Telling stories is one of the things I do well. As I relate what’s in my head, or on my heart, I am pleased when someone listens, when they seem to understand where I am coming from.
But, when the story is on paper, things become a little more difficult. We can’t make eye contact with the person who is “hearing” our story. How do we know they are “getting it?” Even harder, how do we find the people who will understand, the people who might share our interest in the story we are telling?
These days, there are so many variables. If we are writing non-fiction, we can share our work in venues where other topics like ours are being discussed. A book about gardening might go over well at a farmer’s market. Books about biblical truths could be placed near other materials purchased by someone interested in reading and explaining God’s word.
But what about fiction? When authors finish a book, they may think that Everyone will love it. After all, it has taken part of the writer’s heart and soul to get those words on paper. Won’t everyone want to read that. The short answer: “No.”
When we are considering publishing our books, we need to put ourselves in the place of our readers. Who are they? Are they exclusively Christian, or is there a wider appeal? How old are they? Once we picture that person, we need to think about their habits. How often do they read a book? Do they want to hold a traditional paper copy in their hand, or would they be okay with an electronic version? How much are they willing to pay?
Publishing companies have experts who can discern these answers. That is why so many of us try to attract an agent who will have a relationship with these companies. The experts can then find and attract our audience. But, in these days when authors are taking on more of the marketing responsibilities, we need to understand, and to be willing to do some of the research ourselves.
So, in a nutshell, how can we get to know our potential reader? By observing them. Social media is a wonderful avenue for this activity. We need to hang out with our readers, find out what they like, what they don’t like. Once we are in a group of readers, we can even ask direct questions. People love quick polls.
“Would you rather hold a real book in your hand, or read it from an electronic device?”
“What time period do you enjoy reading about?”
We can even ask for help when writing: “What are some names you love for the hero of a book?” “Which cover is most appealing to you?”
The bottom line is, if we know our audience, we can make feel more confident about writing “for” and even directly “to” them. Nothing is better than that personal, well thought out touch from a friend.