Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 15: Self-Publishing Genres, Marketing, and Who On Earth Is Going to Read My Book?

On Friday, my day 12, I spun-off about a post on BigAl's Books and Friends about the debate continuing between chick-lit and romance genres. Turns out I wasn't the only one moved about the subject. A fellow BigAl's reader, Cookie's Mom, the author of Cookie's Book Club also continued the discussion in defense of the genre

After my interesting run-in this weekend with very vocal readers of romance, and the sacred HEA, one of my voices of reason (acquaintance who reads my raw material and keeps me motivated to keep writing, if only just for her) asked me "Why does it even matter?" That's a very good question, because she pointed out if I don't have a publisher telling me I don't quite fit in either genre, it shouldn't matter. But it does. I have to sell my novel to readers in both of these audiences, and try to make sure they don't get pissed off because their expectations were not met by my story.

One of the exercises I completed in preparation for this novel was to make lists of my favorite books, least favorite, and books that influenced me the most. The most eye opening was my least favorites and why. Here's a sample:

  • The Scarlett Letter I hate narrative and smack-in-the-face morality.
  • Wheel of Time Series Blah, blah in woods, too many characters to keep up with, WAY too much narrative
  • House of Night Series  I liked the fist few, but then typos and mistakes took me out of the story and the plot has been dragged on to the point of insanity in the last 3 books. First series I won't finish, and I hung in until Book 6 or 7
After analyzing what I like to read, both the love and the hate, I came up with this statement: "The kind of book that I love to read most in all the world is any genre with a tangible world and characters where love plays a part in an engaging storyline." This may seem like a self-serving exercise, but trust me, for a self-published author, it helps to put yourself in a reader's shoes. Knowing my own "reading statement" let's me stay true to myself and what's in my heart. Anything less will come off as artificial in my writing. 

Now to really get in your novel's readers' shoes: Before I can even think about building a marketing platform, I need to know who my reader is. Try it. Make a list of your reader's life, religious ideas, economic goals, etc. This is what I came up with.
  1. Primarily female, potentially male.
  2. Experienced in family drama, but feels she has risen above it (whether she actually has or not).
  3. Holds a diploma (HS, or college), most importantly she feels sufficiently educated.
  4. Seriously thinks about career and family planning.
  5. Lives independently.
  6. Has had a relationship that resulted in marriage, or nearly did so.
  7. Pragmatic or highly compartmentalized religious views.
  8. Isn't sure how far she'd go to protect a family member.
Now, thinking about my reader, I don't think she would ever buy into a sappy, happily ever after ending because she doesn't really believe in fairy tales. What she wants is an ending where everyone is going to be okay. And part of this might be the generation I am a part of, Gen X/Y (I'm right on the cusp of them by my birth year). For my mother's generation, marriage was the penultimate happy ending. Ultimate was marriage AND a baby. :) Motherhood was the end all, be all for a woman's life goals.

Oh, how things have changed! I'm a stay at home mother myself and struggle with my identity because my original plan was to be an international jet-setter, corporate lawyer with a boyfriend in every major international city. Granted, I don't want multiple boyfriends NOW, I'm very happy with my husband, but the fact that I ever saw that as a happy existence screams something important. My generation judges love and success in love not just by the result, but also the journey to get there. In other words, a marriage that results from a tumultuous relationship isn't as prized as a couple who have a happy journey and decide to just live with one another. Not happily ever after, but happy for now.  

Writing a novel for self-publication, or indie publication makes it easy for an author to go in too many directions, and end up stuck in one spot. My reader is a sub-set of both the chick-lit and romance genres. I'm going to have to find them and at the same time, warn off readers who probably won't like my book. They will likely be older, more rigid in their ideas of what romance is, or jaded by life experience. Does this mean every person my age will love my book and everyone my mother's age will hate it? No way. My mother better love my book! So that's one. But seriously, no, when making these sweeping generalizations, it's just to keep a focus point for marketing, and shaping my product description. Not to exclude any potential reader.

I'm officially half way finished with my first draft. I am excited. June is my marketing month, and I will be sure to post how I make these points about my genre and reader into real-life marketing endeavors. 

"Imperfect Timing" arriving Fall 2011. Johnathan Michaels, a robotics engineer, jeopardizes his engagement with his business partner when a previous one-night stand surfaces, carrying his child.

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