Misconception: Everyone Will Be Interested in My Book

Guest Post by Irene Watson

Why is this a misconception?  The reality is you aren’t writing the book  to “everyone” or “general public” because there isn’t such a thing.  Think about it.  Does every book in the book store or on Amazon appeal to you?  If you answered no, it just proves that “everyone” or the “general public” isn’t interested in every book – you are the “general public.”  If you answered yes, then you are in denial…big time.  Ask yourself:  Will erotica appeal to me?  Will left-wing politics appeal to me? Will horror appeal to me?  Will poetry appeal to me? Will a graphic novel appeal to me?  And, so on. And, ask yourself:  Will I buy this genre?  It’s doubtful you answered yes to each one, therefore you will not fit into the assumed category of “everyone” or “general public.” I’m amazed how many authors actually think they write to the general public without giving it thought or research.  These same authors attempt to market to the masses and in the end become very disappointed that the book isn’t selling.

For example, just  recently a reviewer brought to my attention  that some of the content in a book didn’t have upper case when it should have and considered this as an editing issue.  When pointed out to the author he explained to me that his subsidy publisher rep suggested this type of writing because it was “hip” and follows the pattern of how texting is done.  That’s fine, however the issue was the book wasn’t written to the “hip” generation – it was written for middle-aged men having relationship challenges.  The other issue is the rep is obviously the “hip” generation and doesn’t understand the importance of writing to the target audience. It was a bad match as well as bad advice.  Just one issue, such as this, could create loss of the author’s credibility with readers in what potentially could be a powerful self-help book.

The most important aspect of writing is to identify your audience before you start writing.  (This is the same audience you will eventually market to.) Writing a book isn’t just writing a book.  I can venture to say most authors have never even thought of this aspect but it ends up being the most important.  And, from some of the books we get in for review, I know the author hasn’t given this any consideration and in the end is disappointed that the reviewer didn’t flip head-over-heels about the book.

Let me give you some hints on what needs to be done.  First of all, you need to be extremely specific on knowing who you are writing to before you start writing.  Again, I repeat:  before you start writing the book.  You need to create a persona with demographics.  For example, you need to know your reader’s fears, hopes, attitudes, core values, emotions, lives, needs, desires, age, gender….basically, everything you know about your best friend. Why?  you ask.  The answer is simple: So you know who you are writing to! There is no other answer.

But, there is more.  For example, if you are writing a non-fiction book you need to know how your reading audience absorbs information.  Are they methodical and need hard data, logical presentation, and are detail oriented?  Or are they spontaneous and are quick to make a decision, don’t need hard data and want their problem solved this minute?  Or are they humanistic and prefer to read stories of real experiences so they can relate or parallel?  Or are they  competitive and are success/goal oriented, highly motivated but require options? 
As well as knowing how the target audience absorbs information, you as the author needs to know how the target audience reads.  In the case of the middle-aged-men with relationship challenges I spoke of above, it is doubtful they would find much “hip” in lower case texting type of writing interspersed in the book. They probably want the facts and a quick fix and would find these editing issues a distraction, especially if they are the methodical type and want logical presentation.

 If you have written a nonfiction book and didn’t know which persona you were writing to it’s a good possibility you’ve set yourself up for disappointment. Bottom line:  You need to know who you are writing to.

But, this isn’t only for nonfiction books.  It’s also important to create a persona and write to that specific audience when writing fiction books.  And, again, I’m saying:  There is no such thing as general public when writing a book.

What is your experience in writing?  Did you create a persona before you started writing? I’d love to hear your comments.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.


Posted on May 10, 2010, in Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. That’s a nice article Irene! Thanks for sharing! One point that I want to add, drawing on my personal experience, is that sometimes you need to write your book first and only later think about how to market it. In writing poetry, for example, the creative process is so spontaneous that your mind almost suddenly becomes incubated with an idea and words then pour out spontaneously, you don’t even get enough time to determine what style of poetry you would like. The creative process works its own way through you and seldom allows a chance to carefully choose your audience and accordingly you content/style of writing. In case of fiction, there is a good deal of spontaneity involved but you get more time to think what you want to write. In non-fiction, I think your view works the best as you do a good deal of conscious thinking and planning of your work and consider your audience before putting your pen/keyboard to work.

  2. Irene, what you’re describing has a parallel in the business arena (much as this may appall writers). It’s Marketing 101 – understand the consumer’s wants and needs, and develop the product for it. As opposed to throwing the product out there and hoping everyone will want it.When I was working on Crossover, the first of my fairy chronicles trilogy, I spent hours in the area book stores studying current popular authors. Not just their writing, but how the book was positioned in the marketplace – the language used to engage prospective readers on the back cover, the authors’ websites, the marketing materials. The pricing – what were the fantasy genre’s price points for known vs. unknown authors. The packaging – what did the book look like; what did and didn’t stand out on shelf. And so on.A book is a product. While the creative process itself is wonderfully unique to each writer, and once might conceptually say they have a "patent" on it, whether or not the target audience will buy it depends on the 5 elements of the marketing mix: Positioning, Packaging, Pricing, Placement and Promotion. Such is the global marketplace in which we live.Claudia NewcornAuthor of Crossover & Dark FireAward-winning fantasy fiction like nothing you’ve ever read!www.claudianewcorn.com

  3. Well said, Irene, and I dare say the source of the myth flows from the ever popular belief that everyone loves a good story. However, as you point out there are different kinds of stories and no one truly loves every kind of story on every topic under the sun. Novels and poetry are forms of entertainment; thusly they compete for entertaining bucks and attention with time spent surfing the web, watching videos, TV, sporting events, movies, and concerts — plus there are billions and billions of other books by authors with stories to tell. Non-fiction books compete with the growing glut of “free” information just a few clicks away on the internet.Regarding the “hip” recommendation from the rep – who most likely has never written a book – only foolish writers attempt to write into an “in” trend. Especially when “everyone is doing it” the creative appeal is gone. e e cummings has come and gone!!!Marketing concepts take form before the first word is written – envisioning the persona of potential readers helps to focus the flow of the story. It’s the creative storytelling style that brings sizzle to the marketable meat that generates the buzz about the book. My recent book "The Nose Saga: Cancer Stinks!!!" – Infinity Publishing, 2010 – is a series of cutting edge stories told in various styles along a timeline of bizarre events. Changing styles wasn’t an effort to interest everyone, but rather to adapt words to fit specific parts to resonate with identified segments of targeted readers. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, likewise, you can’t write to reach all of the people even some of the time. The authors most troubled when everyone doesn’t rush out to buy their newly published books are usually the ones who champion causes, or those on a religious track, and self-proclaimed geniuses sharing their wiz-bang brilliance. Their disappointment comes when their passionate words fail to ignite the interest of everyone in their topic.Writing is like public speaking, the goal is to reach everyone in the room, and the best way to connect is to make eye contact with a few interested folks seated up front. Reach out to them with the well directed message and their attentiveness will stimulate the interest of the audience. Forget everyone. Instead focus on the perceived profiles of folks in the core cluster of the identified target market segment. Enjoy often…JohnJohn F. HarnishVice President Author Services & Special ProjectsInfinity PublishingAuthor of: The Nose Saga: Cancer Stinks!!!

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