How to Survive Becoming an Author…Week 7…Surviving Your Target Audience

Hello, it’s been a while since I’ve written one of these blogs. I’ve been really busy working, raising kids, sleeping (sort of), and in general suffering from a bit of writer’s block. But the good news is I’ve finally worked through the haze, and even launched my very first website! I like to think of it as my “All-in-one” web stop for all things me! Give it a visit and let me know what you think at:

www.authorterryjames.com

Enough about me, let’s do this thing!

Writing a novel is not always black and white. Though you may read what you have written and think it is the making of the greatest story ever told, someone from another country, or even another region of your own, may read it and be lost in translation. Remember when your writing that you are, whether by accident or on purpose, writing for a target audience.

A book a seven-year-old child is reading is much different from that of an adult. Teenage romance should not sound more like adult romance (though from what I’m seeing of late, the lines seem to blur more and more each year… but that’s a completely different debate altogether). Even ethnic based storytelling has a very different yet wonderful taste to it. In short, know your audience.

Now that doesn’t translate into, “I’m writing this book only for middle-aged, over-weight, jobless video gamers still living in their parent’s basement”, but in a weird way, it kind of does. If your story involves prancing unicorns with gumdrop saddles on an adventure through the Rainbow Meadows to find the Soda-Pop River looking for a caffeine kick, you’ve pretty much decided this story is probably not for corporate executive adults (unless they are secretly furies, but I’m not judging). This probably shouldn’t be 100,000 word-long novel with no pictures (unless you are J.K Rowling).

Now with that said, let’s look into a not so obvious example. It is a story about two teenage kids from two separate sides of town who find each other and fall in love. The story involves and touches on such subjects as alcohol and drug abuse, premarital sex, turf war violence, rape, suicide, and murder. It involves teens, so it should be a YA (Young Adult) novel, right? WRONG! (This is of course my personal opinion, not all authors will agree with this and I welcome the well-mannered debate.) The mere fact that the story is made up mostly of a teenage cast does not make it a teenage book.

So how will you know the difference when writing, let me give you two examples of the same scene written in both the YA and Adult voice and it should clear it up. Content is the major factor here:

(YA)

She found herself unable to breathe as his lips softly touched hers for the first time. A million indistinguishable thoughts raced through her mind as she closed her eyes and welcomed his warm embrace. It seemed like forever since she had dreamed of this very moment, and the sensation was far more wonderful than she could have ever imagined.

(Adult)

She found herself unable to breathe as he plunged his tongue deep inside her mouth, caressing her own. At that moment, her thoughts raced as the warmth of his bare chest pressed firmly against hers as he tightly embraced her, taking in the moment ravenously like a starving lion about to feast. An overwhelming tingling sensation coursed through her body like nothing she could have ever imagined.

See the difference, two of the very same scenes told in two very different ways. One told suggestive of the situation verses one that outlined the exact situation, the difference, content and description.

Hopefully this helps you in defining your target group of readers and shaping your dialog accordingly as you venture into writing your novels, see you again soon with another installment!

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How to survive becoming an author…week 3…Surviving Author Etiquette!

Just because something is good doesn’t make it popular, and just because something is popular doesn’t make it good. This one phrase and/or any of the other ten thousand variations are the chief core of what I call “Author Etiquette”. It is a simple set of un-binding rules that (in my opinion) help in day to day meetings and greetings from other authors.

In general, the author community is very friendly and exciting. New and budding authors mix and mingle daily on the internet via Twitter, Facebook and yes, even MySpace. (yes, it is still around) So here is a quick lesson on Author to Author etiquette that you should live by. (the following reflect the views and opinions of the author, and not necessarily the views of other authors, WordPress, Most people still using MySpace, and small furry creatures crawling around in your crawlspace.)

Rule 1: The Review Exchange

A lot of authors out there write for two reasons. One, to make their voice heard, their story told, their opinions amplified, or just to make noise. The second to make money. One great way of getting the almighty consumer to part with their cash or worsen their mounting credit card debt is to have others speak highly of your work, a.k.a. the “Review”. If most people hate something, others will not buy it. Likewise, if many people like the work, it may encourage others to buy your book. Thus, a new industry practice is born! Authors helping other authors by simply logging into Amazon, or other online book stores, and simply giving a marvelously stupendous review of the other’s material…without actually reading the said book.

Ummmm….NO!!!

Believe it or not, there are people out there in the business of “Selling their Reviews”. You pay them, and they post a review. Now if a asked a person on the street to walk up to a stranger and tell them to say something great about my book, they would probably laugh in my face. Now give them a hundred dollars, and they would probably be more than inclined to help. There are a few reasons why I don’t do it. The first is if I’m not earning the review simply by having a good book, then I don’t want it. It is a question of ethics. Second reason is that you don’t know what you are reviewing. If I was handed a box with unknown content and asked to review the food inside, I could spout on for days on the savory smells, the detectible juices, the smooth texture and exquisite taste. But if I opened the box after my mouth and found it full of year old cow manure, what did it say about me? I don’t like cow manure particularly, and I wouldn’t tell people to eat it, point made.

Personally, I always let the other author know that I have no intensions on reviewing something I haven’t actually read. By saying this, you have let and ensured the other author that you truly intend to read the hard work and passion they have put into the work. Trust me, you will gain not only truer friends, but if they like what you read and vice versa, both have gained a new fan, and hopefully their fans become fans as well.

Rule 2: Do for me if I do for you

Floating back to rule 1, just because you read and review a fellow authors work, DO NOT expect the other author to do the same. I have read and reviewed several works by a number of fellow authors. Writers like Jim Beard, Tom Lambert, Pete the Popcorn, and Andy Peloquin. And of the group just mentioned, not one of them have offered or reviewed any of my said work. How does that make me feel, well, happy.

Why you ask? Why would I spend the long hours reading over their material and spend precious moments writing reviews for authors who possibly have no intensions on doing the same? Well, because it goes back to ethics and the first rule. Just because I am willing to do it does not make it a requirement for others to stop their day and do the same. I enjoy reading, and I enjoy supporting of authors and lending advice and grand reviews if the material of worth it, but I’m not going to march to their homes and demand they do the same for you, that’s just plain rude.

Rule 3: Speaking of other authors

I recently read a blog by another author. In the blog, the author sounded slightly angered by the fact that he/she wasn’t able to gain any publicity in a local paper. The rant carried on about how another writer was featured in the same paper which was, in his/her own opinion, less the sub-par, and that she couldn’t understand how a writer who published 200 pages of “Boo-Hoo” about her life could trump the 600 page plus masterpiece that he/she had written. This actually turned me off about the writer, if they couldn’t help support another writer just because he/she was doing better than himself/herself, why would that writer want to support them. Once again, ethics people! This takes me back to the first line of this blog, partly. Just because you don’t like someone else’s writing, does not make it bad (to others), and if you like someone else’s writing doesn’t mean it’s good (to others). It’s a matter of taste, something you should always remember when speaking of other’s writing.

Let me give you an example of the above rules. While online one day a year or two back, I was blessed to meet an author by the name of Andy Peloquin. He had just written a book and was looking for other authors to review the work. He was quite professional about it, had an e-mail list of perspective readers and reviewers, sent regular messages including review material, blog information, press release kits, the whole nine yards. The book sparked my interest so I agreed to read and review his work. Even though it took me a better part of a year to read it (sorry again Andy), I did finish the material and put out the best review I could. Do I expect him to do the same even though I did furnish him with a copy of my own, absolutely not. If he did, it would be great, but not everyone is into YA, high school, fantasy, romance novels. I wouldn’t expect him to sit and read something he wouldn’t enjoy, it could reflect on his own honest review, that could be bad for me. Then again, they may be busy with other writing or aspects of their lives, like myself who runs two post offices, married with five children, and tries to squeeze in his own writing while keeping up with reading other books that I wish I had more time for.

So in closing, be respectful for other’s work. Try to remember the blood, sweat, and tears you yourself put into your own work and imagine other writers doing the same thing, whether you think the end result may be garbage or the best thing since sliced bread. Do what you can in every instance to lift others up and be supportive and helpful, but don’t always expect the others to do the same for you, whether by choice or by life obligations.

For information about Andy Peloquin and his writing, check him out at http://www.andypeloquin.com. He is a superb writer, you won’t regret it!

For more information on me and my writing, feel free to follow me on my Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/authorterryjames or on Amazon @ https://www.amazon.com/Terry-James/e/B00HUB1Q6Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1471732632&sr=8-2

Good Luck! And I will see you (figuratively of course) next week for another exciting installment!