The extremely astute among you will probably remember me discussing this matter before. As a matter of fact, I recall it being part of the series on questions I usually get asked as an author. However, I don’t think this will be the last time I bring this up.
It shouldn’t really have to be said, but a key message that an author should send out is who the target audience for his novels are. This is a principle I never really fully grasped when my first publisher in 2007 asked me in their questionnaire: “Who is your target audience?” As an excited writer who couldn’t wait to be published, the obvious answer was “Everyone!”
I’d like to believe that I’ve grown wiser since then. The reality only kicked in much later when I started to get feedback from some who had bought my fantasy novel just to support me and others to whom it had been recommended. Through my discussion with them it came out that they had never read fantasy before, and so it was hard to grasp. That was my original “a-ha” moment, where I realised just how essential it was to target the correct genre market.
For authors like me, it’s not about just raking in the bucks irrespective of who buys it; I actually want my readers to enjoy my stories and want more. I want to be able to walk into any of my readers and embark on a meaningful discussion about the key points in the story that they loved the most.
So why bring it up now, again? I’ve seen too many times the look of excitement of people’s faces when I tell them I am busy with my next book. There are many that have been following my writing, and when those words exit my mouth (“I’m actually busy with a new one”) then their eyes light up and they want more details, hoping it is something they can get stuck in. And then, when you do, there’s almost a look of confusion, perhaps disappointment, and in some places horror, at what you’ve come up with next.
I say ‘horror’ because that is exactly what my next novel is. That is my next target market. I’m then asked if I’m into horror, as if that’s the worse thing I could ever be into, as if the vile essence of darkness has just poured out of my pores. I’ve been wondering lately if Stephen King also had these reactions.
I need to be realistic and almost sympathetic though. It boils down to a certain level of acclimation to the genre environment, if you will. Not everyone grew up enjoying horror movies and novels to the point where you wonder if any of them will scare you anymore. Some people have seen five minute of the “Supernatural” tv series and have since then sworn off television for the rest of their lives. Hell, some have been so sheltered in live that they’ve never seen horror or simply steered clear of it (not a bad thing at all). I mean, when people have nightmares they usually have shivery remnants of it for days. If I have a horrific nightmare, I usually consider it a good plot for a new book.
As the cliche goes, everyone is different. Some of you reading this may be cheering me on, and putting on that “Disturbed” album we love so much. The rest probably think I am disturbed and need my head read. To each its own. When the end of days come and demons rise to conquer the earth and you’re cowering from the darkness, you will see my brother in his daedric armour with his huge sword in hand, my sister in her rogue assassin outfit with throwing knives and bow, and me in my mage suit and staff of elements, sending them back down to the bowels of the earth. 😛
Fantasy aside, the key message is this. Please make sure you’re part of the target audience. What makes it slightly more complicated for me at this point is that I am narrowing my target audience even further. “Silent Hill: Betrayal” caters specifically for the fans of the game franchise and possibly those that enjoyed the movies. There is a heightened sense of eeriness when fans read about memorable locations in the game, or when certain aspects remind them of their favourite aspects of Silent Hill. This may be lost on horror fans who have never even heard of the series. They may not even understand why certain parts are written a certain way, whereas die-hard fans will be shouting for joy for an easter egg (gamer jargon) found in the novel.
So why take such a huge risk, if the emotional-return-on-investment may be low? (not financial R-O-I but rather reader enjoyment and distribution). Simply because I have spent my life enjoying Silent Hill in every possible way and consider it a privilege that Konami and Ster-Kinekor Entertainment have allowed me to create my own story in their world. It’s an personal achievement for me to be part of this world, and with the recent fall of the new “Silent Hills” game that got cancelled, I am hoping that my novel will spur them back on to greater things.
Ok this post has gone on longer than anticipated. Main lesson: if you can’t take horror, don’t read it. I have many other genres coming up, the next novel wave being crime, and thereafter back to fantasy. I’m even throwing in some comedy relief in the same fashion as my heroes Robert Rankin and Terry Pratchett in a different series.
Let me end by saying that I am not discouraging anyone from trying a new genre. Not in the least. You may just have picked an author that didn’t do the genre justice (heaven forbid that’s me). I am simply just warning that, when you do try it, it may just not be your cup of tea. Make sure you want to be part of that market, and if it doesn’t work at least you can say you tried.
In love and grace
The Count of Celenic Earth