ShortBookandScribes #BlogTour #GuestPost by Paul Marriner, Author of The Blue Bench @marriner_p #RandomThingsTours
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner. I have a guest post from the author about target readers to share with you today. My thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for the place on the tour.
Margate 1920 The Great War is over but Britain is still to find peace and its spirit is not yet mended. Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past. Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live to live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side. Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends and the country?
Do I Have A Target Reader? by Paul Marriner
Hi, I’m Paul, who are you?
This is my first article as part of the blog tour for The Blue Bench so I thought I’d start by introducing myself – but to tell the truth that’s not all that exciting (especially for me) and I’m far more interested in you than you need to be in me.
Why? When I write I have a person in mind. A person who I imagine critiques the work as I go along; a person I’m trying to entertain and challenge; a person who I hope wants to sit down with me after they’ve finished the book and chat about it – they question my choices, tell me what’s wrong and offer suggestions for improvement but also tell me what they enjoyed about it and why – ‘cos we all need some positive reinforcement now and again, right?
Now I know a great deal about this imaginary person – approximately how old they are, what they like to do on holiday, their favourite books and films, the careers to which they aspire (more than one) and how they voted at the last election but there is a lot I don’t know.
Does this person have a name? No. Do I know what they look like? No.
But is this person a ‘target’ reader’? No.
The larger publishing companies put effort into understanding the demographics of their readers and cross-reference them with genres and authors – this informs marketing, editorial and commissioning decisions. And I understand why they might focus resources on selling to targeted readers.
But the person I have in mind isn’t a ‘target’. Even if I had a target and knew their preferences for genre, style, length and settings I think I’d find it difficult to write to those specifics unless I too was passionate about them. Not to mention, how often do people we know surprise us by enjoying a film or book or play that we thought they’d hate? Often – and, thankfully, people like to be taken outside their usual arenas.
No, the person I have I mind is not a target but a friend whose judgement I trust and who isn’t afraid to tell me to discard the bad, improve the average and nurture the good. A lot of this is subjective but they’ve been around a while. They don’t let me ignore them easily. Often they need to gently drip-feed their advice over a few days before I swallow my pride and reach for the red pen.
They have high standards that I want to meet.
This is not to say that if I was writing in a specific genre I wouldn’t also want to make sure the readers’ expectations were met. The use of genres in literature and film are important to bring the consumer and producer together and it would be naïve to pretend otherwise. They are an essential tool. In that instance I suppose I too would have target readers in mind. But perhaps the most important thing my guide brings (that a ‘target’ does not) is a desire to improve my writing. My guide understands that, regardless of genre, the reader shouldn’t be underestimated. The reader can ‘read between the lines’, they don’t need to be spoon-fed and some ambiguity is ok – just as in real life. The reader will appreciate quality writing, perhaps instinctively rather than analytically, but isn’t that the best way? The reader wants to be invited into a story and will immerse themselves given the chance. The reader wants to know the characters, be they heroes or villains. The reader is smarter than many think and usually smarter than the author.
Yes there are many readers who share traits, preferences and tastes which might match nicely with certain genres but that doesn’t necessarily make them ‘typical’ or ‘targets’. I don’t believe the reader wants to be a ‘target’ and I think they know when they’re treated as such.
So, though I’d like to know more about you (& anyone that might be interested in my books), if I ask, don’t think it’s because I want to target you. It’s because I’m thinking perhaps I need to add to my literary ‘guide’ and you may be just the person.
In case it’s of interest – though my current novel, ‘The Blue Bench’ is mostly given the genre historical or women’s fiction, to me it’s more useful to think of the themes it covers – love, hope, grief, sorrow, search for peace –themes that are global, regardless of genre.
I should say that although I listen to my imaginary guide that doesn’t (on its own) make me crazy and I would always recommend a good editor as well! (perhaps a topic for another blog)
Thank you, Paul, for such an interesting post.
Paul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one (but still finding time to play drums with Redlands and Rags 2 Riches).