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How do you hit your target audience?

How do you hit your target audience?

 

hitting target

Several years ago my brother started a travel agent business and asked me to create a marketing blurb for his website. My first question to him was, “What is your target audience?” To which he replied, “Everyone. This business is for everyone.” It took us several days to come to the  agreement that marketing strategies by their very nature are targeted towards a specific group. It is not to say that your product won’t have crossover appeal but there is a core group to whom you will aim to please. The same is true with writing—whether it is fiction or non-fiction.

Focusing specifically on fiction there is a die-hard group that will devour every piece of historical fiction they can get their hands on. Some love thrillers and this is the first section they seek at the bookstore. Your book, your story will be written with an audience in mind. You will know them because either you are a part of that group or you have done your research.

Aim to get published

When you first begin to write your novel you will write from the heart. You have a story to tell and whether it is about flesh-eating zombies or nuns forsaking all for love it will come from your soul from which all questions stir. You chose this story because your imagination would not let you deny it. At the root of every story is the connection you have to it; every story you write will be a part of you in some way; it is life experiences mingled with knowledge and creative thoughts. But as you begin to go back edit and rewrite you will become more focused on your target audience. Those that say they don’t think about this because they are simply writing what they want are either not looking to get published or content with having their group of family and friends as their audience. This is not totally unheard of; William P. Young said that he only had his family and a few close friends in mind when he wrote The Shack. But they begin to share it with the world. Well, this doesn’t happen often and so our focus must be on our core group of readers. Is it the young mom who busies herself with the kids all day and then falls head over for that beautiful romance novel in the evening?  Maybe it is the ex-military officer that delves into historical fiction every chance he gets. Editors want to know who it is that you aim to please, therefore you will want to know too.

Make the book hard to put down

We write to our target audience and still make it our own—our own voice, theme, in other words our way of viewing the world. We learn the genre if it isn’t one with which we are completely familiar. We read books by authors who are doing it and doing it well. I say, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Follow the tracks of the wheels already invented and later down the road veer on your own path. Have others who love the genre read your work. They know the flow of a sci-fi novel. They can decipher if certain technicalities are off. If you are a lover of the genre, write the kind of fiction you want to read—not the forgettable kind that you read on vacation and forget the storyline altogether by the time you’ve arrived home and unpacked. Write the mind gripping, gut-wrenching stuff that has you commenting to your FB friends on how great it was. You don’t know how to write such a story you say? Read the last book that did this for you. Now read it again and this time, not for pure pleasure. Pull on the techniques—why was it so compelling? What was it about the characters that made you care about them so much? Why did you cry at the end? And why are you still thinking about it even now?

Keep the target audience before you as you rewrite. Imagine them skimming the pages of your novel. See them laughing at certain points, glued to the pages while they are preparing dinner or listening via audio on their commute to work because they simply could not wait until the weekend. See them and write for them.

Take those first steps towards writing your novel

Take those first steps towards writing your novel

So you think you want to write a novel?

I don’t think that any real writer would kid you and say that writing is an easy task. Everyone likes the look and feel of the experience; sort of like those people who love the smell of coffee but hate the taste.

But most don’t know how or where to get started and although if feels sufficient enough to simply say, just start writing, there are a few more things you may want to do to get the ball rolling.

Read like the wind

Reading really is a fundamental key to being a good writer—and that is in any genre. Reading introduces you to new words and ideas it also gives you a good sense of flow if you are writing fiction, a good sense of formatting if you are writing non-fiction. Additionally you will know what has already been written on your given subject. Now, I’ve heard people say that they want to do something different, something that has never been done before. Well, you won’t know what has been done if you aren’t reading. Reading in your genre let’s you in on what your target audience is looking for. Even if you’re bent on re-creating the wheel at least you will know what has been working and why it works.

But I don’t just encourage writers to read in the genre in which they will write—read other genres because there are structures to the story which are universal. It will expand your ideas and jolt your creativity. It will broaden your perspective of the world even beyond the profession of writing.

Read books on the craft of writing. This is quite important. When I began seriously writing fiction some years ago I went full-fledge ahead (as is the nature of my personality). After all, I was a writer and I knew how to construct sentences and paragraphs. But I learned by reading trade magazines that there is a structure and flow to fiction writing. And although it may seem like your favorite author is just writing off of the top of their head it is most likely that they are consciously aware of the structure. In some aspects it takes the struggle out of writing the book. When you write without knowing the fundamentals it is like trying to build a house just by looking at a house you admire. It just doesn’t work. And if you are looking to get published an editor will quickly recognize this major flaw.

The beginning

Join a Writer’s critique group

Writer critique groups work well for many people. It gives you the opportunity to exchange ideas and get feedback from others who are on the same path. I have never joined a critique group. I am not sure why except to say I have always received feedback in other ways—I wrote professionally before I began my journey as fulltime fiction writing. My writing was constantly being critiqued. But I do know others who have built lasting friendships with members of such groups. If you’re new to the writing I do encourage it. Sometimes members of the group can help if you are truly struggling with how to get started. I caution you to choose a group where there is a balance between published and unpublished writers. If you are all newbies it may not benefit you to get feedback from those without a clue. Likewise, if they are all experienced writers you may feel intimidated or they may not want to slow down and take the time to help you with the fundamentals (especially since you aren’t in the position to reciprocate information).

Network with other Writers

Networking in any profession has its benefits. But the thing with writers is that our job is completely freelance. There is no office to drive to where writers are sitting at their cubicles tapping out story after story (and most of us like it that way). Find other writers, authors and readers via social media:

Facebook – There are a bevy of groups here. Screen them carefully—many writers are there just to promote their work and offer no real benefit aside from this.

Google+ – This site is underused and underrated but I have found several groups that offer feedback and support for work

Tumblr – Blogs, blogs and more blogs. Again you will screen to find the ones that are most beneficial.

Be diligent

For most of us, writing a novel is not a must but a want. And it is so easy to get sidetrack with life when there is no real fundamental gap for our passion—at least to the visible eye. Others won’t consistently say, “Listen, you have to get busy writing your book.” Well, at least most of us won’t get that. But the thing is, if it is your passion, has always been your dream, you owe it to yourself to get it done. And as you do you will find it to be the most cathartic, difficult and wonderful thing you have ever done.

How to escape the one-dimensional character trap in fiction writing

It amazes me that in this day, we still look upon individuals and conclude a one-dimensional experience about them even if they are telling us with their actions and words everything to the contrary.

The same can apply to our stories. When writing fiction our characters represent a culture, a type, an experience.  And even though we can never represent all faces of that culture or experience we can ensure that our characters are multidimensional and that we have not short-changed them as we describe who they are.

I remember when the movie, Boyz n the Hood came out in the ‘80s I was working at a bank and a  co-worker said to me: “Oh, my god, I had no idea.” I guess she was under some delusion that I was silently suffering in a violent, impoverished environment while everyday coming into work to process expense reports for a living as a way to alleviate the pain of my miserable existence (The truth was, I was as shocked by the depictions in the movie as she).

 

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And yet I think she missed something even in that particular movie. Although there was an obvious theme of the injustices on young, African-American young men, there was so much more. Even within that subculture there were various dynamics and experiences and even within the same experience there was a different impact on each person. There is no one voice. There is no one experience. Even as two individuals gaze at the moon, each will see something different, each will reflect on his or her own connection to it. It is what makes us as humans so wonderfully amazing.

As you are telling your story I encourage you to ask the “what if”. Try looking at your story from various angles. Try to write against type. Add a new dimension to your character, perhaps one you haven’t seen or read about before. Add the “what if” element and see where it takes you. Perhaps it will be ridiculous. Or perhaps it will allow your fiction to speak to a broader audience. You may even learn something new. Remember, we are always growing, constantly discovering, forever seeking.

Can you really write for everyone? Find your target audience

Can you really write for everyone? Find your target audience

Ann-Marie Slaughter recently wrote an article, “Why women still can’t have it all” for The Atlantic. It was more of a confirmation than it was a revelation of what women have known for years and that is that women can’t really have it all (at least not at one time). The notion that we can bring home the bacon, fry it up, serve it, and take care of that man of ours and do all of this equally is about as likely as fairies with pixy dust coming to magically clean my house when I’m having an off day (although this would be nice). What they did find is that women can have it all, but not all at the same time. You choose. Oh, whether you admit to it or not—you do choose with your actions.

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In all that you do there must be focus and intent. This fact is also true in our writing. It’s a gushy, fantastic sentiment to believe as we are writing our novel the entire world will love it. Oh, the smile that sneaks across our face with this thought in mind. But the truth is some of our closest friends won’t even like it. Oh, yes. It’s true. But that’s O.K.

Stephen King talks about the ideal reader. The ideal reader is the one reader who is a representation of all readers like her. Maybe she is 25ish, recent college grad working her first professional job, dates when she has a chance; she knows all things Bey and lives by her iPhone. Her apartment is sparse and filled with functional pieces only.

Or perhaps she is African American, growing family, works the treadmill more often than not, cherishes the time spent with her book club pals. She and the hubby love cruises and drives up north to watch the leaves change colors during the fall. No matter what she is like your ideal reader will be the face you see as you write. When you edit especially, you will do it with her in mind.

It is the one of the reasons for Stephen King’s success. And Tyler Perry’s as well. Everyone’s not into it. But there is that person, who represents that group and when you get it right with them they will let you know and reward you by being a loyal follower.

When Perry’s first movie debuted, it was met with so much criticism it was probably good that he did not pick up a review. They blasted for his “chitterlings circuit” concepts and plots. And even when his sit-com debuted many predicted it would not work; it was pedestrian, simple, demeaning and not funny. But years prior, Perry had the fortunate opportunity of getting instant feedback from his audience as he performed his stage plays. His work brought relatable stories to many. And they told him so with the applause and by filling auditoriums and laughing their butts off as he parading the stage as Madea. He wrote for them. He appealed to them. And they loved him for it. He tapped into an audience dying to be fed; an audience which had been overlooked by mainstream filmmakers. Ahh…there it is…his niche, his calling, his ideal audience.

Perry knows many will never go to see one of his plays, watch one of his movies or T.V. shows. In fact, they will continue to blast him for having the audacity to show up for work every day. But that’s fine too.

And many may scoff at what you write. But find that audience, that reader and know that they are waiting on you to write what can only be written by you.  Yes there will be critics, but those who love it will be your faithful followers.

Now, this is not to say that you do away with your originality or the voice which makes your writing exclusively you–not at all. That voice will drive you. But that reader will give you focus.

Kip Langello wrote an interesting article about this in September 2013 edition of Writer’s Digest. And he says: “When a writer achieves this focus…the reader buys into the story…the reader will not merely read the novel, she will enter it—and she won’t emerge until it’s over.”

That says it all.

What do you think? I would love to hear from you