Who Are your Readers?

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
Who do you think that you're writing your books for? If you can make the fantasy of getting published come true, and your debut story begins to sell, then who will your readers be?

Ideally, a writer should have considered this notion while planning their novel, and certainly while writing it. Market research of demographics by age and gender, and other factors such as education level, can reveal some surprising information. In my chosen genre of crime fiction, I already knew, from having worked as a librarian, that it was popular with women of a 'certain age'. As this chart shows 28% of readers are 65+, and combining the next two age groups 35% are 45-64 years-old:

Mystery/crime book readers by gender in the U.S. 2014 | Statistic

This article states that gender-wise 68% of thrillers and crime novels are female. Women read more than men, anyway, especially when it comes to fiction, though overall the disparity isn't that huge.

One of the joys of reading is that it's a personal and private activity. We're transported into another world through the portal of a book. Kindles were so successful because they further disguised what a person was reading—surely, part of the reason for the success of the Fifty Shades series—how many folk would openly read erotica in printed book form? :rolleyes:

It's impossible to predict what sort of books someone likes just be looking at them. I once knew a scientist-engineer-inventor, who, with his spectacles, wild white hair and shabby suit, would have been ideal casting for the role of the dotty professor in a children's movie. A bachelor, he led a low-key life, driving a modest car and living in an unspectacular house, despite being a multi-millionaire from various industrial patents he owned. Had I guessed at his chosen fiction preference, I'd have said hard science-fiction with a strong factual base, for he was keenly interested in astronomy and space travel. I was surprised to learn, that he was actually a devotee of vintage pulp fiction, trashy dime novels with lurid cover illustrations, especially Westerns.

In my own writing, I aim towards mature readers who are probably also experienced readers. I don't dumb things down for those browsing for a quick snack—though perhaps I should—if I want to make huge sales. There isn't any point in writing crime stories featuring a trendy young detective, aimed at non-existent youthful readers. My Cornish Detective novels have a strong sense of place, using real locations and including the geology, history, flora and fauna and myths and legends that people love about the county. I deliberately trade on Cornwall's image, as it's one of those places that's known worldwide. I anticipate that Cornwall would be a big part of marketing my stories.

Any genre contains sub-genres, so my novels might also appeal to crime readers who favour forensic and police procedural stories, though they're certainly not cosy mysteries or hard-boiled private investigator thrillers. I enjoy laying false trails, slippery with red herrings, making my reader pick their way through the psychological elements.

Beyond that, I don't know who will read my books.

How about you?

Are you writing for those seeking an undemanding distraction, or for dedicated fans of your chosen genre?

What life lessons are you trying to teach in your stories, especially those aimed at young readers?

Can you imagine meeting your readers? There's a reading group at my local library, comprised of eight women of mature years, who I try not to overhear as I search the shelves for fresh reading. In eight years, I've never seen a man in the group. Their comments are often bizarre and off topic, but one element that I have noticed about their reaction to a novel is how the story made them feel. Also, the relationship between a strong protagonist and antagonist animates the discussion.

I sometimes imagine them pulling my novels apart, should they ever be published....

I've begged the librarians not to out me as a novelist!

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34 Calls for Submissions in January 2018 - Paying Markets