QueryTracker Blog

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Losing Sight of the Target

by Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL

 ©Stina Lindenblatt

The choice of genre that we chose to write is based on many things, but the most important driving force is passion. You need to feel passionate about what you write if you want your readers to experience it, too. If they feel your passion, chances are good they’ll love your story. The downside of writing about what makes you passionate is that it might cause you to lose sight of your target.

When I refer to target, I’m talking about the true target audience you’re writing for. If you write middle grade stories, you’re writing for nine to twelve year olds. If you write young adult stories, you’re writing for twelve to seventeen year olds. And when you write new adult stories, you’re writing for seventeen to twenty-five year olds. Those examples are categories, but if I were to ask you who your target audience is for your given genre (e.g. romantic suspense, medical thrillers, cozy mysteries, etc), are you able to identify it?

It’s important to know who your target audience is, but it goes beyond knowing where to direct your promotional effort. Don’t get me wrong. It’s vital that you target the right individuals if you want to see maximum sales. But your marketing efforts might not necessarily focus on your true target audience. Take middle grade fiction, for example. Most middle grade readers between nine and twelve years old aren’t reading book blogs. Most aren’t reading blogs, period. It’s the adults with the purchasing power (parents, teachers, librarians) who read the blogs. The majority of young adult books are bought and read by adults. That’s not to say teens aren’t reading them. They are. But they don’t have the disposable income to buy them. They tend to borrow books from their friends and from the library.

It’s important to know who your target audience is, but it goes beyond knowing where to direct your marketing effort. In traditionally published books, there are checks and balances. The publishers have determined what is acceptable within a given category or genre. Graphic sex in young adult novels will be edited to fit the guidelines (in other words, it won’t exist). The stories and voice will be authentic to the true target audience. If it isn’t, it won’t be published.

These checks and balances don’t exist in self publishing. Which means it’s easy to write young adult books for the wrong target audience (i.e. for adults who love YA stories instead for teens). It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important to teens and write a non-authentic story. It’s easy to write a book and forget who your true target is, but due to pressure from reviewers, you are forced to re-label its genre (from YA contemporary to adult romance). It’s easy to write a book that becomes controversial, for the wrong reasons.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? Often controversy leads to increased sales, which can push a book into bestselling status, because readers love to know why a particular book is controversial.  If becoming a bestselling author is the only reason you write stories, well lucky you. But if you write stories to touch the heart of your target audience, your true target audience, please don’t lose sight of who they are when you write your stories. They’ll thank you for it.

Do you know who your true target audience is? Do you write for them, or do you write the books you crave, even though you’re not part of the true demographic (i.e. a male writing romance)? Or do you try to aim for both?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes young adult and new adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog


Natalie Aguirre said...

So true Stina that you need to know the target reader audience and the adult target audience to spread the word about your book. Getting the voice of your characters right for your target readers is critical. I've read it's very hard to nail down in middle grade. Sigh.

And you're right that middle grade (and most teens) do not read blogs to find out about books. It's the adults that do.

Traci Kenworth said...

Great advice, Stina!! Knowing how to target the buying audience as well as those you're trying to reach with your books is very important.

Jess said...

Great reminder to keep your audience in mind while writing :)

Unknown said...

CS Lewis once said (paraphrasing) "If no one's writing the kind of book you'd like to read, write that book yourself." I write a book focused on what I think would make an excellent read for me. This is why I write fantasy, because I love reading fantasy more than anything else. (Which is not to say good fantasy isn't being written. Rachel Aaron and Brandon Sanderson are doing an excellent job. But there's way more YA being done.)

And I fall into my target audience: nerdy adult who is interested in puzzles and games, and enamored by worlds that only exist in imaginations. I feel that by writing for myself, I'm writing for all those like me in need of a good book.