“My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure.”
I’ve read many books, ideas, proposals. A small, but shining few are good, and there is a significant trait that define them as such. The authors know who their audience is, and they write for that audience. Knowing your core audience is essential.
I am the first to admit how deeply personal putting words to paper is for me. It has always been subject to my interests, my thoughts, my ideas, my passions. I write because it fulfills me.
Most authors don't write for money or fame (or “fortune and glory,” as pulp fiction screen star Indiana Jones would have put it), but because they have a honest love of what they do.
But the authors who find success (as household names or finding a niche of readers who love their work), they realize that writing a book is about creating something that will find an audience, and moreso, something that finds the right audience. It’s about what the audience will love.
It’s not blasphemy or insensitivity, it’s truth. If a writer doesn’t know who wants to read their work, they won't find an audience. But knowing your audience isn’t the easiest task. There are many considerations, including:
- genre (what type of book is it? Fiction, nonfiction, memoir, sci-fi/fantasy, women’s fiction, popular science?)
- subject (light fare or dark? Happy marriages or abuse? New theories or battling disease?)
- length (short, long or in-between?)
- language (poetic or straightforward, child’s POV or adult’s, fact-filled or completely imaginative?)
- current trends (what is selling? What’s popular at the moment?)
- marketability (can you get this book to your core audience?)
Others arise as well, depending the answers to the above questions.
As an author, it is part of your job to find the answers to these questions, to understand about your core audience. It isn’t enough to write a good book that you think people will like. You have all the fodder you need to know what people like. What’s selling, being talked about, winning awards, popular in social media, or circling through book clubs? (What is most important to you will of course depend on who you’re trying to reach).
I’m not suggesting that your writing becomes impersonal, because that will alienate an audience as surely as will a book they’re not interested in reading. It’s about finding a balance, about shaping your work as you write it and molding it to the needs of your readers while still creating something that you love.
It won’t work every time. Not every idea is meant to be embraced by your readers, as popular and niche writers alike know well. At times, you will always fail to connect. Some writers feel the need to blame the audience, but it is not their failure for having preferences. It just means re-learning your audience, and writing something new.
While you write, the consideration should be that your book is for other people. It’s hard to remember that at times, in the heat of writing, lost in another world. But it is a core component of authorship. You mean very little as an author without a reader—and in the end, why write if you cannot share it with the world?
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I like to Twitter. Really, I do. But sometimes I have these dark, nightmarish moments that the little Twitter bird is going to peck out my eyes and feed on my soul. And in these dark, nightmarish moments, the Twitter bird looks like this.
Literary agent Rachelle Gardner knows that selling your book is as much the challenge, pleasure, burden and fight of authors as of publishers. And this is why.
Titling is key for any book, but methinks these celebrity memoirs were much more focused on memorable kitch value then brilliant book names.
The Abbeville Manual of Style presents a wonderful interview with Ed Champion, host of The Bat Segundo Show and book blogger. And because he likes Victorian literature and mint juleps, I’m automatically a shameless fan.
Maybe Chris Anderson of Wired shouldn’t have named his new book FREE (subtitle: The Future of a Radical Price). He was certainly thinking ‘free’ when he cribbed several of his ideas from Wikipedia and then did not edit or change them, leaving word-for-word passages in the final copy of the book. Whoops.
With the recent debacle regarding J.D. Salinger’s attempted copyright of his character to prevent J.D. California’s publishing of a sequel at a standstill (a federal judge has placed a restraining order on publication of the sequel), people are asking… who cares? Apparently, Holden Caulfield is not quite as captivating to today’s teenagers as he was in yesteryears. Yes, I thought he was angst-filled, snobbish jerk too.
Just when you thought book censorship was becoming a pastiche, angry citizens demand books be pulled from a summer reading list… or burned at the stake. In Illinois, Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN is remaining on the summer reading list for freshman at Antioch Community High School despite protests from several parents, while in Wisconsin Francesca Lia Block’s BABY BE-BOP nearly got a library sued over its accessibility, which has LGBT groups and free speech committees fighting to keep it from being burned.
Erin Miller of About.com gives us the first half of her “Best Books for 2009.” Agree? Disagree? I’m happy, but that’s because Guillermo del Toro’s THE STRAIN is sitting happily on said list.
Dick Cheney has just signed a deal with Simon & Schuster to write his memoir, which is anticipated to be published in spring of 2011. One might be curious if certain news-making incidents involving hunting companions will be included, but that doesn’t exactly fall into the realm of Washington politics.
Please don’t talk about sex… write about it. Times Online asks us: Who writes best about sex? Discussed? Taboos, full-frontal, the Kama Sutra, fantasies, the erotic lexicon, and more.
And not only that, but provides some tailor-made articles:
My new favorite agent-blogger, Chip MacGregor (what a name!), gives us an overview of ten items detailing where the publishing industry will be in 5 years. I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to put money on most of these.
The Royal Society is offering a £10,000 prize to writers of science books, proving that popular science is, well, popular. The shortlist is out, so if you haven’t started already, illuminate your mind.
A blog we recommend for all you comic, graphic novel and manga readers, one of the best resources out there is Publishers Weekly’s The Beat, the News Blog of Comics Culture by Heidi MacDonald. Chock full of news, links, YouTube videos, comic reviews and recommendations, this is an excellent resource for the casual reader and avid collector alike.
Perhaps it is not quite literary, but in an age of democracy, there are still kings. And when those kings pass, the elegant ways in which we remember them are worthy of any book. The King of Pop is dead, and TIME presents a beautiful article on the glory, the revulsion, the sadness and the eccentricity surrounding the rise and fall of Michael Jackson by means of a literary reference—the endearing but heartrending man-child, Peter Pan.
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Hey there, all you big bad book blog readers!
It has come to our attention that the blog was set up to allow only WordPress users to leave comments. Our apologies for that. The comments are now set up to allow anyone to comment with their name and an e-mail address. If there are blog posts you've been dying to comment on, please feel free to do so!
Thanks for your patience, and for letting us know when issues come up. We've always got an open ear here at the big bad book blog!
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A little late coming out, but never fear! Here is your list of interesting, weird and relevant book-news from the big bad book blog:
Derbhile Dromey of the Irish Independent gives us the pick of the litter: the ten best bookshops in the world.
What do Chengguan, Jai Ho!, Mobama, Phelpsian, Quendy-Trendy, Wonderstar, and Zombie Banks have in common? They are all competing to become the one millionth word added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
For the pop-song-writer in you, there are a few things you just shouldn’t write (or sing) about. Incidentally, these are all great topics for your next great novel.
Women, girls, ladies, chicks: summer is here! And with it, a new collection of books for every taste, of every genre, to tantalize and intrigue and humor us all.
Now step aside, ladies. Farahad Zama may be the next big name in romance, and he’s not afraid to play like a man. He’s already become the first man to win the Melissa Nathan award for romance fiction.
They’re calling it a thoughtcrime, but what is the line between stealing, borrowing and repurposing content for your own writing? George Orwell’s 1984 has been accused of lifting ideas from an earlier Russian novel, WE.
Memoirist and poet Kamala Das, whose soulful writings of India and women’s sexuality made her famous and controversial, passed away at age 75.
“I want to go on living even after my death!” proclaimed the young Anne Frank in her diary, and her wish continues to be granted. This year, the Anne Frank House Museum will be putting all of Anne’s diaries and papers on permanent display. The book based on her diaries continues to sell in dozens of languages around the world.
Get it right: it’s not angst, it’s dark. Teenagers today are eagerly reading books that discuss deep, disturbing and very adult subjects, including suicide, mental health, and physically-disabling accidents. Black is the new pink.
Consider the most significant problems facing the publishing industry today. Compare your thoughts to the Eighteen Challenges to Contemporary Literature at Wired.
Aspiring writers, fear not: the world at large is still rewarding the new and unknown. Debut novelist Michael Thomas has won the Impac Dublin prize, which is considered the “world’s richest literary award,” for his book MAN GONE DOWN.
The irony is obvious: a copy of Benjamin Franklin’s POOR RICHARD almanac has just sold at auction for over half-a-million dollars.
Remember how awkward it can feel to be the biggest kid in the room when you’re in elementary school? The Kindle DX is feeling it too. The debut of the larger-sized version of the handheld Kindle is pricier, wider, and—some say—ultimately less practical.
Hey, we don’t have short attention spa… BUTTERFLY! Harper's senior editor Bill Wasik discusses the effects of the Internet on a new age of people. Decide for yourself what it means for readers.
Have a great week!
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amateur trailer for THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak
The means of advertising books and movies are many: posters in trendy locales, website ads, reviews in papers or blogs, displays at stores, entertainment segments or interviews on popular news and talk shows, and word-of-mouth that becomes increasingly easy to pass along through digital means. There are avenues, no doubt, and lots of them.
But the most ubiquitous is the movie trailer. It is the a popular and effective method of reaching people because we are an extremely visual culture. We want to see. And trailers indulge us in this craving. We are tantalized by the thirty-second or one- or two-minute glimpse a trailer offers us of the movie to come. They can be clever, dark, funny, mysterious, odd. They plant in our minds an excitement, an anticipation of something that might not be available to watch for over a year. And yet we love the trailers and their shorter brethren, the aptly-named teasers.
In recent years the publishing industry has capitalized on this success by producing their own counterpart: the book trailer. The challenges for the book trailer are unique. Those producing book trailers must start from scratch, gathering relevant words and phrases and key ideas and then translating them into images. The trailers come in multiple forms: still images with words, words by themselves, clever image-collages, flash movies, the rare animation, and on rarer-still occasions, live-action actors on sets.
It is the latter ones that I find the most intriguing.
Because they are the most cinematic, they are the most familiar to the widest audience. They could easily be mixed with their movie counterparts on websites, television commercials, even movie theatres. By pursuing cinematic techniques in book trailers and placing them in new promotional avenues, can we generate more audience interest and thus more book readers?
Cinematic book trailers can be a gamble, to be sure. The more elaborate a trailer, the more resources that have to be purchased. You risk alienating certain members of your audience who might see the shift in advertising to more resemble movies as pandering to a dumbed-down, mass-media culture. Readers and authors alike might be upset that your actors or sets don’t conform to their view of what the characters and the locations “should” look like. Many of these are the same issues encountered in book-to-film adaptations (which I wrote a post about a few weeks ago).
But “cinematic” doesn’t necessarily mean just like a movie trailer. What should be encouraged is taking what audiences know and like and finding unique ways to translate this to a book trailer. If more companies and authors see trailers as being a widespread, viable method of advertising their books, the demand for trailer creation will grow, promoting competition, increasing the quality and quantity of the product. And the more of a quality product, the more the prospective audience will see it, and thus the more people will hopefully pick up the book.
Check out the links below for some examples of book trailers who take their cues from their cinematic counterparts:
- The Indigo King by James A. Owen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nte13CIUAqw
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: http://digitalbooktalk.com/?p=19
- A Great and Terrible Beauty by Gemma Doyle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L93HOOy-lSc&feature=related
What is the current effectiveness of the book trailer and how can we improve it? Let us know your thoughts.