(Reblogged from Lisa Scullard)
Following yesterday's post Niche marketing - the psychology behind success I'll give you an example from my back catalogue, where I really was writing for a perceived 'niche market' as I saw it.
When designing your perfect reader, you have to realise that there is an element of caricature in the concept. Like for romance writers, their perfect reader might be the single city girl commuting, with her dog-eared, much-loved paperback copy of their book (not ebook, so that everyone can see what she's reading) in permanent residence at the bottom of her Chloé.
Have you noticed that bags and shoes aren't referred to as bags and shoes in chick lit anymore? It's all label this and designer that. Shopping-channel porn. Unfortunately, it also tends to date books quickly, due to fashion's fickle nature - you'll see what I mean in Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho novel, where Patrick launches into a loving and verbose description of the contents of his man-tastic living room.
As such, lurid technology envy should probably also be avoided, now everyone and their two-year-old owns an iPad. As for cars, they go out of style faster than shoes - quite literally...
Digression alert! What I was saying, is that your planned 'niche market' is 'a character' as much as the people in your novel are also characters. So for the traditional romance/chick lit author, her ideal reader is the city girl commuting on the train, enjoying her favourite books en route, and usually sneaking them out under the desk and in her lunch hour too. She probably gets wobbly on a gin and tonic, and leaves parties early to curl up in her PJs and watch Bridget Jones for the umpteenth time rather than embarrassing herself instead. She'd never ask a guy out because she's too shy, but secretly would like to dance on a table just once in her life. Abroad. Where nobody knows who she is.
That's a caricature. It's a perception of a potentially real person or reader, but doesn't define or specify a completely real person or reader.
The romance author only needs to write their own book with his/her particular reader in mind. She/he doesn't need to try and target 'everyone' and include members of the House of Lords, prisoners on Death Row, Guatemala, Greenpeace activists, people who work on whaling ships, and the creepy guy that never talks but licks the library windows. Even though they can all read as well, most likely. What I'm saying is, don't announce that your book is for 'everyone' - try being specific, and see how your story, its cover, and the way you promote it stands up to your concept of who in the worldwide 'market' you are considering would appreciate this sort of book.
Here's my own example - chick lit/crime, 'self-help' fiction, Death & The City:
Other editions and covers available - see 'eBooks'. Also in paperback print and hardcover.
Now I had only one reader in mind at first: Me.
But as I wrote, I realised there was an existing concept of women out there who might also enjoy it.
The ones who hadn't always managed to pick the right guy - or any guy. The ones who clung to the rails but spent most of the time off them, while they struggled with growing up, daily life, work and peer pressure.
The ones who saw everyone else's mistakes, but still couldn't make their own life work out perfectly...
Somewhere inside them is always a seed of strength, whether it's that they know better, they know what's best for them deep down but other people always seem to get it wrong, or that they have already been through the 'worst case scenarios' on a number of occasions, and have come out the other side...
They're a bit feisty on the surface, and never seem to take any crap, and are occasionally better survivors single than in a relationship - but that's only because they're protecting themselves, their sanity and their children first...
They don't 'need a man' but the right one will find them - eventually.
And you know that the minute she picks up the ball and runs with it, she'll kick everyone's ass...
...So that's my caricature of a potential 'niche market' audience. It sounds quite specific. But when you read into it, and expand on it, you'll find that some of the characteristics you've given your 'specific reader' speak to a much wider audience than you first realised. Lots of people will identify with elements of it.
But you don't advertise that fact.
You stick to communicating your idea of 'one perfect reader' who will get the most from your work, take the best message it contains on board, feel it speaks to the best version of themselves, and leads them to further insights of their own.
Sounds idealistic, doesn't it? But niche marketing is all about selling idealism, that others will then want to be a part of. How or what you write is up to you, whether your intentions are good and it comes from the heart, or you only want to find the fastest route to making money. Either way, you still then have to promote it, whether it's to a publisher or directly to the public - and you need to say who you are writing for, not just why.
It's funny. I've never put together an actual pinboard of my ideal reader as above, and here it is. I carried the concept of my 'reader' and the various representations of that reader around in my head. But looking at them, and looking at my various covers, I think this is the best one so far:
Cover for the Smashwords/Kobo/Sony/Diesel Ebooks/iTunes Bookstore version and Lulu hardback
The pink is more appropriate - but I still think it's not quite there yet. I'll need to make a bigger 'niche marketing' pinboard and see where that leads me...
Make your 'ideal reader pinboard' - it might surprise you :)
Angelina Jolie talks about getting into character for Lisa Rowe in 'Girl, Interrupted'