“Know Your Audience”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a speaker, performer, or writer (bloggers included), the advice to “know your audience” is always spouted, and seems to be kind of a “go to” cliche. In fact, it goes hand in hand with “they just didn’t get it”.

I’ve seen blog advice for writers to be “the most” xxx. So if you’re a sci fi writer, you should be THE MOST sci fi on social media. So talk about how you went to the sci fi store to get some sci fi bread. If you write sci fi, then people expect EVERYTHING you write to be sci fi. Right? I don’t know. I kind of disagree. I don’t follow many writers, so I don’t know how everyone does it.
I don’t know my audience. I have a small audience of mostly quiet people. I appreciate all of you, but I don’t pretend to know what drew you to my page. Maybe you met me, maybe it was a giveaway, maybe Google took you to something I said that you really liked. Maybe you like my writing prompt Wednesday stories. I don’t know.
As a performer, “know your audience” is a lot easier to manage. When I danced for my hip hop class, for example, I knew that I had the opportunity to surprise and impress them. I’m not the best dancer in the class- not by far, but they had only seen me doing the teacher’s choreography (which had a difficulty level of like 20[out of a possible 10]). My “put together in 2 weeks” dance for them is very different from what my “put together in 2 weeks” dance would be for other dancers. And that would be much different than the dance I would do at a county fair, where very few of the audience has had exposure to bellydancers.   In hip hop- in which “twerking” is standard practice and the more booty you have, the better- a sexy costume and a lot of flashy moves works. In front of other dancers- especially the kind who can tell you who your influences are, whether you know it or not- I’d go for a more technical, bursting-at-the-seams-with-personality dance. With an audience who doesn’t know bellydancing, I’d still go for the personality, but I’d keep the costume more “traditional” and identifiable as bellydance. I’d avoid any and all “stripper moves” out of respect for the dance and for ease of the “NO it’s not exotic dance” conversations.
But when writing- how do you identify your audience? As a novelist- who are the people who will pick up your book? There’s no right answer. There are probably a lot of people who love all of my favorite books that I would not like at all. I write science fiction and fantasy. That doesn’t mean that you’ll love The Beast if you love the Anita Blake series or Twilight. You might not love Great Minds if you love Hunger Games. You might not like my blog if you love my books, or vice versa. You might not like Great Minds, even if you LOVED The Beast. So how, as a novelist, do you “know your audience”?
So far I don’t have an answer to this. All I can hope is that they find the books that appeal to them, and maybe they find each other, and maybe they DO love The Beast AND Great Minds, AND everything I write.
Until then, I just have to put out the best work that I possibly can.
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2 thoughts on ““Know Your Audience”

  1. It seems to me that the author’s identity is as much marketing as anything else. From a marketing standpoint, it makes perfect sense to give one person two different identities depending on the genre they are writing. Personally, when I find a writer I like I enjoy their work no matter what genre they are writing, because what attracts me to an author is their command of the language and their unique creativity. Their skill and their views will shine no matter the genre. When I find an author that I really like, I will read them even if it is a work in a genre I am biased against. Certainly, we are all different, and some people will refuse to read outside of their preferred genre. Marketing or re-branding, if you will, attempts to overcome those biases. Breaking down the demographics of an audience is certainly useful from a marketing perspective. As a writer, I think that the main concern should be effectively communicating your ideas. The audience is always seeking their entertainment. Effective communication will connect with that audience, and more targeted efforts enters the realm of marketing.

    1. I agree completely. I was never an author-loyal reader, so as far as writing books I’m definitely more worried about how each novel is on its own without thinking about how it relates to my other books or where I live or what’s in my twitter feed. I’m thinking more about blog content. Like, who reads it? What do they want out of it? Even though Great Minds is creeping closer and closer to publication, I’m not about to start doling out advice on how to write or get published. I like doing the #WPW (Writing Prompt Wednesdays) when I remember to actually post something. But I’m not about to turn this into a writing prompt blog, either. :p (However, I would love to do a writing prompt before and after to demonstrate just how important an editor/feedback/revision is. 🙂 )
      I guess I’m just feeling it out and working out what I’m saying here, if anything. 🙂

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