Like many of us writer-types, I belong to a few writer’s groups on Facebook. As an indie-author it is nice to have a few places where I can ask question, maybe get some feedback and also occasionally vent about things that my non-writing friends aren’t quite so interested in.
One of these groups offers up a question of the day as a kind of social lubricant. Although I’m not the most active poster, I do tend to give these questions a look, especially when it is a field I know I am lacking. The other day the question was posed that I perhaps have the hardest time with.
“What is your target audience?”
I scanned the responses and was surprised by how specific many of the posters were able to be. Age range of 15 years. Gender. Shared interests. Very astute, well targeted responses from writers who knew details of who they were marketing to so that they could better spread the word of their books.
I started to feel bad about how little I knew of what my target audience is. I didn’t, and still don’t, even know where to start drawing the lines for what my target audience is. And this is awful. Every guide I’ve read about gaining readers and selling books makes it clear that a very specific audience is the key to drawing in success.
‘Maybe I should just bite the bullet,’ I thought. ‘Maybe I should just go with men aged from 18-40. That is the group that I’m in. Maybe if I start targeting that audience I’ll ‘grow up’ as a writer.’
But then another thought entered my head.
Why should I?
No. Really. Why do I need to restrict myself to a target audience? I mean, sure, common sense (and experts, I guess) says that this is the way to reach success. Carving out what is to be your audience. But isn’t this knowledge also from the only way to reach an audience was to be published traditionally? And aren’t most of how these ideas of target audiences were formed is from outdated notions of what men and women are expected to want?
I’m sure there are a few people reading this and shaking their heads at the above questions. They can probably identify where my knowledge is deficient and they can even point to my grand-scheme lack of popularity as proof that I don’t know what I am talking about.
But, ask yourself, why are we letting conventions and common sense that predates the internet define how we need to market ourselves?
And, come on, I write about dragons and adventure and magic. This was the sort of thing that I had to practically had growing up and throughout college because it was widely seen as being lame, and I’m only 37. Now, all of the things that I was supposed to be embarrassed of essentially rules mass entertainment. Yeah. I’m talking comic books and dragons.
And you know what else? I don’t want to restrict my target audience. I never want to think that I am writing for mainly men or mainly women. Sure, I might write for different age groups and soften up some harsh language and not go to quite so many dark places if I want a book to be read by a 12 year old as well as a 40 year old, but do I really need to change the fundamentals of how I write?
I honestly don’t think so.
I write about flawed heroes and complex villains. I want there to be sword fights and magic. I want to tell stories of love and death and dragon fire. And occasionally I want to do dark vampiric satire of modern Japan, but let’s put that aside for now.
I don’t want to write to men of a certain age or women of a certain age. I want to write books that you can enjoy, as long as you dig those elements listed above. And I don’t want to rule you out of my marketing plan because research didn’t consider your demographic as likely to think that fantasy and adventure is worthwhile.
I’m probably overthinking this. I’m probably making this harder on myself than it needs to be.
But I’d rather dream big and inclusive dreams than take the narrow path.
After all, I’m an adventurer and troubadour.
Who wants to join me on a quest?
If you enjoyed this post, please like my Facebook author page and become a patron through Patreon. Or if you like podcasts and want to hear more of my thoughts on Japan, check out Living Japan. If you want to hear me talk superhero comics, listen to Brent & Lydia Talk Starman. And of course, follow me on Instagram and Twitter. Thanks!