You have to know who your audience is. Otherwise, you can’t give them what they want. Don’t see the link? Then you should have been with my husband and I when we were trying to pick out an audiobook for a recent road trip.
I had three different books already checked out. I just had to get him to choose one. They were:
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land. A journalist’s memoir about her struggle as a single mother to survive on a domestic’s salary. Land often contrasts her life with that of the upper middle-class who employed her.
Spying on the South by Tony Horwitz. Over 150 years later, the author retraces Frederick Law Olmstead's epic journey across the American South in the 1850s.
11/22/63 by Stephen King. A high school English teacher has the opportunity to travel back to 1958 and attempt to prevent the assassination of JFK.
But each title got voted down. I knew Maid was going to be a stretch, but it’s my book club book. I tried! Spying on the South also received a no vote because he doesn’t know who Frederick Law Olmstead is. Wait, I stand corrected. He knows who Olmstead is and that's why the book got voted down. 11/22/63 got a no vote from both of us because it is 30 hours long and we only have a ten hour trip. Trying to find 20 hours to finish a book when we get home is not a realistic goal.
Back to the library! By this point I was getting a little slap happy and started suggesting everything with a man’s well-muscled torso on the cover, a solid design element in the romance section. Not that I read romances, but those covers might convince me to give it a try.
This time we came away with:
The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. A modern middle grade fantasy set in the same world at Percy Jackson.
I Know a Secret by Tess Garritson. A mystery in which a female detective and a female medical examiner work together to solve crimes. Also a TNT series.
Case Studies by Kate Atkinson A private detective takes on three cold cases that took place in or around London.
What does this teach us about audience? Most people read a variety of books. I’m the children’s writer but my husband chose The Hidden Oracle. He also picked I Know a Secret. My choice was Case Studies. I will attempt just about anything except romance.
Another thing to remember about audience – go with the common wisdom and you are going to get it wrong. If you write romance, you are writing for romance fans, not women in general. Really.
We are told men read nonfiction. I’m female and I read nonfiction. My son reads nonfiction. My husband? Almost never unless he is fixing something or building something. Urban fantasy, alternate history and science fiction are much more likely. I paid the price for ignoring this and had to try again.
Which of course sent me to the library and all those romance covers.
To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey. Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins November 18th, 2019.