…it’s truly remarkable what an excellent range of different Guest Blogs yeez get when yeez open up yer Web Pages to others… prolific wordsmith-ess, Jane Dougherty adorns my page today with a superb Guest Blog… she calls it a ’rant’… I see it as a terrific reality check for publishers and readers alike… some of we Lads and Lassies do scribble stuff thats’s neatly labelled in its own JONGGR… others often produce broader themed WURK... Jane’s views on it are crystal clear… LUV IT!…enjoy…
Today I am interviewing me. You can find me on my blog most days, and you can find all my books on Amazon. I tweet a ton of poetry too so you might want to follow me on Twitter too. There’s a button for that somewhere. Blog home page, I believe.
Today I am going to answer that ugly question: Who do you write for; what is your target readership?
I truly hate this question, and what follows is a rant explaining why.
Yesterday I found a review of The Dark Citadel on Goodreads. I was doubly pleased, firstly because the reviewer who had picked up my book because she liked the cover is neither a fantasy nor a YA reader, and secondly because she didn’t even realise it was classed as YA until she looked for the book details on Amazon. She said that while she was reading, the ages of the main protagonists didn’t ring alarm bells in her head. It didn’t alter their humanity in any way; she just wanted to know what happened to them.
This reaction is a perfect example of how genre stereotyping can reduce a book’s visibility rather than increase it. It also incidentally shows how important it is to have a good book cover.
To go back to genre though, one of the worst forms of booksellers’ censorship must be the age recommendation. Taking their cue from the film industry, they insist on sticking fiction into age-suitable categories. What is fine for early learners at infant school surely shouldn’t apply to real books? I can understand that a school reading series is planned to progress in terms of vocabulary and concepts. A five-year-old has a more limited vocabulary that a ten-year-old, but will never increase her reading vocabulary unless she reads books that make demands on what she can assimilate. It’s called learning.
I have no idea at what age a human being is considered to have acquired an adult reading age, or even what that entails. I doubt Amazon does either. However, given the school literature reading lists for fifteen/sixteen year olds I think the expectation is that they should be able to read classic literature. Vocabulary, like understanding of life in general has to be built, grown, added to. And you don’t do it by always doing the same things, talking to the same people, going to the same places, and reading the same books.
(Personally I’d prefer a small, very expensive piece of Swiss chocolate)
Problems start when you bring marketing into it. Kids are targeted with confectionary, sodas, films, fashion, theme parks, computer games, because they are the things they already like. Just keep giving them more and more of the easy, brightly coloured, sickly sweet junk that catches babies’ eyes and palates, and they’ll be thrilled to bits and so will the junk manufacturers. It means not only will we produce a broad generation of children all liking the same things, but they will hopefully never grow out of it. How many adults do you know who still eat sweeties? Drink fizzy sodas? Watch Disney films? Pretend they are still sixteen? Don’t, for heaven’s sake give kids something that might be older than their current tastes because that would be so unsuitable, destabilising and possibly dangerous. Wouldn’t it?
There was a time in France not so long ago when children were taught how to appreciate adult tastes in food and drink. Children ate the same food as adults and from an early age were introduced to the taste of wine and coffee. The idea wasn’t to turn France into a nation of obese gourmets with advanced liver cirrhosis before they left school. It was an education of the palate. Nowadays, French kids swallow the same junk poisons as the rest of the civilised world and are all the poorer for it.
Kindle has recently introduced a new super-efficient target tool for not-adult fiction. You can now pinpoint to a pimple, to a facial hair, the age group your book is intended for. Whoopee! All you writers who have been chewing the ends of your fingers off worrying about what would happen if a nine-year-old read your MG book that you think is really only suitable for ten-year-olds can sleep easy. Amazon has taken care of it. Your book will be listed as unfriendly to any but ten-year-olds.
(The young Cicero reading. I bet he’d have been allowed to read Crime and Punishment before he was out of nappies)
I am not playing that game. The answer to my own question is that I write books for PEOPLE WHO CAN READ. I write for people who like my style of writing, who like escapism, who still reach into the back of every wardrobe in the hope that…I don’t care how old or young you are, as long as you have an adult reading age, because yes, folks, even though my protagonists might not have signed their lives away to the bank in exchange for a house, I still write about them using adult words.
My main characters are young people but they are not morons. They have dreams and responsibilities. They aren’t superheroes and adults don’t follow them in droves over a cliff because they happen to be the main characters in a story. They are just like you and me but without kids, mortgages, mid-life crises, career angst, and with the shine still on their idealism. They are what we used to be like and still are if we look hard enough.
(Deborah and Jonah deciding which way to go)
I’ll let you into a not-very-well-guarded secret. I have no idea how to market my books. When I was growing up we decided whether we liked the sound of a book by opening it and reading some of it. Why is that tactic no longer acceptable? I would love to have thousands and millions of people read my books, but I can’t say: they are New Adult shape-shifter romances set in New Jersey and the hero is really hot so if that’s your thing you’ll love my books. I can’t say that they are like anything else I can think of. So, you know, the only way to find out whether you’d like it would be to try the ancestors’ method of reading some of it.
I’ll shut up now, Seumas, and get back to what I do best. Writing. Thanks for the loan of the soapbox J
…thanks for that, m’Lady Jane… a thoroughly entertaining post… if any of yeez want to share yer opinions on this or anything else that grabs yer fancy, the soapbox is free here at all times… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…
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