Monday, July 6, 2009
So you're tucked away in a remote basement closet fighting spiders for elbow space, banging out the Next Great American Novel.
A smile tugs at the corner of your lips. You like what you see on the screen. Yeah. This is gonna be good.
First to sign up for a writer's conference, you're able to score appointments with the most coveted editors and agents. Nervous, you plop into the seat next to Mr. Uber Agent and let out a sigh. Here goes.
Words spill from your lips. Your pulse races and beads of sweat dampen your brow. Mr. Uber Agent nods then holds up a hand, "Who are you writing this for?"
Agent coughs. "Who's your audience?"
Mr. Uber agent rolls his eyes, checks his watch and nods to the next person in line. "I wish you luck with that." It's over.
Writing is a business. Your words are your product. Corporations spend millions studying potential markets before they throw money at a new product.
Publishers don't sink millions into market research for books they publish - especially for newbies. They expect you, the author, to introduce them to your audience and prove there's a desire for your prose. Editors expect you to know your readers inside out, upside-down and backwards.
Don't write mysteries for llama herders if you've never herded llamas yourself and hung around with llama herders for a chunk of your life.
Many writers like to be reclusive, but getting to know your audience requires bumping into them. Talking to them. Playing with them. It may even mean getting a job that puts you smack in the middle of their lives.
I write young adult fiction. My audience is made up of high school girls 13 -18 who are involved in color guard and marching band.
For eight years I coached color guard at Sheridan High School. I've been judging the sport during the winter season for 7 years, and I just started teaching the guard at Columbine High School which will be a year-round job.
God has His hand in all of this. My manuscript had been requested in full by a publisher. Sheridan killed their music program leaving me hanging, wondering how I'd continue to connect with my potential readership. Then, out of the blue, I get a call from the band director at Columbine. A school almost four times bigger than my previous school. A school anyone and everyone has heard of. I have thriteen students thus far, the biggest group of students I've ever taught.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
Sure, it's exhausting. Part of me just wanted to "retire" from coaching and only be a judge. But how could I write a series of books high school kids would want to read if I didn't spend hours a week with their species?
This post is running long so I'll wrap it up. To be honest, my coaching/judging involvement raised eyebrows of every editor and agent I've pitched to. It qualifies me to write for my chosen audience. It give credibility for the plots and themes in my writing.
Writing pretty prose won't get you very far into the world of publishing if you have no clue who wants to read your stuff. So get on out there and mingle!