break-downs.
Okay, not exactly the same. But similar. Early-adopters. Up-and-comers. Tech-vets. It’s the same darned thing.
Where am I going with this?
Identify your audience
Selling books in these two genres varies wildly.
My main target audience for culinary mysteries:
My main target audience for fantasy with romantic overtones:
My recent experience at the Tucson Festival of Books drove these points home like nothing else. Without fail, I could identify a mystery fan at fifty yards. She was a well put-together woman with a roomy shoulder bag and a glint in her eye.
Selling my fantasy books is a harder proposition. My target audience often doesn’t like direct sunlight.
Marketing to these wildly disparate groups is enough to make me go a little crazy. So how do I choose which to promote more?
Write what you like to read
Write would you like to read—that’s the standard advice for writers, but I call B.S. This is what I propose…
Write what you can sell…and secondarily, what you like to read
I know I can sell mysteries. Not so much fantasy (although I will finish out the trilogy). Luckily for me, I enjoy mysteries immensely. Coincidentally, as I get older, I realize I am more like my target audience…
My gawd, I am a middle-American can stacker.
* Stephenson co-wrote the book with his uncle and published it under the name, Stephen Bury, but it now has a cover that flat-out says Neal Stephenson.
A new Josie Tucker mystery is coming out this summer. When exactly? Soonish! Sign up for my newsletter so you’ll be the first to know.