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Posts tagged “On Writing

Know Your Audience

Do you have a clear picture in your mind of someone reading your books? Of who makes up your audience? Can you see them? Are they lounged out on a hot summer day by the deck by a pool, sipping mojitos, or are they cuddled on a plush couch during a cold blizzard covered in Afghan blankets sitting beside a roaring fireplace, or are they urban on-the-go chaps, sitting on a city bus, flipping through a tablet as they commute to work? I think we all have an idea of our readers. I do. Given my genre, I’ve always kinda pictured the demography of my readers to be predominantly male, 20-30 age range, eccentric perhaps. White, non-Hispanic on average. I’m sure you have your own ideal reader. But when fiction faces fact, we often find we’ve got it all wrong. Our audience isn’t who we thought they were. A couple of weeks ago, I did my first book signing with Barnes & Noble, you can find the result of that event here. But, I’ll say it again, I was more than nervous. Not just with meeting strangers, but that my perceived audience would not be in attendance at a nice looking place like B&N. I think my glaring mistake was what lit majors call, a hasty generalization, one of the more common fallacies people make. I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share on social media. As authors, as writers, if we plan on taking over and putting on our marketing hat, we need to know our audience.

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Now, let me be clear about one thing. I’m not talking about writing for your audience. You write what your gut tells you, and be honest with your writing. Don’t placate, that’s not what I’m saying here. Don’t write for your audience; write for yourself. Okay? Okay. What I’m getting at here is when we change hats, from author to marketer. Marketing is something I’m still getting my bearings on. And everyone has something to say about marketing. It should go without saying, any one pitching you a “formula” should be suspect. The best thing I can recommend at this point in my writing career is for you to experiment. Especially when it comes to spending some of your hard earned income. Don’t burn $500 bucks on a gimmick. Start slow. Learn. Test. Develop methods. Be scientific about it. And if you’re the kind of lass who has no issue burning $500 bucks, what are you doing here? Go get you a PR or HR or something. And if you’re getting upset because nothing seems to be working, come to find out you’ve only got one book on the market…I’ll need to ask you to leave this page now and go and start writing. I heard a marketing “coach” once use the analogy regarding marketing being the donkey and the book (or product) being the cart, stating, and I’m paraphrasing here, “writers often put the cart before the donkey.” Clever, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think a majority of writers are riding that ugly hay chewing donkey out into town without a cart. My own two cents on that.

Before we chase this rabbit farther down the rabbit hole, let’s get back to the subject at hand, knowing our audience.

Let me step back.

Remember that book signing event I mentioned before? I had thought, at the time, my audience was mostly men, 20-30 age range, white, kinda maybe a little strange, perhaps. Well…I was dead wrong. The majority of folks coming to my table and who actually bought books were women, between, I’d say, 25-35. Gothic, dark dressed weirdos? Nope. Average, modestly dressed. My favorite was this elderly African American woman who came to the table looking for a good scary story. I hope she liked it. What I liked most about her was, not just that she bought both of my books that were at the signing, but her grandmotherly appeal. She was a grandma looking for some dark fiction. A demography I would have never suspected were into my particular brand. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with Facebook ads. These are fun and low risk, well…depending on how much dough you’re sinking into the ad, I should say. Since I am experimenting, my budget isn’t anywhere over $30. But even with that low setting, I’ve seen the numbers, the data is confirming what I noticed at my book signing. More women are reading than men, and not just romance, but dark fiction too.

Recently, I wanted to check and see if Pew Research Center had done any polls and surveys into who was reading more nowadays. And they had. Back in 2013, they did a survey on “Who’s Reading and How.” Basically, summing up in percentages, between male and female, we read more and on what, as in paperback or eBook. Also, they looked farther into who, as in white, black, Hispanic, etc etc. I don’t put too much stock in the “race” demography. My interest is between men and women, and format. Marketing paperbacks is a whole other monster, I think, then marketing eBooks. eBooks are by nature, cheaper, and supposedly more convenient. There are still those dinosaurs, such as myself, who prefer paperback over eBook. But I’m not selling to myself; thus, I need to understand who is more likely to purchase my work.

PewPOLL

As you can see, some of these %s are kinda huge, not to sound like Trump or anything. Just look at the jump between men and women. Men are clocking in at 69% and women are at 82%. As the red wigged beast would say, “That’s huge!” I don’t care much for the ethnicity bracket, nor would I know what the difference is in marketing to various ethnic groups. The age though, I think is also important. While 18-29 is a larger %, the next to largest, the 50-64 age range, I find to be interesting. 50-64 is what I’d probably group generationally as “Baby Boomers.” The highest % are of course, millennials. There is some bleeding between groups, obviously, but for a snapshot, not a bad poll to reference when designing a marketing strategy. What’s also interesting to note is the still popular print & over eBooks. And the growing trend for audio books is also something to keep an eye on.

So, what do you guys think? What has your research shown you? What does it tell you? Well, again my post here has nothing to do with what or how you write. This, for me at least, has to do with how I market, or where I should be focusing my marketing towards. Moving forward, I’ll be doing my best, keeping in mind who’s actually buying my books. And how to get my books in their hands easier. Polls, surveys, data, and research are all great avenues to understanding out audience, but I think its also important to remember, these are tools, not gospel. If you’re visiting the blog today, I’d love to hear what you think, either if you’re a reader or a writer or both.

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Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of terror. He grew up in the small town of Vinton, Virginia, but in 2001, left home to enlist in the U.S. Army. Following his third tour in Iraq, Thomas moved to Houston, Texas where he now lives with his beautiful bride and amazing daughter. Thomas attended night school, with a focus on creative writing and history. In 2014, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from UHCL. Thomas blogs at machinemean[dot]org where he reviews movies, books, and other horror related topics.


Opus Questions with Kit Power

Inside the imagination of horror writers you’ll find untold curiosities. Strange and unusual stories crafted from equally appalling minds. But where do horror writers get their ideas? Certainly, from the world around them. No doubt. For the world, historically speaking, can be both strange and unusual. But I think equally important, horror writers hone most of their craft from reading the works of others. It most certainly feels like a prerogative. To write, you must first read. Thus, here with Opus Questions we delve into this line questioning. What do horror writers read? What works have helped shape their own words. What books have inspired these wordsmiths of the macabre? So, to keep things interesting and to be a bit villainess on my part, I’ve asked my guests to tell us what their favorite books are and why. And they can pick only two. You heard me. Just two!!! (laughs manically) So, without further ado, here is…

Kit Power:

It is, of course, impossible. Two favourite books? Just two? I’d struggle with the two favourite books I’ve read this year. Of all time? Ludicrous bloody question. Quite impossible.

I have therefore done what any honourable person would do – I’ve cheated. Here, then, are not my two favourite books, but rather the two books that I think have had the most direct and immediate impact on my writing life. Without these two books, I’m fairly confident you wouldn’t be reading this now. So, you know, blame them.

Or rather, as both books were written by Stephen King, blame him, I guess.

First up is IT. I read this book when I was eleven years old, and read it every year for the following ten years at least – normally over winter. Something about short days and long nights made this epic tale of the summer of 1958 deeply appealing – even with all the child murders, shape shifting monsters, and bowel loosening terror.

IT, Stephen King, 1986

IT, Stephen King, 1986

That first time though – jeepers. The book is dedicated to kids, thus giving the entirely false impression that it may be in some way suitable for them. It isn’t, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with the text will attest. It emphatically isn’t. For example, (and spoiler alert, I guess, but for heaven’s sake sort your life out and go read the bloody thing) the opening chapter of the book involves a six year old boy having his arm ripped off by a clown that isn’t really a clown but a monster that lives in the sewer.

Chapter 1. Things do not improve from there, to put it mildly. There was at least twice, during that first read through, when I had to abandon the book for a while, so vivid and terrifying were the nightmares (and for that matter, daymares) it invoked. The first was a passage concerning the strange death and even stranger life of a ten year old psychopath called Patrick Hocksetter, and the second involved the Losers Club preparing to storm what was clearly the haunted house from hell, which I wasn’t expecting any of them to survive.

But really, the book doesn’t let up at all – cruelty after cruelty, monster and human alike, a catalogue of horrors that avoids monotony by sheer force of imagination, of personal touch, of characterization.

Not Safe For Kids. And yet… reading it transformed my outlook. About what fiction could be. About what it could do. The notion that a horror story containing kids could have the kids get killed was a violation of what I’d thought of being a fairly iron clad rule of fiction – threat, sure, temporary cruelty or hardship, absolutely, but vicious death? Never! Impossible. And yet…

It was suddenly clear to me that actually, it was possible that there were no rules. That the gloves could come all the way off.

That anything was possible.

That’s the reason I write the kind of fiction I do – whatever the genre, this insight is my north star, the question I ask myself when I edit, draft, polish. Did I go all the way? Did the story?

So for better or worse, IT is why I write what I write.

The reason I write at all is “On Writing.”

The timing was perfect, that’s all. I’d gotten the book as a birthday present three years ago, after finally finishing The Dark Tower series which reignited my interest in King (yeah, I didn’t hate the end or the last three books. Sorry.) It sat on the shelf as I frantically completed a year of distance learning to improve my CV. I picked it up either as the course was finishing or just before.

On Writing, Stephen King, 2000.

On Writing, Stephen King, 2000.

And just POW! ‘Do you need permission to write? Very well, I give you permission.’ Lightbulb. Fireworks. Pick your choice of overworked synonym.

I loved writing. I loved it so much. I even didn’t completely hate writing essays about a subject I detested to get a qualification I needed. This realization collided with the fact that I’d been spending 8–10 hours a week for the last year on this course. That’s 8–10 hours of time a week ‘spare’. Unclaimed.

Wasted.

Would I go back to watching lame telly, or acquiring PS3 trophies? That would feel… not good. Should I perchance enroll in another course, maybe start trying to complete a degree course? My very soul shriveled from the thought of another five years spent thus wise engaged.

There was Another Way. Another Choice. The author who had most shaped my philosophy about fiction, and done so by raw example, had just advised me that writing fiction for fun was one of the greatest, most rewarding and pleasurable pursuits known to man, and that the more seriously you took it, the more fun it was. He’d shared his approach to the craft, which married so closely with my own I found it eerie (I guess not thinking then how it must be a fairly common approach overall – there may be more than one way to skin a cat, after all, but probably not a ton more).

Best of all, I had Permission. Permission to write. Permission to take it seriously. Permission to set loose that imagination in the service of telling a story, and making others feel by sheer force of language.

I sat down and wrote my novella Lifeline in three weeks. I still haven’t looked back.

 

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I want to thank Kit Power for taking the time and sharing with us a bit about the books that have helped shape his strange and unusual mind. Kit Power is an up and coming wordsmith of macabre. He has several anthologies he’s contributed to, all available on Amazon. His novella is also available, Lifeline. You can find Mr. Power lurking about on Ginger Nuts of Horror as a contributing writer and reviewer for the site. Or you can find him on his own site, here, discussing the art of writing and the world of horror entertainment. Kit Power will also be featured in the up and coming horror anthology, The Black Room Manuscripts, coming later this summer.