…soapbox time for a great friend, Author and Poetess, Jane Dougherty, who Guest Blogs with me today… #TBSU…

…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…


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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!







Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

32 responses to “…soapbox time for a great friend, Author and Poetess, Jane Dougherty, who Guest Blogs with me today… #TBSU…

  1. Very nicely said Miss Jane. I think a lot of Authors think this, but few dare to speak ill of it, or write the demon’s name down. We all tip toe around A’s den knowing we need it, but fearing we might anger it. You seem to have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the beast, and for this I applaud you.


    • Thank you, Lockie. And thank you Seumas for being associated with me. It’s so difficult to get noticed by just writing a great book. You have to kowtow, pimp yourself, force your book into a category it doesn’t fit, and in addition, you have to select an age group you want to read it. I read somewhere recently that to rise to the top of the heap you have to select a very small heap ie pick an obscure Amazon category that describes your book exactly. Okay, I said, I’ll call my books utopian fantasy. Is there a utopian fantasy category? Nope.


    • …quite so, that man . Lockie:)


  2. Reblogged this on Jane Dougherty Writes and commented:
    I was tearing my hair yesterday and Seumas offered to lend me his blog to let off steam. Here’s the rant in all its glory.


  3. The Harry Potter series are a good reason why books shouldn’t be age sorted. Any number of adults enjoyed reading them. Last week a friend picked up some Percy Jackson books thinking they were just ordinary fantasy books., winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award they may be but I’m finding them good fun. Yes I love my Pratchett, Grisham and Harlan Coben all adult books that I’m sure some youngsters would understand and enjoy. Narrow the genre too much and far too many people wont look at our books and yet mine could be enjoyed across a huge age range.
    Kindle’s new target tool is not going to help many authors or many readers.


  4. Terrific, and I agree completely! I have a theory that publishers aren’t really selling individual books — they’re selling categories. This incredibly fine sifting of genres and age slots is just a form of marketing, and as far as they’re concerned it’s successful.

    Frustrating for us writing folk!


    • I know that book stores and libraries have always categorised books to create a certain sense of order. But it used to be along the lines of cookery books, birdwatching books etc. In fiction the only books that were on a shelf of their own were those that were intentionally written as ‘genre’ books, like police thrillers and romance. Everything else was classed by alphabetical order of the author’s name. What is so wrong with that?


  5. Hear hear, Jane!! I would much prefer my children to read Jane Austen and Fitzgerald than See Jane Run any day. The Amazon classifications perplex me. My new book, Changeling’s Crown for instance, is written with an eye to the New Adult reader–IE. those in college–but Amazon’s grade level stops at 12th grade. Why? But do I think someone under 19 would not get into the book (any of them)? Goodness, I hope they would try it, as I would hope someone *cough* with as many years out of college as I might try it! I would never tell my child *not* to read something just because they’re not “in the age group”. Want to read James Joyce? Virginia Woolf? Anaïs Nin? Be my guest, dear child. Anything else is just silly, in my opinion.


    • I hate the age censorship thing. The only thing I don’t like the idea of children reading is pornography, and by that I mean anything with no literary merit written with the sole intention of titilation. And there are enough unhinged adults around who shouldn’t be reading those kind of books either.


  6. What a wonderful rant! I did a similar one myself last year, and I may have to borrow your line about who my target audience is: “People who can read.” Absolutely love this….


    • Thanks, Leanna. I hate this idea of targeting an audience. I prefer to believe that intelligent people of all ages can make their own minds up about whether or not they want to read my books. Of course, they have to be able to find them, and they won’t as long as Amazon insists on sticking them in ‘sword and sorcery’, calling them YA, and consequently putting off most intelligent adults. And we all know kids don’t buy books, so what’s the point of targeting them?


  7. awesome post!! Have to reblog this one! Thank goodness for Mr. Tolefson in fifth grade not assuming we were morons and introducing us to Tolkein and Salinger.


    • I bet your parents didn’t object to you reading books that were not written precisely for your age group either. What’s happened to people? Do they not trust themselves to choose a book without help anymore?


      • They want to cocoon kids in bubble wrap rather than let them learn and grow… I blame it on Dr. Spock. He started the whole thing….


      • It’s just so counterproductive to try and protect kids from stuff that they already do (swearing) or will do as soon as their parents’ backs are turned (drinking and sex). We talk a lot about the culture of the young. It seems to me that it’s a double-edged sword—putting the child first in everything even those areas that shouldn’t concern him or her at all (what the French call l’enfant roi), but also bringing the parents down to the level of the child, wanting to be ‘friends’ peers, never to grow up. It’s infantilising for everybody!


      • It’s a shame when parents forget that the responsibility is the be a parent first and BFF far second. Wrapping rugrats in 30 layers of bubble wrap is a disservice.


  8. Reblogged this on Wild and Woolly Wordsmithing and commented:
    An awesome post that i have to reblog. Write for people who can read regardless of age. Bust down the doors of those pigeon holes!


  9. Jane, I agree that the excessive courting and manipulating of data, and trying to fit into bizarre but niche categories can get people and books into ridiculous situations and indeed in places where they will never be found by anybody. I’ve seen a fantasy novel about Bigfoot classed as Natural History. Maybe it’s now part of the curriculum and I’ve missed it. I always read whatever I fancied as a child and if I didn’t understand something I investigated further, and learned. I enjoyed children’s books but I still do today. Mind you, I’m not sure if children’s books exist. I’m now working at a second hand bookshop and we’re forever debating where to put books, and in our case tends to be a bit of a flight of fancy. Unfortunately machines and algorithms don’t have imagination but we do…Let’s keep writing for people who can read and let’s hope by some miracle they find us…Maybe some sorcerer will come to our rescue!


    • Exactly my hopes too, Olga! The point about children’s books, children’s classics anyway is that they just go on giving. We read and reread because, guess what, they are great works of literature and as such can be aread and enjoyed by absolutely anyone. Parents gave books to their children because they thought their children would enjoy them, not because they were in a particular corner of the bookshop. Nobody seems to want to trust their own judgement anymore.


  10. laurie27wsmith

    Nice to hear you on Seumas’ soapbox Jane. Marketing is the hard bit. 😦


  11. I agree, Jane. I don’t know what my target audience is; just anyone who likes a good story, I hope.


    • I’m reading a book at the moment that is obviously written for teenagers. The language and the references are all from the world of the thirteen to fifteen-year-old. I can see why it fits into what I would call the children’s category, and I wouldn’t describe it as YA. Like you, I don’t write to a particular age group and I hope the language and the emotions are more adult. Again, we get back to the question of how adult is a young adult supposed to be? I believe she/he is 100% adult in a state of fine tuning.


  12. YES! YES! YES! It’s the first thing the agents ask isn’t it. What age group is your work aimed at? My reply – Terry Pratchett style – is always ‘anyone who’s interested.’ It has some violence in it and a couple of swear words so I’ve given it a cinema rating (PG) but I really don’t care how old my readers are. I think I’ve given it an Amazon age range of 12+ and 18+. That should confuse ’em. I have no idea about grades, I’m English.




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