Monday, 19 May 2014

Target audience

The Time Bubble is progressing better than I could have hoped for. You'll remember before I started all of this that I questioned whether I would find writing fiction more difficult than writing non-fiction.

As the weeks have gone by and the novel has taken shape those concerns have fallen away. I've become completely immersed in the tale and am managing to write around 7,000 words a week at present as I move onto the second half of the book.

When I began I had a broad framework in place - a skeleton if you like of the basic structure of the book. I knew what the book was going to be about, the story I wanted to tell and how it would end. I had drafted a rough chapter structure and knew what was going to happen and where.

Since then the writing process has been very much a case of putting the meat on the bones and as I've progressed there have been many opportunities to add in little scenes and bits of dialogue where they fit in nicely to the plot. It's not all set in stone, I'm allowing myself the flexibility to do that which is very good for the creative process - and more enjoyable for me - and hopefully the readers too.

I tend to do my writing in the morning but in my head I am planning what I am going to write during the previous day. By the time I come to write it down I've got a very clear idea of what I am going to write and the words just flow.

Now that I am on to the second half of the book I am allowing myself the time to begin thinking about the launch of the book. As I've mentioned before, the book won't sell itself and there are all sorts of things to take into consideration.

I've talked about the importance of covers before and I was very pleased when one of my facebook friends who is doing graphic design at University contacted me and expressed an interest in the cover design. We've talked a lot about the concept of the book and she's opened up a discussion with the rest of her class who are working on some ideas. This is great stuff and I'm really pleased that someone has taken an interest like this. In the past I've used companies on the website to design covers for me - and although I've been pleased with the end results it is not the same as having someone you personally know take an interest. I shall let you know how it works out.

The other thing that's been in my thoughts has been "target audience". It's easy to answer the question "Who are you marketing this book towards?" with the answer "Everyone" but in reality the book market does not work like that. It's very genre led and people are looking for specific things. We would all like to have mass market appeal but a book needs to have an identity and belong somewhere. That is why Amazon use categories.

You can pick two categories for any book that you sell. For example I have Fortysomething Father in two categories. Back in the heady days of June last year it reached the #1 position in both its categories which was a very proud moment for me. The categories I placed it in were as follows:

Books > Humour > Parenting & Families
Books > Health, Family & Lifestyle > Families & Parents > Fatherhood

It's not that difficult to categorise a non-fiction book. After all, a cookery book is a cookery book, it's pretty obvious where to place it. And the target audience is easier to define too e.g. people who like cooking.

However, fiction can be a little more difficult to categorise and deciding where to place a book like The Time Bubble isn't immediately obvious.

There's an element of sci-fi in the book as it involves time travel but I don't want to aim it at the hardcore sci-fi market alone because it is not hard core sci-fi. It's more of a RomCom with a sci-fi twist. I see it as being appealing to the sort of people who've enjoyed movies like Sliding Doors and Back To The Future.

Then there's the question of the age of potential readers. Although I didn't initially set out for this to be a book for teenagers it would certainly appeal to that age group. The four core characters are in Year 12 and are aged 16 or 17. But then there are older characters too.

I am considering categorising it in the "Teen/ Young Adult" section but in the hope that older readers will find it appealing too. After all, many very popular books aimed at that age group have been equally popular with adults e.g. Harry Potter.

This does raise the question of what is and is acceptable for younger readers. Books don't have certificates in the same way as films do but I guess if mine was to have one, I would probably class it as a 12A. There is no graphic depiction of sex at all in the book, but the teenagers do talk about it in the way that teenagers do, including topics such as losing their virginity. I don't think many parents would be too uncomfortable with a 13 or 14 year old reading this - after all I am sure they are exposed to far worse.

Then of course there is the question of bad language. Bearing in mind I've DJ'd at kids parties before where 7 year olds have asked for uncut versions of Eminem etc in recent years, I doubt very much whether my book is going to corrupt anyone. There are a few minor swear words in the book e.g. "twat" and "bollocks" but only one usage of the word "fuck". I am not one for swearing prolificly anyway. I think people who use fuck three times in every sentence as a verb, noun and adjective aren't making best use of the word. I think it is far more effective when used sparingly - especially when it's from someone you wouldn't normally expect it from. I hope this might not be considered an ageist comment but I always find it really funny when old people swear.

What's even worse is when the word "fuck" is substituted by "f*ck" or another word altogether. If you are going to have someone use it in a scene where that is what they would realistically say, then for realism it should be used. I have seen TV shows in the past where hard core cockney villains have used phrases like "Naff off" which is, for want a better word, "naff".

In the scene in which it is used in my book, Lauren, a feisty 16 year old girl who is not to be messed with loses her temper with an obnoxious lad in the canteen and has a huge rant at him in front of everyone ending with the phrase "Now why don’t you do us all a favour and just fuck off".

Lauren is one of my favourite characters, I can picture her, even imagine talking to her and this is exactly what she would say in this scenario. So I am leaving it in. I can't believe that there is a 14 year old in the country who is not aware of and has not heard this word - if you think I am wrong, please correct me before I drop myself in it, even if Mary Whitehouse isn't around any more.

In order to find out if my book really will be of appeal to teens/ young adults, I am conducting a little market research on the subject which you may be able to help me with. If there are any of you out there with teenage children, or even if you are a teenager yourself and you would be interested in giving me a feedback, please let me know and I'll send you a PDF of the first few chapters and you or they can take a look at it.

Thanks for reading!
Jason

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