This is Part 5 of “Let’s Discover Your Author Brand” using Emlyn Chand’s and Robb Grindstaff’s book Discover Your Brand: A Do-it-Yourself Branding Workbook for Authors. I’ll refer to the book from now on as “Discover Your Brand”.
In Part 4, we examined how to visualize your readers.
In this post I work through Chapter 5, which is expands on the idea of your target reader, allowing you refine the vision.
This is a rather short chapter and, frankly, I think it could have been combined with chapter 4. At the end of that chapter the authors recommend finding an image that most closely represents your target reader, printing it, and pinning up somewhere in view.
Chapter five begins with the task of broadening and deepening your idea of your target reader. The authors say you should provide your target reader with a back story, in much the same way would with a protagonist in your novel. The idea is to be able to better uncover your target reader’s likes and dislikes.
The authors contend that having an idea of your target reader’s likes and dislikes allows you to determine “deal breakers” when it comes to buying your books. They supply a personal example whereby they (or at least one of the authors) discovered that there target reader was religious. This led them to decide that their stories would contain no sex and no swearing, to better appeal to their target reader.
The authors introduce the concept of deal breakers but it’s never clear what they mean by it. Moreover, some of their sentences could have used an edit. For example, I struggled over this one:
Writing books you love and can be proud of as important as writing books that will excite — and not disappoint or disgust — your readers.
I think there’s an “is” missing from the sentence. No matter though, on to a significant question: does this mean that a deal breaker is something that you as an author are not willing to put into your stories in order for them be appealing to your target reader? Or does it mean something that your reader would find sufficiently disagreeable such that they would not read your stories? From the context of the rest of the chapter it seems to be the former, and I have chosen to interpret it as such, but it’s never explicitly defined.
So…what are the kinds of things I that would not include in my stories merely to have them sell better? What concepts, situations, depictions, or adjustments would I NOT be willing to make because they would run counter to my brand as an author?
The authors list a number of questions to ask yourself such as:
Are you ok with:
- Writing intimate love scenes?
- Writing about murder or suicide?
- Discussing politics or controversial issues?
- Bleak or hopeless endings?
There are a number of others, but the foregoing give you an idea.
So these are the things that I will not write about in any Lady Merreth story as they run counter to my brand, or at least the brand I want to promote for Lady Merreth:
- Explicit (or even thinly veiled) commentary on current day politics
- Extreme gore; gritty is good, gratuitous gore, not so much
- Bleak or hopeless endings; Merreth always wins (I hope), though her victories may be costly
- Child abuse, animal abuse; Merreth may run into some nasty individuals, but they’ll never engage in those activities
There are probably others, but the foregoing is top-of-list.
Once you have your list of deal breakers you’re to consider what your target reader’s deal breakers are. If there is a significant difference (say you don’t want to write explicit sex scenes but your target reader would enjoy them) you must decide how much you’re willing to go to accommodate your target reader.
Two weaknesses come at the end of the chapter.
First, most authors, I would think, write books that appeal to themselves. It’s a rare thing, for example, for an author who cannot abide horror to write in that genre. Why would they? Would they not find it more fulfilling to write books that they themselves would like to read? Therefore, how different will the likes and dislikes of their target reader be from theirs? A legitimate question that goes unaddressed in Discover Your Brand.
Second, the Discover Your Brand authors state at the very end of the chapter that if you do discover differences between what you prefer to write as an author (and wish to reflect you brand) and the preferences of your target reader, then you may “want to consider a hybrid approach to genre”.
How altering your genre is supposed to bridge the difference between what is reflected in your writing — and brand — and what your target reader might want is not stated. The authors merely state the following chapter (Chapter 6) will be used to “work out the ideal genre for you”.
Chapter 5 of Discover Your Brand, is weak. It begins with central concept that is never clearly defined — the “Deal Breakers”. It asks you to identify the differences between what you want to have reflected in your brand, and the preferences of your target reader — a worthwhile exercise, not withstanding the fact that your ideal target reader is likely to reflect your preferences in the first place. Finally, it suggests that such differences can be addressed by altering your genre without explaining how.
I think that Chapter 5 has value because it forces you to decide what you will not incorporate into your writing. However, I was quite disappointed in what the authors suggest after you have carried out that exercise.
Your mileage may vary, of course.
Thanks for reading, and I will see you again soon.