Friday, November 13, 2009

Target Your Audience Part II

In yesterday's post, Davin's comment about multiple elements in stories made me consider how we go about targeting our primary audience. My response in the comments, while somewhat effective, doesn't get into the heart of the matter as well as I'd like.

As Davin states, someone might pick up your work even if they're not in your target audience. And though he is a scientist, we know that Davin prefers to write (and read) literary fiction. He also has a thing for Leo Tolstoy, but we won't get into that here ;).

However, this doesn't preclude him from say, picking up a science fiction novel, or a mystery, or an epic fantasy/thriller/insert genre here based on any number of factors. He could know the person (thank you for the compliment, by the way), get a recommendation, or even be entranced by the cover art.

Unlike public relations and marketing, where your audience is ironclad, audience in novels is a much more fluid thing. It's also infinitely more organic. I mentioned yesterday that I tend to write stuff for a more science-y crowd -- that's my audience because those are the types of characters I most often hear in my head.

Renee, Susan, and Anita, on the other hand, write for teenagers because (I'm assuming here, ladies, so correct me if I'm wrong) that's the age level they hear the voice of their main character in. Bane writes MG. Same reason.

So you see, your target audience changes based not on research and targeting and all that fun PR stuff, but on who the main character is. This is also why someone like Davin (or any of my dear readers) can pick up a random book in a different genre and still enjoy it. You might not understand the common tropes in the story, but if it's a good novel then it doesn't matter. An interesting plot or an interesting character will always win the day.


Michelle D. Argyle said...

Good thoughts! I try hard to relate to the main character no matter if they're 5 or 50. In the end, it's the personality traits that I relate to that really get me hooked into a story. I'm not much into fantasy or sci-fi, but there are some of those out there that I love dearly. And you're right. It's the plot and the characters that got me interested.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Now you have me thinking, Matt. On a Friday.

I'm going to say that we also write characters based on what we understand the most. My brain is in history gear all day. I teach it Monday through Friday, I read it for fun, and I write it. I bemoan the fact that I don't write contemporary, but I don't think I could if I tried. Same thing for fantasy- my brain refuses to work that way.

When it comes to picking up a novel out of my genre it can be done, but it's sometimes a painful process. YA novels I've read recently annoy me because they often stray from the rules the author has set up or they take the easy (and often ridiculous) road to solve a problem. But the audience for those books is more concerned with the plot and the characters (usually boy and girl) to care about the feasibility of the conflict resolution.

When I'm reading outside my comfort zone of literary and historical fiction I'm almost looking for a reason to put the book down. My time is valuable and I don't want to waste it. So I support writing to your target audience, but also working not to alienate any secondary audiences.

Susan R. Mills said...

I so agree! And by the way, how do you know I'm not just writing YA because I'm having a mid-life crisis and wish I was 16 again. :)

Renee Pinner said...

Option B in Susan's comments is definitely why I write YA. I agree that the main character determines your target audience to a degree. But there have been plenty of books about young people written for adults. I think it has at least a little to do with content and story line.

Matthew Delman said...

Stephanie --

I loves getting that brain matter working. ;)

The reasons you mentioned for writing historical fiction are the same reasons I write fantasy/sci-fi. My brain works that way because it's what I enjoy reading, therefore it's also what I enjoy writing.

Susan --

I don't. That's why I said to correct me. :P

Renee --

Subject matter is definitely a big part of what your target audience is, no doubt about it. This is also why I believe most books you read in middle/high school shouldn't be read until at least college. Because then you're ready for the subject matter.

L. T. Host said...

As usual, you have a great point. I think that target audiences can be really fluid, though, but of course I base this statement off myself: What I love is a really good story, and it generally doesn't matter what genre it comes in, though I'll certainly be more likely to pick up a story in a certain genre than in others. (Fantasy over Sci-Fi, for example). But that doesn't mean I am everyone, and everyone certainly isn't me.

Also: I'm going to out you (on your own blog)-- HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! May be a little early, but still :)

Adam Heine said...

You reminded me of something I should've said yesterday: my target audience is me. I write what I want to read.

Matthew Delman said...

Glam --

Welcome to the (occasionally) nuts world of FtP! And I'm happy to now have two-thirds of The Literary Lab reading these here ramblings, considering a lot of recent changes have gone on in my writing because of y'all's thoughtful posts.

L.T. --

Thanks for the birthday wishes.

Adam --

My target audience is me too. Since I love reading about science and science-focused fiction so much, I tend to enjoy writing those topics as well.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Thanks for the welcome! I'll be back. Now, if we can get Scott over here. He's a busy man. :)

Davin Malasarn said...

Sorry, I'm coming to this late, but nice post! I agree with you that if the story, or the characters, or whatever you happen to like is strongly developed in a story, then you can enjoy that story.