Are you appealing to your target audience?

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aspiring_x
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Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by aspiring_x » March 13th, 2010, 10:16 pm

This past week I was hit with a huge stumbing block (at least in my mind) concerning my WIP. I had a part of it up on Critters for critiquing. My work is YA paranormal, and I thought that it would appeal mostly to girls. But then the critiques came rolling in, and they have me completely confused. It seemed like just about every woman who read the thing hated it... even to the point of two saying they had trouble staying awake. :( (pacing issues that I'm working on)
But then the men (for the most part) loved it.
I was not expecting that.
And of course, I have no idea the ages of most of them (except a few who alluded to their ages in their critiques- and the older people liked it and the younger did not, and the Brits liked it too which confused me all the more).
So, the only conclusion I've been able to wrap my mind around from this forray into a million different opinions is that my WIP has completely missed its audience!
So my questions to you all-wise Nathanites are three-fold...
1- How do you know your writing appeals to your target audience?
2- Are there any reasons you can think of that men would like a novel that women don't (esp. one written by a woman with a young woman as the MC)?
3- How much stock do you put into random feedback? Do you make alot of changes, or stay true to what you've written?

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polymath
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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by polymath » March 13th, 2010, 11:50 pm

I'm giggling a little because I'm reminded of Upton Sinclair's fabulously total miss with The Jungle. He targeted minds and hit stomachs, visceral instead of intellectual appeal.

Not having read the story in question, but gauging from the data, I'd say the target audience was alienated by misunderstanding their intrinsic natures. Projecting solely for purposes of example, I'm picturing a confident, self-assured, successful female viewpoint character.

One potential issue then is author surrogacy, especially self-idealization and self-efficacy. It's been my experience that womankind is envious of confident, self-assured, successful females, mankind too and of fellow men for that matter. Not that I'm making a global statement about womankind or intending any negative genderisms, just I've been caught in the middle of female power plays. Men's too, and both sexes in contention. I try to stay out of crossfires anymore.

Another potential issue is one of foreshadowing. Similar to but contrary to the first issue, a confident, self-assured, successful female in an opening subtlely foreshadows a woman destined to receive her just comeuppance. Readers nonconsciouly expect a total reversal of circumstances to take place from an opening to an ending. Depicting a good beginning foreshadows a bad ending. The unsettled feeling then is female readers don't want to empathize with a successful woman only to see her fall. A static strong character prepositioned as such, though, is inspirational from resisting negative change in the face of insuperable odds, nearly faltering, and succeeding in the end. But that then is that kind of story's central dilemma.

Male and older readers, might like to see a strong woman--or a strong man--fall, though. Out of simple curiosity, I would hope. Anyway, I prey this is all taken as an intellectual exercise for storytelling purposes and not taken as chauvinistic grandstanding.
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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by aspiring_x » March 14th, 2010, 12:11 am

polymath,
What you're saying is completely true. I can see that in myself. I get annoyed at super successful, bold, and usually busty heroines.
But my MC is meek, a peace-keeper, kind, and perceptive. At least, that's how I would best describe her at the beginning.
Maybe the women actually want a stronger character. Maybe they're sick of quiet girls being MC's...

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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by polymath » March 14th, 2010, 12:27 am

aspiring_x wrote:polymath,
What you're saying is completely true. I can see that in myself. I get annoyed at super successful, bold, and usually busty heroines.
But my MC is meek, a peace-keeper, kind, and perceptive. At least, that's how I would best describe her at the beginning.
Maybe the women actually want a stronger character. Maybe they're sick of quiet girls being MC's...
Absolutely. Me too. Maybe then that's the journey? The Feminist art movement expresses the ideals and values and needs of womankind in a contentious world. I believe Feminist literature is underrepresented in the fantastical genres. For what it's worth, I feel the reactionary feminist movement is a radical subset of the larger feminist movement, but nonetheless a proactively contributing one.
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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by christi » March 14th, 2010, 12:36 am

I will say that a lot of publishers say they want strong female MCs. I fail that because I have a snarky, antisocial male MC. :-) I did not write my story towards an audience, which might be considered a mistake to some. I had a story to tell, that was it. While searching for an agent, I've had opportunities to send my manuscript out to several different ranges of people via friendship, relation, coworker, acquaintance's friend/coworker/relation, and something unexpected happened. Here's the age breakdown:

13 year old female -1
14 year old male -1
17 year old female -1
18 year old male -1
25-35 year old females -4
30+ male -2
40-50 year old females -4
50+ females -2

Weirdly, they all love it and even pester me to write book 2 of the series even though I haven't sold book one, and might never in this current market. When I finished book one, I thought the 25+ might not enjoy it as it's more YA than adult, but they love it just as much as the kids in high school. Granted, this is only about seventeen people so hardly significant, but to me it shows that you can't really predict who will like your story or why. My favorite character is not loved as much as other characters that I think are less interesting (My Wendell is a nutty thing, which is why I love him so). In the end, all we can do is write then see what happens.
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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by Nick » March 14th, 2010, 12:45 am

Yes. Yes I am.

Though to be fair my target audience is me for the time being. May be subject to change with subsequent drafts, though may not. I'd almost rather just write a first novel for me, and gauge what direction to take the next one based upon feedback of fans and detractors of that original book. I would still using myself as a base, of course, but I would build on that base with an audience in mind.

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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by aspiring_x » March 14th, 2010, 12:59 am

my head's starting to hurt...
i have trouble taking feedback from people i know seriously. shoot. the fact that they took time to read my story shows they care. so, i figure that their opinions are tainted. no matter how brutal they promise to be, they can't see the story clearly. they can't help it. when someone has a connection with you, they view your work more favorably (or less favorably if they hate you). i call it the hometown band effect. people are way more likely to support a band if they know the brother of the drummer, or have the same science teacher the basist had.
i love to write. that's why i'm trying to write something that's publishable. it seems so selfish to spend so much time writing stories just for me.
should we just write the story we love best and ignore all else? Or should we listen to advice and nip, tuck, and pimp our babies out to publishers...
i don't know.
i just don't know.

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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by polymath » March 14th, 2010, 1:26 am

Stephenie Meyer targets her writing to an audience of one, herself, who happens to specifically reflect the audience bracket she most appeals to. Young adult women of her social standing and class experiencing the dilemmas of popularity in a highly competitive society. Meyer reinvented the vampire motif as an analogous overlay of the emotionally parasitic nature of cliques. Aren't vampires literally, though fictional, bloodsucking parasites? Some beauty and the beast stuff going on there, fixation with the misunderstood rebelious guy archetype, a moth attracted to a candle flame, too.
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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by aspiring_x » March 14th, 2010, 8:35 am

polymath,
i love this interpretation of meyer's work. very true!
when i started my WIP, i set out to write something i would like.
so it totally shocked me to find that the people who were liking it were older men.
being as i'm a younger gal.
who knows... maybe my problem is that i'm an older man trapped in a younger woman's body...
this thread is giving me an identity crisis.
:)

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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by polymath » March 14th, 2010, 11:26 am

Older men are inclined to picture ourselves as heroic gallants who come to the rescue of personable damsels in distress. I suspect that's the appeal.

I'm a misunderstood gallant. My earliest rescue was of a girl, eleven years old, I came upon while delivering newspapers on base housing. I was twelve. She was crying but heroically struggling onward, pushing her broken bicycle, peddling magazine subscriptions. The chain had slipped off and she didn't know what to do. I put the chain back on, happened to have a wrench and adjusted the rear wheel so it wouldn't happen again. She was my first kiss. Her first too. Her parents were grateful for my assistance and invited me to dinner. Sad to say, she was afflicted with autism, high function though, not that it mattered to me. Without my asking, her dad firmly let me know how things stood as far as her dating. We were off-and-on casual friends until we lost touch in early adulthood.
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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by KappaP » March 14th, 2010, 1:11 pm

aspiring_x wrote:my head's starting to hurt...
i love to write. that's why i'm trying to write something that's publishable. it seems so selfish to spend so much time writing stories just for me.
should we just write the story we love best and ignore all else? Or should we listen to advice and nip, tuck, and pimp our babies out to publishers...
i don't know.
i just don't know.
your duty is to your story, not to an audience. you have to know your story like it's your own life and that's the only way to understand how and if it needs to be changed-- some suggestions people make are good and some aren't. the only way to know the difference is to know how YOU want your story to be told. when people say they write for themselves, they don't (or i don't) mean they never let it see the light of day. it means we are writing stories that we love and if we-- as readers and as human beings-- love it, others will too. but if you spend your time trying to write and design your story for others, who you know infinitely less well than yourself, its going to come across flat and forced.

i was having trouble with my audience. my ms is absolutely adult fiction-- it's very dark, deals with adult issues and has a rough ending. the characters, though, are teenagers and so i kept hearing from people who were reading the query/first 10 pages or so that they thought it was young adult. i knew it absolutely wasn't and that i had two choices: either a) "nip, tuck and pimp it out" as a young adult book which would have required gutting what i saw as essential themes and events, or b) find a way to better express how I viewed the story and characters. i went with (b) and spent a lot of time understanding WHAT about the query/10 pages were sending up YA flares and figuring out WHY those flares were misrepresenting what i had intended. in short: i used people's advice to take a hard look at how i viewed my story and then redesign parts of it accordingly.

you know your MC and your story better than us. and my advice is to NOT "repair" the story just for the sake of appeasing readers. how important is it that your audience is female? is it worth changing the character or the pacing? or do you feel strongly enough about the character/pacing/events/whatever that you accept having a different target audience? that's a question YOU know the answer to and, either way, your readers probably gave you some good advice overall (For instance, if your female readers can't even make it through the book, there's probably things there you can make stronger without altering the story/MC too much).

good luck-- and have confidence in the story you have to tell. that's how you pick out the good advice from the bad. if you're honest and truly take the phrase "work in PROGRESS" to heart, you'll be able to say "hm-- good point" to some and "no thanks!" to others. keep going, you'll get there!!!
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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by casnow » March 14th, 2010, 1:43 pm

My target audience: Agents.

Am I appealing to them? Given the steady stream of rejection letters - No.

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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by aspiring_x » March 14th, 2010, 3:12 pm

casnow wrote:My target audience: Agents.

Am I appealing to them? Given the steady stream of rejection letters - No.
hilarious.
polymath- that is so sweet! if someone wrote a story about that, i would totally buy it.
KappaP- generally, i'm happy to have anyone like my story. i think we all are happy when we find that.
it's just i had an audience in mind, and completely missed the target. i find that disconcerting. that kind of thing makes you question voice, style, pacing, word choice, genre... etc. the plot to me seems YA (but we all know how little I know about that :) but i wonder if the way i write doesn't compliment the plot, if you know what i mean. the ones who enjoyed it said that they liked that the story was character driven (which is what i intended). the ones who didn't wanted more action (which is something that developes as events unfold). for some reason i had this stereotype in mind that men prefer the action, and women the introspection, but i think i was wrong about that...
so then I wonder about the pacing for the YA market. would teenagers want to read something that's more character driven, or are they after the action?
the only teenager who has read it is my little brother, and seriously he'd like anything i wrote. he loves me.
i'm not really worried about the male/ female demographic of my audience, but i found the whole thing very interesting, as it completely went against my perception of my story... but i think that YA is where it needs to fall, and so now i have to try to figure out the opposite of your questions. it's just so hard to know what i'm doing wrong, you know.
i couldn't change my MC (i love her too much) or the essence of the story. but pacing and style, word choice, etc. those things are what i wonder about, but then i don't want to butcher the thing into fast food literature either...

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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by polymath » March 14th, 2010, 4:03 pm

aspiring_x, you're asking valid questions and coming close to the answer eluding you. I believe the little picture stuff isn't it. The big picture stuff you're reaching for holds an answer.

Without getting into a lengthy soliloquy on psychology as pertains to storytelling, from a reductionistic approach, personal journeys expose unresolved psychosocial identity issues.

Freud's Oedipus archetype symbolizes the masculine psychosocial pscyhe. Jung's Electra archetype, the feminine psychosocial psyche. They are not exclusive to a biological identity, though, psyches come in a continuum of possibilities.

In terms of young adult literature, a personal journey establishes an independent psychosocial identity separate from guardians' imprinted identity.Young women's and young men's personal crises have many variant expressions presenting from that one cause, an unresolved crisis of identity. For that matter, earlier or later life stage initiations also expose unresolved identity crises.
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Re: Are you appealing to your target audience?

Post by Yoshima » March 14th, 2010, 10:17 pm

KappaP wrote: you know your MC and your story better than us. and my advice is to NOT "repair" the story just for the sake of appeasing readers. how important is it that your audience is female? is it worth changing the character or the pacing? or do you feel strongly enough about the character/pacing/events/whatever that you accept having a different target audience? that's a question YOU know the answer to and, either way, your readers probably gave you some good advice overall (For instance, if your female readers can't even make it through the book, there's probably things there you can make stronger without altering the story/MC too much).
Totally agree. Don't repair anything (it's not broke ;) ) just to suit someone who you think will like your book. I feel particularly strong about this, for reasons you already know. I'm sorry you're getting all kinds of confuzzled, aspiring_x. :( The thing is, though, it's sort of a crapshoot to try and estimate who your audience will be. I mean, did Stephen King write The Shining for goody-goody little twelve-year-olds like me (back when I first read it)? Probably not. I still read and loved it, even though I wasn't his "target." Many authors have gone the "art for art's sake" route and have scrapped the idea of writing for any particlar person. They basically said "screw you if you don't like my book, because I love it and it's my art so neener-neener" though in much more sophisticated terms than that, of course. Now, I'm not for that approach entirely. We live in a commercial world. Sales and market are a big chunk of the industry. However, I have to echo a few other commenters: if you don't love and feel confident in your book, it will come across. Readers will know right off the bat. So I guess my point here is try not to get caught up on the demographic of your critters. People of all ages love stories about characters of all ages. Tell a good one and you won't miss. :)

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