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“Romancing the Audience” by Lori Stephens

Red RosesStrong or soft? Loud or quiet? Fast or slow? Like romantic pursuit, tailor your writing for those who will be seduced.

You bring a dozen red roses or a bottle of Jack Daniels.
You whisper “sweet nothings” or shout vitriol.
You go prosaic, fluid, meandering, effusive, grandiose, or torrential or terse.

Is this courtship or wooing your readership?

Both. Whether fiction or nonfiction, everything starts with knowing who your readers are and what they like. By studying the field—what sells in your category, how well it sells, the demographics of the readers, and what they always buy or never buy—you will know how to hone your “courtship strategy.”

Consider the following statistics for book sales through Target.

“Target’s selection of both trade fiction and nonfiction, plus a smattering of mass market releases in its 1,750 stores in 49 states, overlaps with the offerings one would expect to find at a typical general bookstore.

  • Customers of the retailer are younger and more affluent than those at typical discount department store chains; 30% of the latter are older than 65 years and 55% have a household income below $40,000.
  • According to Target, 80%–90% of its customers are female, with a median age of 46; 83% have children at home.
  • Almost half have completed college, and more than half are employed in professional or managerial positions.
  • The median household income of Target’s customers is $55,000.
  • According to a Bowker PubTrack survey of consumer book-buying behavior, in the third quarter of 2010 80% of Target customers who bought a book were women, with 62% of buyers coming from households with income over $50,000.
  • Buyers spent the most money on fiction titles, with fiction accounting for 51% of spending, followed by children’s books, which took 31%. Nonfiction represented only 10% of spending.”

(Source: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/45845-target-keeps-book-buyers-in-its-sights.html)

Consider how your writing would appeal to affluent, college-age women as opposed to YA readers. Are the readers in your target market looking for something easily digestible that they can work into a multi-task-driven day, or do they want emotionally intense reading that provides fantastical escape?

The analogy is that your writing is a type of courtship. The goal is to entice the readers into noticing your book, grab them, maintain their interest, and never let go. Not an unfamiliar ploy—we do it when chatting with someone interesting at a social gathering or during a job interview.

I’ve seen manuscripts in the “thriller” genre filled with meandering prose or details so precise that the storyline has completely faded into oblivion. Then there are times when a personal development book, dealing with powerfully emotional subjects, reads like a software manual. There’s a disconnect between the subject and the style/presentation, and this likely comes from lack of knowledge about the readership.

Take the time to get to know your readers intimately. Talk to them, listen to them, study them so that you know how to deliver what they’re looking for. If they like writing that’s soft and fuzzy, give them that, but if they will open their wallets for a reading experience that leaves them breathless, be prepared to get naked.

~~~~~~~~~~~Lori Stephens, pNLP, CCP has mastered an approach to developing book manuscripts that blends high organization, clarity, and intuition. Her skills have been honed through experience with clients ranging from indie authors to Fortune 500 corporations. Her forte is working as the writer’s coach and “inspirarian,” and she says, “I take the time to understand the tone and message of your writing as well as its marketing strategies–in this way, I align precision with purpose.” She is the owner of Verbatim Editorial and has published four books.  Lori recently joined the freelance team at www.theprobookeditor.com.

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