Who Is My Reader?

One of the first pieces of advice I recall hearing when I started my indie publishing journey in 2013, was; ‘know your audience.’ It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Know your audience, know who your reader is. Once you know who they are you can figure out how to find them, where they hang out on the internet, what social media they are likely to be on, what tags you can use to get their attention, who to market your books at and so on.

I remember struggling with this at the time though. And I’m still struggling now. Back then, I had written The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Parts One and Two, but while it was with beta readers, I very quickly churned out The Mess Of Me. The two were written side by side for a while until eventually The Mess Of me won the race and was released first.

The Mess Of Me has a 16-year-old protagonist and is essentially a book about growing up and the many teenage issues that go with it. At the time though, I didn’t think of it as Young Adult or as being aimed at teenagers.  I just listened to the voices in my head, as I always do, and they were young.  I soon figured out that not categorising and marketing The Mess Of me as YA was foolish and ridiculous. I had to get my head around something then. Was I a YA author? Did I just write YA?

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I didn’t have a problem with this as I have never grown out of loving YA books, and although I read a lot of genres, I do frequently return to YA and always feel like I am coming home. The problem was the next book. Though also having a teenage protagonist, and dealing with teenage issues, it was far harder to classify. Partly because the teenage narrator grows up and becomes an adult, and partly because there are two narrators for Parts One and Two, and the second narrator is an adult. In my head, this book was never aimed at anyone. I just had it in my head and wrote it.

I’ve got to be honest, this has mostly been my approach since too. This Is Nowhere features a grown man, but every other chapter dives back into the past to when the character is a young boy and teenager. I always felt like this one was probably better suited to adults though, so I categorised it accordingly.

The Tree Of Rebels was the first and only book I wrote with a deliberate audience in mind, and I think I mentioned on here several times while writing it, that this made it the hardest book to write. It sort of altered how I felt about the book. It was like I was trying to write to please someone the whole time.

The Tree of Rebels

Since then, I returned to just writing what I wanted to write and not imagining the reader first. This is fine when writing, but presents all sorts of problems when the time comes to publish the book. What categories and keywords do I choose? How do I market it? What genre is it? How do I find the people who will like this book?

Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is a classic example of why I am still in such a muddle and still struggling to find my readers. It has a young narrator, but also an adult one. The adult themes, for me, make it more suitable for adults than teens, but Elliot’s day to day life and outlook are something that will more than likely resonate with young people. I still find it hard to describe the genre of this book. Definitely coming-of-age but also contemporary women’s fiction? Maybe even UpLit?

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With Parts One and Two of the new, revised The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series almost ready to be released, and Parts Three and Four being polished up in the background, my mind has once again returned to my elusive reader. 2019 will continue to be busy as I plan to release YA novel, A Song For Bill Robinson and possibly it’s almost finished sequel, Emily’s Baby. My list of novels is growing longer, but I still don’t know who my audience is. It’s tricky when you cross over so many genres. Most of my books cross into two or more, with psychological thriller, suspense, crime, coming-of-age, mystery and dystopian all regularly showing up.

So, who is my reader? What sort of person reads my books and likes them? I only have a small audience, so it’s hard to speculate. But I suppose really, my reader must be someone quite similar to me. I imagine them as slightly scruffy, or at least not terribly groomed and over bothered with appearances. They probably make an effort when they can, and they probably berate themselves fairly often about sorting out some kind of ‘look’, but it never really feels urgent to do so. They are probably young at heart. Stuck in the past, tinged with nostalgia, reluctant to admit and give in to adulthood. I think they are a music fan. They probably like all sorts. They’re not narrow-minded about it at all. They’ll listen to anything, but they have their favourite era of course, and their favourite songs. They see life in songs. Soundtracks are everywhere.

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What else? I imagine them as liking animals and nature. Not in a really obsessed, or professional way, just in that seeing a bird or a deer unexpectedly will really make them smile and have a better day. I think they enjoy being outside, all weathers too. Being outside makes them feel more alive.

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I think they are introverted but friendly and warm. A bit cynical and suspicious at times. Prone to the odd dark mood. Likely to panic about once a month about how the world is utterly doomed. But they always brighten up and soldier on. Despite being naturally shy, they are really interested in people, genuinely intrigued by them. They love a spot of people watching and love a character-driven book they can really get their teeth into. They are looking for stories about humans they can relate to and empathise with, and they are looking for characters to fall in love with, characters they wish were real.

They want to disappear inside a book and come out feeling different. They don’t want anything too formulaic or predictable. I think they are a bit of an eccentric at heart. They probably talk to themselves.

This is how I imagine my readers to be and I shall continue to do my best to try to find them. What about you? If you are a writer, do you know who your audience is? If you don’t know, does it make it harder to sell your books? If you’re sure of your audience, tell me about them. What are these people like? If you’re a reader, do you imagine yourself as part of a genre tribe, full of similar and like-minded people all connected by an appreciation of mysteries, or romance, or horror?

Please feel free to comment and share!

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Character Interview- Mack Walker

Morning folks! With Christmas just around the corner, many of you lovely bookish types might be thinking about buying books for your loved ones. With this in mind, myself and my friend indie author Kate Rigby are holding a little Christmasssy event today over on Facebook. The Christmas Pop-Up Book Shop will be full of links to paperbacks by fantastic authors. Authors, feel free to add your links throughout the day, and readers, please come in and browse the shelves. We will be leaving the event up for a few days so that you can pop in and out and not have to worry about missing anything. We will also be posting some other things of interest, such as giveaways, competitions, and character interviews. Here is one such thing. Indie author Mark Gillespie is an incredibly talented and prolific writer. I can’t keep up with the number of books he releases! This character interview is with Mack Walker, the main protagonist in his dystopian/post-apocalyptic/speculative fiction style trilogy, The Future Of London. (I’ve read two books in the series so far, and it is brilliant!) Enjoy!

Mack Walker (The Future of London Series)

1. Do you have any negative character traits and if so, what would you say they are?

I suffer from obsessive tendencies. But I don’t know, are those negative traits? To wake up in the morning knowing that only one thing matters above all else? That sounds like clarity to me. I’m looking for someone you see – that’s my thing. You could call it hunting rather than looking, because when I find him, well…

2. What are your most positive personality traits?

Obsessive tendencies.

3. Tell us what your current most pressing ambition or dream is?

To kill a man called Hatchet. In 2011, he did a terrible thing, something that changed all our lives for the worse. Someone has to make him pay and only a few people know what he did back then.

4. What are you most afraid of?

I still don’t know what happened to my parents. Nine years after they locked us up in London I don’t know what happened to them. Did they stay behind to look for me or did they make a run for it and try to get out before it was too late? I’m afraid I’ll never know the answer to that question. Most of all, I’m afraid they stayed behind.

5. Do you have a best friend? If so, why this person?

Friends don’t last long in this city.

6. Have you ever been in love?

I was only 16 when they locked us up in here. I never had much time for all that stuff back then. I’ve got even less time for it now.

7. Have you ever committed a crime?

Yes, but not without good reason. I don’t even know what counts as a ‘crime’ anymore in here. We do what we do to survive. Things like stealing and murder, they don’t mean what they used to.

8. Do you have any secrets?

I have a big secret. I know why no one is a hurry to let us out of London even though it’s been nine years since they sealed off the city. I’m certain they could find a way to bring us all back into society if they really wanted to. Only one other person in the city knows what I know. They’re using us – they’ve installed hundreds of thousands of micro-cameras everywhere, all over the city and they’re filming us. Not only that, we’re part of a reality TV show called The Future of London. Apparently it’s very popular and people pay a lot of money to watch us in here. They gain nothing from letting us out but they stand to lose a lot of money.

9. Do you have any regrets?

I wish I’d never moved to London in 2011.

10. How would you like to be remembered?

There haven’t been any new headstones in London for a long time. But it doesn’t matter if no one remembers me. Not as long as I find him.

Thanks so much to Mark (and Mack!) for this interview! You can find out more about Mark’s books on the link below;

Mark Gillespie books

 

Character Interview – Lissie Turner; The Tree Of Rebels

1 ) Tell us what your positive character traits are

I’m loyal…well, some people might disagree with that. But I know I’m loyal to my friends. I’m a dreamer. My parents wouldn’t call that a positive thing, but my Great-Grandmother would. I’m fast! I am the fastest girl in Province 5! I’m fierce when I need to be and I won’t be bullied.

2)What would you say are your negative character traits?

That I’m a dreamer…I have my head in the clouds and I’m not ready to be an adult yet. That I’m nosy and stubborn. I’m rebellious, although I only found that out recently.

3) What are your current ambitions or dreams?

I want to get out of Province 5. I dream about other places and people and other ways of life. I want to know more about how and why the Old World died and I want to have a say in the future. I don’t like everything I see here at home, and I want to explore, try things out, question things.

4) What are your fears?

My fears are that I will never leave the Province or find out what happened to the Old World. I fear I will let my parents down, no matter what I do. I fear destroying my family and being all alone. I also fear the truth. I know we are not being told the truth here and that scares me. Life is pretty good here. No one complains. Everyone has everything they need and everything is calm and peaceful. But I know it’s all based on lies. Sometimes I think the truth scares me more than anything.

5) Do you have any enemies?

Yes, Saul Lancaster has been my enemy for as long as I can remember. I could never work it out before, because his father, the Governor here in Province 5 seems to really think highly of my family and even gave me special duties in his garden. But Saul hates me and has had it in for me since we were little kids. He’s a bully and I despise him. If he ever ends up in charge of this place, he’ll be the worst Governor ever! As for Soren Lancaster, his father, I think he might be my enemy too. He’s trying very hard to keep me on side, but he knows I know things I shouldn’t. He knows I am dangerous.

6) Tell us about your best friend

Ned is my best friend. His parents are friends with mine. I’ve always had to stick up for him because of people like Saul, and because his parents don’t seem to notice he is even alive. Their first son died, you see, and although Ned came along, they never got over t and can’t seem to see him at all. Poor Ned. He’s the best friend ever. He’s not scared of anything. He’s like me. He just wants to be excited, he just wants to ask questions and know stuff! we’re in this together. I feel bad about getting him into trouble too but he says he doesn’t care.

7) What’s your biggest secret?

My biggest secret is my Great-Grandmother’s diary. She wrote it when she was a girl like me, so it’s our only bit of history. It’s a true account of what it was like in the Old World where they had online and cars and stuff like that! It’s so fascinating to read, I just can’t put it down. There are wars going on all over the place and they’re on the run now because they got in trouble for growing their own food! I’m learning so much about how things used to be and how things ended up like this.

8) Do you have any regrets?

Hmm, not yet. I do feel guilty. I feel guilty about lying to my parents, hiding the diary and going outside of the Province. I feel guilty that I am not what they want me to be. But I don’t regret any of it. Not yet.

9) Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

Well, if nothing changes, I will be living in my own hut, probably coupled and probably with a child. I will be working for Animal Control or the hospital like my parents. I will be just like them. But if everything changes? Who knows? I could be out there! Free. I could be wandering around, setting up camp, sleeping under the stars, like Aisha and the other rebels. I could be a rebel. I think I am a rebel.

The Story Of A Book

While I await and fully expect a complete set of rejections from the small publishers I have submitted The Tree Of Rebels to, I am not resting on my laurels, not for one moment. I am busy planning my launch for this YA dystopian novel, when I inevitably place it with Pronoun, along with my other books. (If you’re interested in my book launch plan, you can read about it here )

I am hoping for a July, possibly August release. At the moment I am having the cover looked at and having an illustration added to the back of the book. I am also reading the book on my kindle to check for any last lingering typos. It’s all systems go, and if I do self-publish again, I predict the next few months to be both hectic and a lot of fun.

But this all got me thinking about the journey this book has had. From the first seed of an idea to the almost finished and ready to be released product. It’s had more ups and downs than any of my other novels and has been a love/hate project in more ways than one. So for the fun of it, and for those who are interested in how an idea becomes a book, here is the story of a book from start to finish. This book, The Tree Of Rebels.

  • A seed is sown. Sometime in 2014 I became interested in the controversy surrounding companies like Monsanto and the altering and patenting of seeds. I’m not going to go into the details here and now, but after reading, researching and signing all the petitions that came my way, I found a seed had planted itself in my head and was starting to grow. I began to imagine a future world where many of my fears had come true. Where people were even more disconnected from nature, had no idea what or who destroyed the old world, and were all living in blind, grateful happiness for the ‘utopia’ the survivors exist in. Then I imagined a young girl finding something she shouldn’t…
  • A character is born…Having read and enjoyed books like The Hunger Games and The Giver, at this time I was devouring dystopian fiction and so were my daughters. I wanted to write a book that would interest them and I wanted to create a character who they could relate to. Lissie Turner is a rebel at heart, only she doesn’t know it to begin with. I went on a long journey with this kid, getting to know her, draft by draft, watching her develop, and encouraging her to resist and rebel.
  • A book was plotted…During 2015 I plotted The Tree Of Rebels in a notebook. I arranged a timeline, wrote character bios, decided on themes, and started to write scenes and pieces of dialogue. I also had a ton of research to do…

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  • It all began on Wattpad…The very first draft of this book was written straight onto Wattpad, with people reading and commenting as I went. I shared the chapters to social media and tried to stick to a schedule of writing a chapter a day. I even had one lovely reader design a fantastic cover for me, which provided the inspiration for the cover I later had put together.
  • It got hijacked by another book…Just as I was about to start writing The Tree Of Rebels I got an idea for another book. I really did not want this to happen. I was all geared up to write this dystopian adventure that would surely enthral my daughters when a new idea and a very persistent character started knocking. The idea for Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature was so strong, I had to start writing things down instantly. And so began to two-year battle between these two very different novels. With me working on one, only to hand it over to betas and work on the other, then swap around and so on. This was not easy!
  • Every time I thought I was finished, I wasn’t…If you are a loyal reader of this blog (and wow, thank you if you are!) then you will already know how many drafts this novel has had. So many I have lost count. Every time I got to the end, it still didn’t feel right. I ended up leaving it alone for months, while I finished Elliot Pie and started another YA novel set in the present day, and at that time I had no inclination whatsoever to rewrite The Tree of Rebels. I’d had enough of it.
  • When I picked it up again, I realised it was done…Funny, that. After finishing what I hoped was the last draft of Elliot Pie and sending to a final beta reader, and completing the messy first draft of the present day YA novel, I decided to look at The Tree of Rebels again. Was it useless? Did it need an entire rewrite? Would it ever see the light of day? And weirdly, when I read it through, I felt something I had not experienced before with this book. Relief and satisfaction and a sense of letting it go. I amended a handful of typos and left everything else alone.
  • I’m proud of the messages in this book…I am proud of this book. Finally. It’s been a long and difficult slog. I’ve struggled with so many aspects of it. I am currently reading it through and enjoying it. I like Lissie Turner and I think her journey into rebellion is an important one.
  • Nearly there now…All that is left to do is finish the read-through, amend any typos and send the document to the lovely girl who does my formatting for Pronoun. I will also send it to the other lovely girl who does my Createspace formatting. The cover is basically done but we’re just playing around with fonts at the moment, and there will be an extra illustrationo at the back of the book. My launch plan is written and in the next few weeks, I will decide a date for release!

And that’s it. That’s the story of this book. That’s the journey it has had; from an idea that grew while scrolling through my Facebook feed… to something that is almost ready to be released into the world.