How important is it to know your readers? How important is it to know where they will shelve your book once it’s done?
I know this is a battle that plagues a lot of people, because I’ve heard it in writing classes and online. Why do I have to decide this? Sheesh, people, it’s for everyone to read! Everyone will want my book.
But that isn’t how this publishing business works.
Agents, publishers, bookstores, and readers want to know who you wrote it for. If your reader is drawn to mystery novels it really doesn’t matter how good your romance book is, they probably won’t read it. At least not right away. They may pick it up after a friends swears it’s the best book ever. But why did that friend pick it up? It must have been on the shelf they regularly frequent.
You need to advertise right.
Okay, so it’s important. Great. But my book fits at least three genres and it could be either YA or Adult.
It’s funny how we do this to ourselves. Think about how you wrote when you were a child, because you probably did. I wrote for fun. I wrote these short, quirky little stories using the names of people I was writing for. They always had heroic endings or obvious lessons. They were completely tailored for the audience.
When I first sat down to write a full length book I muddled it. You get in your head. You over think it. You go too broad.
So pick one-is it YA or Adult? Who’s reading this? Find a book that is close, something that you could say ‘oh, people reading this would love my book’. Where is that one shelved? Great, that’s your genre.
Make it work.
Do I have to actually change my novel to fit the category?
You don’t HAVE to do anything. But if you want an agent to believe you when you say it’s YA Sci-Fi, you should make sure it is. Get a beta reader who reads that genre regularly. Ask them to read it. Take their advice. They have to be hooked on the story or you have to change it. Because an agent or a publisher is going to give you 10-20 pages, they won’t wait for the climax. They won’t wait for it to pick up around page 70. Honestly, some readers won’t either.
Next time, take this advice. When that new character moves into your head and starts making plans, start thinking about audience. Outline your book, but ask yourself about audience. Tailor this book to the audience. Then you won’t have to change anything, it will already fit.
The audience you were aiming for will love it. When they love it, they will pass it along to friends even if it’s outside friends’ genre. Before you know it, you’ll be right, everyone will be reading it.
But it started with that one reader being able to find it.