So recently I’ve considered why I write and, in some respects, how I get that writing done. But today, spurred on by an article in Writer’s Digest entitled ‘One in a Million’ by Kip Langello, I’m pondering who it is I’m actually writing for.
In the first instance, it’s me. As selfish as that might be, I think all writer’s begin with the need to write for themselves. Whether it’s because we want to write a story that we most want to read or because we feel we can improve on something we have already read, writer’s initially set out to write in order to fulfil their own needs.
But then I think more generally about the novel I have written. Who do I imagine will read it? As the author I can not presume to have the same experience as a reader when I pour over all those words that I eked out over the past two years. So, who else might enjoy it, might love it as I do but for wholly different reasons? Who might recognise the effort I have put in and feel the story itself is so worthwhile that it could not have been told any other way?
Kip Langello created his own fictitious reader – a woman called Peggy. He crafted her as he would any other character in a book, but chose not to commit her to paper but rather to write his books with her in mind. In this way, perhaps, he is targeting his novels at a particular audience: women like Peggy around the world, who may not be her, but may be similar to her and, as a result, enjoy reading his work.
I don’t think I’ve really thought about this aspect of my writing at all. When I’m writing I don’t think about who might read it, or if I’m writing it ‘for’ anyone. I just write. I’m not sure I know how to do it any other way.
But then, in the editing process, when you’re pulling together your themes and your narrative to really tell that story you envisaged – who are you doing it for? When I imagine that dream coming true – of having my book published and it being a best seller (well, if I’m dreaming, I might as well dream big, right?) – I see the finished product, I picture it being opened up and a set of hungry eyes devouring those first few words, then hands rifling through pages, desperate to take in every scene and discover what is going to happen to these characters I have created…but I don’t ever see the reader themselves.
There are a few things I could presume to know – it’s more likely to be a woman than a man. Probably a higher chance that this woman is between the ages of thirty and fifty. It’s more than possible that she would have a job and uses reading as a means to escape, to slip into someone else’s life for a while to forget about her own.
I don’t know what other books she may have on her shelves. What brand of clothing she’s most likely to wear. I have no idea if she has children, or a husband or even a girlfriend. I wouldn’t presume to know which way she voted in the election. And in many ways, I don’t want to know. All I care about is that she enjoys reading what I have written.
But of course, to market that novel you have to know who you are targeting. And for that you need to know who, out of all the readers in the world, is most likely to buy your book. Yet, I feel like I’d be pigeon-holing my story if I did that – if I determined an end user of a product I have not yet completed. Even considering my work as a ‘product’ makes me purse my lips a little. At the moment it isn’t some consumerised bundle to be sold, it’s still a part of me, of who I am. It defines my journey as a writer.
So perhaps I’m not ready to think of my reader just yet. Perhaps I still need to be in that process of being a writer alone. Maybe one day in the future I’ll create my own ‘Peggy’ and realise the wisdom in Kip Langello’s words. But, for the moment, I’m quite happy to accept that anyone could read my book: I’m still in the realm of dreaming up ideal possibilities, after all.
For related material check out:
But I want to Target my Readers by Stephanie Beman
Are you Targeting the Wrong Readers? – 7 Tips to fix the problem on Write to Done
Writing for One in a Million by Nathalie Jeter
Here’s how I’m doing on my novel writing targets:
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