Finding an audience
Writing your story is the easy part, but to interest someone enough to take the time to read it is an entirely different matter.
Over the years, I’ve written a lot of memory stories and have realized that there were only a few select readers who found them even remotely interesting. Most of the stories were either too generic or too personal, finding a happy medium was the challenge. To find where I fit in, I joined several websites that catered to writers who needed feedback on their material. I was offered critiques about what was right and what needed tweaking. Actively participating on those websites was an invaluable lesson for me. That feedback, from other more successful writers, opened my eyes and made me realize what was keeping me from being published. Some of the feedback was harsh and even hurtful, but within every critique was something I could use to further improve my writing. I took each hit on the shoulder and each compliment with a sincere thank-you.
I began submitting my material to slice-of-life publications and online sites that offered only a by-line and no monetary compensation. I never questioned the fact that I wasn’t getting paid, I felt encouraged that my piece was accepted, and I could add that publication to my resume. The more publications I gathered, the more acceptance letters I received.
To find your audience, it’s vital that you find your voice. Your voice is the tone in which you write in. I write in the tone that I speak in. I write my stories as if I’m in the same room as my reader and we’re passing the time with a cup of coffee and friendly conversation.
Other writers may fall into different categories. There are writers who can write suspense and keep the reader on the edge of their seat, and their audience would fall into the thrill seeker category. Others write heart-wrenching tales of loss and betrayal. Their readers might be able to relate to their own tales of loss and betrayal. And then there are those who write steamy tales of romance and intrigue that keeps the reader enticed enough to keep them turning the pages to that first forbidden kiss.
You need to figure out what type audience you envision reading your stories. My second book, Mom's Eye View, Life...from a Mother's Perspective, revolved around the stories of being a working wife and mother. It was about finding humor in the everyday ins and outs of that life, as well as seeing the beauty that sometimes gets lost in those daily struggles. When I began targeting who I thought might buy and read this book, I entered into open discussions on working mother's forum boards; reaching out to women who worked and juggled those daily challenges. I actively participated in those discussions offering advice, sympathy and camaraderie. I marketed my book and did book signings at places where I knew mothers spent time; the library, craft fairs, the mall; anywhere I knew mothers would be. I set up displays and put this book on consignment in hair salons, bookstores and even the grocery store. You and your book need to be where your audience is.
Here's another angle; you want to write a book about your memories of say, being a game warden; where would your target audience be? At the hair salon? Maybe, even game wardens need a haircut, but sales would probably be a little slow. Or would a better choice be a gun shop? Cabela's? LL Bean? Can you envision your book about the adventures of being a game warden in the woods of Maine, on a bookshelf in Maine's biggest outdoor retail stores? I could. This is what is meant by finding your audience.
A memoir is a story about memories, make your memories come alive by putting yourself in the story and catering to the readers who want to experience your adventures right along with you as they turn the pages.
I welcome all comments and suggestions.