On Selling the Book: Who Is My Audience?

Kakashi from Naruto, @Masashi Kishimoto
Kakashi from Naruto, ©Masashi Kishimoto

It’s come to that point, and I don’t think I can avoid it anymore.

Who is my audience for the Mendaihu Universe novels? I admit it’s something I never really took took seriously while writing the Bridgetown Trilogy in the first place.  Sure, I bashed some of my ideas out with my coworkers while working at Yankee Candle, and I know a few of them have been waiting way too long for me to release these damn things.  I’ve talked about this universe here and there online for years.  I’ve had a small handful of beta readers over the years.  And then there’s me, the one who create the series, who loves writing within it.

And thinking about how to sell the thing to potential publishers, agents or readers is something I haven’t exactly wanted to think about too often, because I hate dealing in sales.  I had a telemarketing job back in ’93 and it was soul-sucking, and I lasted all of three months before I left.  Not that I can’t sell things I’m interested in — as mentioned earlier, I could upsell you records like no tomorrow — but it’s just not something I enjoy doing.  And come to find out, a lot of writers I know are in the same boat.

But seriously — who is the target audience for this universe, anyway?

I have a few ideas on who might enjoy reading this series, and though I’ll be shamelessly upselling to everyone in general, I know there are a few subsets of genre readers out there who might really enjoy the books, and I’ll be giving extra focus to those readers when the time comes.  [The actual upselling can be pretty tricky as well…there’s a fine line between selling it to a potential audience and billboarding yourself everywhere.  Something to think about.]

But who should I sell it to?

Well, that’s a good question.  I consider myself lucky that I’ve gone to various sff conventions, and that I have a reasonably large group of online friends and acquaintances so I’m familiar with what kind of readers are out there.  There are those who’ll read anything.  There are those who will only read military sf, or hard sf, or sword and sorcery, or paranormal romance, or what have you.  There are slow readers, speed readers, those who love short stories and those who love doorstop novels.  If I had to narrow it down, I would say my potential readers would be a mix of general genre readers, urban fantasy, and future sf, with a bit of fantasy realism in there as well.  [I think some manga readers/anime watchers would also enjoy the series, and that’s why you see Kakashi up there.]

Part of the trick is not so much to say “I want to sell to manga/fantasy/future sf readers” but to say “How can I capture the interest of this particular fantasy reader?” and adjust accordingly.  That’s part of what ‘knowing your audience’ is about: understand who it is you’re showing your wares to, and speak with them, not at them.  That’s something I learned in my day job, actually…don’t demand their attention, but pique their interest.  Your pitch will be a lot less stressful that way.

I’ve been thinking about this over the last few months — mind you, I’ve been doing a lot of research on this, not just hemming and hawing (although there’s been some of that as well).  I don’t want to do this half-assed.  I know if the response to the initial launch is crickets, thankfully I should be able to pick myself up, dust myself off, and launch it again, the right way.  There are way too many moving parts in this game, and I can totally understand that it can be frustrating, and one missed part can send the whole contraption falling down in an avalanche.  I’m hoping all this homework paid off, however, because it’s almost high time to get these things out in the world.

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