Knowing Your Audience

I thought I would talk about audience today. Specifically, knowing who you are writing for and how you can ensure that you’re hitting the mark.

I’ve been shown the value of understanding who might want to read my stories several times.

When I sent in Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero originally, I kind of knew who I expected my eventual readership to be: boys, ages 9 – 15. Simple enough, right? After all, the book is about a boy in that age category who wants to be a superhero. I expected some girls might like it and the occasional adult too.

Then my editor, Robert Runte, and I had the chance to meet last Fall. He told me that when he got the manuscript he passed it over to his 13-year-old daughter to read. His decision to do the edits was made when she told him, “You have to do this book, Dad.” That was unexpected, but welcome news. Then later when I was hearing from Lorina and Robert about what they thought the book might do and commented on some of the other elements of the book, I realized that adults might enjoy it too.

Now that I’m going through the galley (for final proof), I have found some of the humour and scenes that adults might relate to better than kids. Was that entirely planned? In some cases, yes and others it is a happy coincidence. Probably the result of me, an adult, writing for the me as a young person. I was trying to satisfy both people.

The next obvious incident was when I came up with the story idea for Boyscouts of the Apocalypse. When I actually told the campfire story and saw the reaction to it, I knew I was onto something good. When I started having adults request more stories (and the Scouts too), it was obvious that the idea appealed to a large range of people.

So, when I started writing the story (episode 3 of the podcast version will be available at the end of the month as part of the Action Pack Podcast) I tried very hard to write something that the boys and adults both could enjoy. I’ve had some positive feedback from both groups who have listened, so I think I’m hitting the mark. Please tell me different if that is your experience.

The point is, don’t write something for a group if you have no way to know if that group is interested. For example, writing about sparkly vampires for boys probably won’t work unless you have some twist where the sparkle gives them super powers or something interesting. If you think the idea might work, talk to a few people from that group and see. If they are interested, maybe you have something good. Maybe you won’t.

What I’m suggesting is essentially doing market research.  If you are intending to sell something, you can never know too much about the marketplace you are selling to.

If you are only writing for yourself, it doesn’t really matter. In that case, the only person you need to satisfy is yourself. Mind you, if you are like me, you are probably your own toughest critic.

Good luck with your writing.


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