Sometimes I think I may have done things a bit backwards.
Some days I know I did.
Always snuggled in the advice that I’ve received from publishing and writing professionals are the words: know your audience. If a writer doesn’t recognize their audience, they struggle with marketing and how to pitch their book to consumers. I whole-heartedly agree – but only to a certain extent. Yes, Amazon asks you to select several words that describe your book in order to help filter it to the correct audience. When reaching out to book bloggers and publishing companies, you have to know your audience to make certain the book lands in the right hands.
I get it. I get it. I get it.
However, I’m not entirely certain I heeded the advice (not fully, at any rate) with my first book. When I wrote Catherine’s War, I never intended to publish it. Therefore, I only focused on an audience of one: me. I didn’t give any thought to other people. I was entirely selfish and made these characters and created their stories to appease and comfort only myself. It was only after I finished the story and mentally put the electronic copy on the bookshelf in my mind, that I considered maybe someone else might like to read about Henry and Catherine.
Suddenly, my audience grew.
It took a long while to share Catherine with anyone. As more and more of my friends and family encouraged me to publish it, I discovered a larger audience for my book than I dared to dream possible. I found beta readers who liked the story, and I found an editor who made claims of getting absorbed with the characters. How could I not be encouraged?
Then, when the book graduated past the editing phase, my editor asked the question: Who is your audience?
Me? Just me? Only me? When I couldn’t answer beyond that, I knew I was in trouble. I loved Catherine’s War so much, because it never seemed to fall into any specific category. It was a romance, yes, but I believed it to be so much more than that. I really struggled with how to answer my editor’s question. I didn’t want Catherine’s story to be labeled as simply a romance. To me, it was more than a story that people would read in private and hide between the couch cushions when the kids came home. I didn’t want to define the audience for my book. I was afraid the story would lose what made it unique.
It was my cover artist who finally told me, “Denise, you have to give us something. If you label it a romance, you’ll collect a particular audience, yes. But once you have them, they’ll quickly discover your book is more than that.” I begrudgingly agreed and gave the book an audience.
The results have been surprising.
At a recent book signing event at Main Street Books in St. Charles, MO, I discovered first-hand that my intended audience was much broader than I first believed. Customers and potential readers peppered me with questions, and I quickly learned that there were many people that had the same tastes in books that I did. After they later posted comments to my website about how they appreciated certain aspects of my book that made it more than just a romance novel, I realized I had unknowingly found my audience. They were there, hidden in nooks and crannies of a more general audience genre. What a pleasant discovery!!
I didn’t have my audience in mind when I wrote Catherine’s War. They came later.
Yes, sometimes I think I may have done things a bit backwards.
Some days I know I did.
And by doing things backwards, I didn’t see the surprises coming at me, and that made them all the more sweeter.