Who Are You Writing for and Why Does it Matter?

I mentioned in an earlier blog post the importance of writing for a specific target demographic. In the absence of any other blog topic, and in order to keep up my once-a-week-schedule I promised to myself I’d keep in last week’s blog post, I’ll expand on what I meant and why it’s important. When browsing Twitter, I often see book plugs akin to “If you like historical romance, you’ll love Book A,” or, “Science fiction nut? Check out Book B.” That’s like McDonald’s assuming that anyone who likes food will automatically love their shitty burgers. The people who write book plugs like the examples above haven’t thought hard enough about whom they’re writing for. And it will probably mean, barring some stroke of luck, that they’ll never effectively market their books. They’ll never get their books in front of the thousands of readers they couldn’t be bothered specifically targeting who will buy everything they write and make them financially independent. In short, they’ll never be able to tell their boss go fuck himself, they’re done making McShittys for peanuts…Peanuts, McShitty? I feel a joke touching cloth.

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Require sustenance? Come in and try a McShitty. *Warning: some mornings it may contain peanuts*

If a writer wants to build up a devoted readership, it’s not enough to assume that anyone who reads the genre or even the super-specific subgenre they write will automatically become a fan. Because guess what, there are a shit-ton of other writers offering the same literature packaged the same way, and without having set they’re stall out differently from the rest of the authors of that genre, their books will try to impress all the readers of that genre and end up impressing none. They need to define a subset of a particular genre reader in their mind and tailor their writing to blow the socks of those people, and figuratively tell everyone who’s part of a different subset of readers who likes science fiction or military thrillers or whatever to go fuck themselves.

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In writing mysteries with edgy humor, I figuratively told this outdoorsy type who likes cozy mysteries about baking and dogs to go fuck herself.

So how do I go about defining my target demographic and writing specifically for them? I hear you ask. It’s simple, think about the experience you want to give them. You’re not going to be like a hooker who wants to be a Jill of all trades, master of none. You’ve got a niche customer base who you’ll specifically dress up for and cater to when between the sheets of some bed in some Motel 6. A target demographic shouldn’t be defined by age range or interests or if they color their hair at home or at the salon, or as mentioned above that they happen to read a specific genre, but what experience they’re looking for as a reader.

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M is for what suspiciously looks like a gorilla.

A couple years ago, I tried to write appeal-to-everyone literary fiction that I thought I could sell shit-tons of. I didn’t have a clue whom I was writing for, just that I liked writing. Writing those books was laborious, and editing them was like smashing myself in the forehead repeatedly with a sledgehammer. They were shit. And the reason they were shit, apart from the fact that back then I was an even shittier writer than I am now, was that my heart wasn’t in it. Around the same time, I decided I’d like to get well read. I picked up a Charles Dickens book that had been collecting dust on my bookshelf and started reading. I hated it. I hated all the description, I hated that it made me feel stupid, and I hated how slow it moved. With this experience in mind, I set out to find out what shit I actually like to read, and found an author who wrote exactly that.

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For the life of me I can’t get that asshole to like my books.

I won’t mention who it is, because I’m not into plugging other self-published authors on my blog, and because it’s irrelevant. Anyway, the point of the above longwinded story wasn’t to Dickens on Charles, but to lead onto whom I write for, my target demographic. Figuring I’d never sell enough books to satisfy my ambition, I started writing to entertain myself. My target demographic is me. And this is the type of reader I am and what experience I want:

The only times I read are during my commute to and from work. It’s either super early or I’ve just spent a day at work, so my concentration isn’t the best. This means I need books that aren’t super complex or are bogged down with rarely written words and that look light on the page. The place I live, Oslo, is quite scenic, and in order to stop me from gawping at the various views I go past on my journey to or from work, I need books that strive to be constantly entertaining. I don’t give a fuck if there’s any social realism or topical themes—if I want to be educated or enlightened about something, I’ll read a newspaper or pick up a non-fiction book—and I equally don’t give a fuck about how clever the writer is. I especially don’t want to read some flowery description of a room or a person. If I want something nice to look at, I don’t want to imagine it based on some author’s words. I’ll look at it on my television screen or at an art gallery. In the place of visual imagery and topical-theme-laden narratives, I want banter between characters, lots of dialogue and action, and a plot that moves faster than a hobo who’s just found a winning lottery ticket. I’m willing to suspend disbelief and read about characters that I don’t necessarily relate to or think realistic, as long as those characters are working their asses off to entertain me. When I finish a book, I don’t want to feel like I’ve just sat through a mildly interesting 5-hour lecture, but like I’ve just been to the circus while high on LSD. I want fiction books to do what they’re supposed to do: entertain me, regardless of whether they’re considered good literature or not.

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Unless it’s a bad trip…a really bad trip.

So that’s the type of reader I am. And that’s whom I write for. I write books to make myself laugh, and I’m not a unique like a snowflake, so other readers laugh too. Ones who share my sense of humor. And I market my books to appeal to other readers like me—while producing my blurbs, my book covers, and this blog. Next time you sit down to write, think about who it is you’re writing for and what type of experience they’re looking for. Don’t make a McShitty and think that everyone who likes food will lap it up, because they won’t.

As always, if you laughed out loud at least three times, press one of the share buttons below. It’s kind of a deal I have going on with the readers of this blog.


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Five Reasons to Keep an Author Blog

I started writing this blog for one reason: to sell my fiction books. I may just suck at blogging, or I might not have been doing it for long enough, or it might be because I write wonky lists like this too often, but this blog does not sell any books. It doesn’t even get a significant number of downloads for my perma-free book. I’ve thought of quitting and putting the time I take to write, edit, and publish this blog back into my fiction writing, but I kinda like doing it. From now on I’m going to write one a week. Even if the end result is shitty, like I fear this one might be. But because I have an iPad and an ass and way too much time on a Saturday morning, I’m going to need greater motivation than the half-assed promise I just made to myself to keep up an intense once-a-week schedule. I’m going to need to go full-ass. Fuck that, I’m going to need to go five asses. Just in case that wasn’t clear, which I’d totally understand, I’m going to need five reasons to keep my author blog updates more regular than my beard-trimming schedule.

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Seven, but who’s counting?

Here goes:

  1. To keep my writing sharp

It doesn’t take me long to write the first draft of a novel. About six weeks, assuming I don’t get ill or go on vacation. This year I figure I’ll write four. So this year, I’ll spend only twenty weeks actually writing—if I don’t keep this blog going—and the rest of the time making book covers, writing blurbs, editing, formatting, and publishing the finished products on Amazon and Smashwords. That’s a tiny amount of time doing what I love and a shit-ton of time doing stuff that makes me want to blow my fucking brains out. Not only is that a little depressing, but during those weeks when I’m not writing comedy or the stupid exciting stuff that goes in between it all, I’m going to get seriously rusty. Just take a second to think about the drivel you’ve just read. It’s definitely a product of my being rustier than…well, something that’s typically rusty, and definitely not a product of my having always sucked. So there’s the first reason, keeping those comedy writing muscles strong and ready for action for when I write shit I expect people to actually pay for.

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Old motor vehicles are typically rusty. And lazy writers.

2) Something to do instead of drinking

One of my hobbies, up until fairly recently…scrap that, pretty much my only hobby up until fairly recently was getting drunk and watching shitty horror movies. I’m now into my thirties and want to be able to look back on this period as a time when I went hell for leather and tried to achieve everything I wanted to achieve with my life. Failing the achievement bit, I want to be able to look back and think that I was at least a reasonably functioning member of society, with friends, and healthy hobbies, and Saturday mornings that weren’t spent scrolling through my Facebook feed as I built up the motivation to reach out my hand and put the glass of water I poured for myself ten minutes ago to my dry lips. One of the distractions that I’m going to use keep myself from relapsing back into that wonderful time of potato chips, craft beers, and movies that were so bad they were good is this blog. Sure, writing it will pale in comparison to that feeling of cracking open that first beer, knowing there are eight more in the refrigerator, but it’ll keep me out of trouble. If you don’t have a drinking problem and want to make this point applicable to you, swap something you do instead of drinking that’s damaging  such as eating processed foods or whatever.

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“Uh, honey, where do you want me to put the cheese?”

3) It’s cheaper than a therapist

I try to keep this thing useful or entertaining for the small readership it has, which comprises mostly of fellow indie authors. When I don’t have dubious advice to offer them, I at least try to make the blog posts funny. But sometimes it’s good to just let loose and go full narcissist and write about shit that pisses me off, to expunge it from my mind, such as when I critiqued some of the really bad reviews I’ve received  for my comedy mystery book. I don’t know whether that’s an accurate description of what people do when they go to see a shrink—now that I’ve thought about it, it definitely isn’t—but I figure I’ll use this blog to give my girlfriend a rest from my tirades and expose you guys to them instead. You’re welcome, there’s no need to say thanks. You guys are now my shrink, which means you’ll listen and probably not say anything afterwards or interact with me in any way. You’ll probably just nod, feeling a little sorry for me. Now that sounds like an accurate description of what a shrink does. And better still, you won’t want me to pay out my ass for it afterwards.

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“I’d do this shit for free…”

4) One day a shit-ton of people might read these words

I don’t fully understand it, nor am I willing to spend a significant time researching the subject, but the more you blog, the more chance you have of your blog turning up in search engine results. Sure, if you’ve got a decent number of followers on a social media platform, you can get fairly decent traffic to your blog by spamming. But it’ll never be enough to significantly impact on book sales. You have to turn up on the first couple pages of search engine results for that, which means producing a shitload of content. In a couple years’ time, assuming I’ve kept my promise of not drinking and writing these things every week, this blog could be like a gigantic cyberspace glacier, slowly moving week after week, picking up shitloads of debris and dirt as it goes. You’ve probably just worked out, if you’re a follower of this blog or have read my books, that in that metaphor you were dirt or debris, which isn’t how I imagined thanking you for reading. How’s that shrink gig working out for you? My apologies.

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“Go straight on, take a right, keep going, then another right and it’s there. You can’t miss it.”

5) One day I’ll have a record of how I made it

I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel here, but four is a shit number when it comes to offering reasons to do something in a blog format. If the meager sales I get turn around in the future and make me financially independent, I’ll be able to look back on this blog as a historical record of how I got there. It’ll be like when my grandparents tell stories of hardship during World War Two, only way less significant and way whinier. Now if that isn’t a decent reason to keep an author blog, then I don’t know what is.

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“Sure, the Nazis were shitty and everything, but I wrote one hell of a blog.”

So there you have it.

My hour’s up. It’s time for me to get up from your leather sofa I’ve been lying on and for you to get up off your chair you’ve been sitting ramrod straight in and for us to ride out that awkward moment when we don’t know whether we should shake hands, hug, or just quietly nod at each other after I’ve told personal stuff to you and probably cried a little. Is the same time next week good for you? Excellent.

If this was useful or as therapeutic for you as it was for me, hit one of the share buttons below. Right now this blog’s a tiny snowball, with your help it could become a snowman’s ass.


My fiction books can be checked out here.

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How to Not Shoot Yourself in the Face After Receiving a Bad Review

Last time I blogged I think I maybe came across a bit of an asshole. But, as I’ve written before, I don’t think it’s the first time. My intention every time I write a blog post is to discover a comedy mother lode, from which I can mine joke after joke, until I ask you to like my Facebook page or check out my books. But sometimes I fail in finding the comedy. The result can sometimes get messy. So what blog post idea have I come up with this week to make sure I stay well clear of coming off as bitter or hateful? As an indie author, what benign subject shall I blog about that has no potential for turning into a whiny, rhetoric-filled rant? Why, bad reviews, of course.

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After a receiving a bad review, this indie author went for a relaxing stroll.

If there’s one piece of advice indie authors agree on, it’s that you should never, ever reply to or comment on a bad review you’ve received. Ever. It’s sound advice, and I’ve managed to heed it so far in my short non-career as a writer. The last couple weeks I received my first really bad reviews, but I took them well, like a divorcee who had no intention of gaining sole custody of his children. I won’t be addressing the failings of the reviewers who posted bad reviews for my books directly. But it would be irresponsible of me if I didn’t use my reflections on these reviews to calm indie authors who might be worrying about their first really bad reviews. That’s my thinly-veiled excuse for writing the following advice, and I’m sticking to it.

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Veiled, thinly in parts, but in the literal sense.

While reading my bad reviews, I identified three distinct types. Two of them you can forget about. Hell, you can even make a night of it and read them with your spouse with a bowl of popcorn, reading bad reviews the same way Woody Allen thinks about going to the movies. The final one could result in you spending an evening with a bottle of whisky and a loaded gun. In order to put your mind at rest, if you’re an indie author awaiting his first reviews from non-Twitter followers and family members, I’m going to dispel the myth that all bad reviews are damaging for your potential writing career.

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A swarm of bad reviewers in their natural habitat.

Three types of bad reviews. Two you should be indifferent about. One that should make you go back to the drawing board. Got it? Good.

Let’s jump right in.

  1. The Review Written by Someone Who Got Offended by Your Book

John Locke wrote that if you don’t offend anyone with your writing, then you’re not doing it properly. I agree, especially if you’re writing comedy or humorous fiction. The book business is highly competitive, and in order to gain fans, your aim should be to tailor your writing style to appeal to a slim demographic of readers, which inevitably alienates or offends the rest. As long as you tailor your book descriptions to keep that demographic of reader who will hate your books from reading them—like I thought I had, and still do—then have at it with a writing style that isn’t cozy or appropriate for all the family. When I tell a joke, I want to surprise you. And sometimes that means shocking you. Just because one reader thought I was being sexist when I wrote a shit-ton of ex-wife jokes in my first novel, does it mean they shouldn’t be in there? Absolutely not. I bet some of those jokes are the reason for at least a few of my five-star reviews. And who knows, you could even end up with a reviewer going hyperbolic on your ass, spewing hate-filled observations that might intrigue potential readers browsing your book. Like I did.

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Popcorn time.

I bet at least a few potential readers who read the above review thought, If this crazy person hated it, then I bet I’d love it! Or it could be: Jesus, what in the world has this author written to upset this person so badly? I want to find out. I know I’ve thought both of those things when reading reviews for other authors’ books. Hell, one of my colleagues muttered the latter when I showed her the above review. If you get a review of this kind, relax. You just offended someone. I do that practically every time I write a simile. And who knows, by writing that edgy joke that made some readers want to throw their Kindle in the trash from disgust, you might just gain yourself a fan who’ll write a five-star review for your book and buy everything you write.

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Brain fuel

2. The Review Written by Someone Reviewing the Wrong Type of Book

On a number of occasions I’ve received reviews that made me think, Did this person read my book?  And one occasion, I was convinced of it—and it turned out she had. But that’s not the type of review I’m thinking about. A couple days ago, someone reviewed my book thinking it’s something it’s not. Here it is:

bad review twoThis person seems to be convinced that I attempted to write “noir detective fiction.” Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t entirely sure what that was. So I googled it and found this definition:

noir fictionSure, my books feature a private investigator as the protagonist, but I wasn’t attempting to write “noir detective fiction.” The Jake Hancock Mystery Thrillers are throwaway three-hour reads with outrageous plot lines, silly characters, and a shit-ton of borderline-misogynistic jokes—if you ignore that women in the books run rings around the men. I could say they’re parodies of detective fiction, but that would be giving myself way too much credit. As I mentioned above, I wrote a book description for the first book that communicates that it isn’t a serious mystery thriller. There are clues left throughout the description, but the key is in the following paragraph:

“Despite having not worked undercover for a while, Hancock poses as Megan’s much-older boyfriend for a family weekend at her childhood home in Rodeo, Texas. From within their home, he will learn their secrets…and hopefully get laid in the process.”

This part of the description alone should’ve informed this reader he or she wasn’t getting Raymond Chandler. Am I worried about this review? Hell no. I did my job in writing an appropriate book description. If they couldn’t see that they were buying oranges instead of apples, then they need a new glasses prescription. And if you write appropriate descriptions, this type of review will be kept to a minimum. Will this review hurt my sales? There’ll probably be some potential readers who are put off buying, but for every browser put off by this review, I bet there are two who think, What did you expect? And ignore it.

If I wanted to be a pedantic dick, I’d point out that “noir fiction” features someone other than a detective as the protagonist. But I made a promise to myself at the start of this blog, and I didn’t have a clue either.

And if I wanted to be an even bigger dick, I’d point out that this reader is a fan of a series called Taco Bob and the Witch Sisters. I’m not dicking on that series, as I haven’t read it, but the reviewer seems to have reviewed that series based on its merits, but held my series to a literary standard I didn’t try to attain in the first place. She’s right: It is a poor attempt at “noir detective fiction.”

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Tacos minus Bob.

3. The Review Written by Someone Who Thinks Your Book is Objectively Bad or Mundane

Ready with the whisky bottle and loaded gun? Getting the above types of bad reviews is all well and good, but what you don’t want are reviews that say your book objectively sucks. That it’s riddled with errors, punctuation or otherwise. Or that it’s mundane. And the reviewer is oh so eloquent in explaining why. These reviews are book-sales cancer, especially if they make up the majority. To fix the former, you need beta readers or an editor. I use a number of beta readers to spot mistakes in my books, after I’ve done a shit-load of editing myself. But as with all books, even ones published by big publishing houses, there are probably a few errors in each of my books. But I figure the readers who love my books will forgive me for it. In fact, one reviewer wrote as much:

good review

The next reviewer, not so much:

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Four-star reviews, if they become a trend, can be equally destructive to sales. I mentioned above that you should write to entertain a very specific target demographic, and for good reason. If you try to please everyone, you could end up wowing no one. Try to please everyone, and you’re serving everyone a bland meal. Remember to open the spice drawer, even if chili powder doesn’t agree with Aunt Barbara’s irritable bowel syndrome. The only solution to avoiding mundanity is to be brave. Write books that offend the shit out of some people, but which makes fans of others.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. There are many other types of bad reviews. Feel free to add your own in the comments section. Meanwhile, I’ll be writing the next Hancock book. It’s going to offend the shit out of some people. I can’t wait. Thanks for reading, and please share if I made you laugh at least four times…maybe that’s ambitious. Three? Deal. The share buttons are below.

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