In re: Audience

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by skip.knox, Jul 12, 2017.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    I read some advice today that made sense to me. I took the advice and it made even more sense.

    We are routinely told to decide who is our audience. Equally routinely, I reply that I don't know who my audience is, that my audience is anyone and everyone, or that it bloody doesn't matter. These statements are all true. They are also unproductive.

    The advice was this: use yourself as the audience. It sounds silly, certainly too narrow, but once I thought of it as a starting point, I saw the value. Because one reason I come back with the smart-guy responses is that I did not know where to start in defining the audience. So I got this.

    The ideal reader for Goblins at the Gates is age 35 and up, either gender, who enjoys novels with rich detail and interesting characters. The ideal reader is someone who enjoys historical dramas, low fantasy, and military adventure along the lines of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire and Harry Turtledove’s The Misplaced Legion or How Few Remain.

    I actually began with between 35 and 65, and male only. I present this later version to show that once you have a starting point, it becomes easy to expand and change the definition.

    Notice that the definition is specific to the book, includes age and gender, though it could also include things like level of education, political or religious affiliation, and so on, depending on the book (more applicable to non-fiction). It also includes some stabs at genre and some "you may also like" phrasing.

    I already had the comparison works, so that was easy. I had to think about the genres, because "alternate historical fantasy" is simply not very descriptive. I had to think about the kinds of books I tend to read and go from there.

    The wording is not at all complete. I'll throw out "the ideal reader" phrase, will think more about word choice in the genres, and might even add another sentence. The point is, by starting with me I was able to break the logjam on how to think about this. It's ridiculously obvious, isn't it? Of course I enjoy the book I wrote, that's why I wrote it. Presumably there are other humans on this planet who are somewhat like me.

    So, you know, at the end of the day, it really is all about me. :)
     
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  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Valar Lord

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    The ideal audience should be somebody interested in that genre. My chief Beta Reader likes my stories, but considers them too fantastical - says he doesn't care for tales 'where anything can happen.'
     
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  3. Rkcapps

    Rkcapps Mystagogue

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    I don't mind the 'fantastical' at all as long as it fits in your world rules :) so I'd be a part of your extended audience.
     
  4. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    This is great Skip :)
     
  5. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Lore Master

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    I like Auden's description of his ideal audience: people who like his work.
     
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  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Auden was a great hand with the tautology. :)

    I neglected to add the reason for doing this. It's because it gets used: the agent wants to hear this, not least because it means you're thinking about your book in marketing terms. If self-pubbed, some or all of the statement gets used in the summary on your Amazon page; I think it also helps choose Amazon keywords. And it helps sharpen your elevator pitch, when someone asks you off the cuff what your book is about. It is, iow, a useful exercise.
     
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  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Sadly, my target audience is from Proxima Centauri b, and they have yet to travel to Earth... I'm hoping they speak English when they get here and I expect huge sales when this happens.
     
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  8. Aurora

    Aurora Mystagogue

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    Audience has a narrow description in my mind. After much trial and error (2 yrs worth) I understand my audience to be mostly female readers who enjoy reading fantasy with strong romantic elements and political intrigue. Reading my reviews has helped me learn even more, so I definitely suggest that someday.

    About keywords, absolutely. The right keywords can place you in 1-2 extra categories aside from the 2 main Amazon gives you. Is there magic in your story? Sword and sorcery fantasy would be one keyword. Goblins? Mythology and legends would be another one, and so forth. Identifying your target audience before hitting publish will help you choose the proper keywords thus allowing Amazon to show the right readers your work.

    Starting out with yourself as audience is important though because we don't always understand the spectrum we fit into as readers either. Good insight all around though. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
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  9. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    Thinking about audience is very, very important if you want to market successfully.

    However, in many cases it is not about you.

    The most obvious example that disproves this suggestion is adults who write YA. I have a friend who just released a very successful fantasy book for middle schoolers. He is an air force veteran who has flown stealth bombers and warthogs in close support combat roles.

    His readers are nothing like him or his peers.

    Out of curiosity why is your ideal reader 35 and up?
     
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    It's important to reiterate that I say *start* with oneself--do not by an means end there. There will always be exceptions, but I daresay that your friend wrote a fantasy book because he himself loves fantasy. My suggestion was more for people like me who have trouble envisioning their audience, or who unhelpfully claim that their audience is "everyone."

    I chose age 35 because I was trying specifically not to claim "all ages" even though I think young people would like my stories. I chose 35 specifically because that's when people are finally grown up. In Republican Rome you could enter public service in your 30s--30 for questor, 40 for consul--so I split the difference. Also, 35 is the minimum age for U.S. presidency.

    But that's for Goblins at the Gates. My next novel has a younger hero. I'm still mulling over whether that means the book will have a different audience. Or, indeed, whether age enters into it at all. Four-year-olds will enjoy it less, I should think.
     
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  11. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Scribal Lord

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    Audience is potentially anyone and everyone but, yes, that is a bit vague. I write fantasy (mostly) so I try and gear towards an audience that like dark fantasy, aren't offended by sex scenes or violence and like worldbuilding. I've had non-fantasy readers say they enjoyed my short stories even though they don't read fantasy, and fantasy lovers say they didn't like 'the flowery prose or world building'.

    I work on the you can't please everyone theory and just write. If someone likes my work then they will tell their friends, and hopefully buy more. If they don't then they don't and move on. I write what I like to read. If I enjoy it, someone else will.
    Does it work - mostly.
     
  12. Storm_Of_Theives

    Storm_Of_Theives Acolyte

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    I like the idea of it being yourself. If you enjoy what you've written, then I'd guess there is someone out there who will too. I didn't start my novel knowing my audience, and frankly I'm still not 100% sure who it is. Anyone who likes the story, I suppose. As a child, I read books that were far superior for my age group. As an adult, I'll read children's books. So in the end, it doesn't matter.
     
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