When I set out to write Broken Fate, I only knew that I wanted to write young adult fiction. That’s what I love to read (yes, even as an adult) and the story ideas that come to me are almost exclusively YA. It’s just the way I am and I’m cool with that. I wanted to write what I love, in the hope that others would love it, too. What I didn’t fully consider was just where the audience for this book going to come from.
I don’t have a ton of friends. I don’t mean this in a “Oh, pity me” type of way. As a card-carrying introvert, I prefer it that way. Since I work from home, socializing opportunities are in short supply, anyway. I’m also at an age where I’m no longer going to clubs or college and meeting tons of new people all the time. I like my quiet life, though, and wouldn’t change it.
As a freelancer, I do most of my corporate work in the fields of science and technology. Much of my blog work centers around either finance or the board game/RPG industry. What do these fields have in common? They’re male dominated. As a result, the friends and coworkers I do have are adult males.
What does any of this have to do with books? All of these people that I know and cherish as friends and clients are not the target audience for a YA book about teenagers falling in love and that complicates my marketing efforts.
Most of my friends are into military thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi/fantasy, horror, and spy novels. These are all great genres, but they are not what I write. When Broken Fate released, my friends and clients were thrilled for me, but they just weren’t into reading it and leaving reviews or spreading word of mouth. It wasn’t that they weren’t supportive, it just wasn’t their thing and I totally respect that. I wouldn’t be into reading a super-gory horror novel, even if my best friend wrote it, because I don’t enjoy horror.
But what I’ve learned is that by not writing something that my nearest and dearest would read and enjoy, I sort of shot my marketing efforts in the foot. I lost out on that boost that you get from having your friends review the book on Amazon and talk it up to their friends. That early momentum you can get from having your friends talk your book up pre-release? I missed out on that, too. I’ve had to find my tribe of readers from scratch and while it has been rewarding, I can’t help but think sometimes that it would have been so much easier if I’d written something that my friends and family would read and enthusiastically recommend instead of something that makes them say, “That’s nice,” and move on.
It might have been easier, but would it have been better? That’s the question and I think the answer is no. Had I written a hard core sci-fi novel or a spy thriller, I would have had that built in audience to help with my marketing. However, I would not have enjoyed writing the book. It would have been a slog for me and, worse, it probably would have shown up in the final product. In fact, the book may have been so bad that it would never have been published, rendering any marketing boost moot.
In general, while it might be good advice to write for the audience you already have, that advice only works if that audience also reads what you enjoy writing. Or if you are such a versatile writer that you can write anything and make it sound great, even if you hate the genre. Despite my marketing difficulties, I still believe that it’s best to write for the audience you want. Write the books you want to read and hope you find people who share that interest. Writing what makes you happy equates to better books, and better books tend to find their audiences eventually.
Writing fiction is a voluntary occupation. If you aren’t enjoying it, you’re going to make yourself miserable and it will show in the work. Then it won’t matter what built-in audience you have because a bad book won’t sell. (Yes, there are exceptions, but don’t bank on being one of them.)