American Idol’s fifteen year run ended in early April.
What a finale with superstar performances and lots of strobe lights. I’ve been a fan since the second year. Each week, American Idol hosted a singing competition with weekly feedback from the celebrity judges. I loved those judges, and I hated them. Each week behind the scenes, selected semi-finalists would move through a round of mentors, practice with musicians and coaches, to finally perform. America voted on who would move forward. Some performances were heart-breaking. Some inspirational. But each week those who remained ‘upped their game’ and persevered.
Ryan Seacrest noted that what made American Idol different was involvement with the audience. America voted. America chose. This resonated with something ephemeral I’ve been thinking about as I weed through the dozens of writing-related articles and posts I receive each month. For we writers do study writing craft. If we’re self-publishers, we take on the whole range of skills needed to publish and market our books. We build our online platforms. Sometimes we pay for advertising. We tweet and blog and post on Instagram, never quite certain if we’re using our time wisely or productively.
So here’s what I gained:
Readers want to learn about you, the person behind the writer.
They’ve read your stories and books. They feel connected with you, and they’re curious about you, your writing, and your opinions. Maybe they’ve signed up for your newsletter. What can you offer that’s a little different than that constant refrain, “Buy my book!”? Whether you’re blogging or writing that newsletter you hope will build your reader base, start by thinking about your audience and then use questions to add depth to your social writing.
- Define Your Audience. Begin with a specific definition of who your audience is. The most useful suggestion I’ve found is to use a Google search with these words: define audience for <insert your genre>. If you don’t find enough information, use the words: survey of readers <insert your genre>.
I wasn’t expecting much from a Google search, but I was thrilled to find Mary Tod’s exhaustive survey of people who read historical fiction, highlighted on the Historical Novel Society’s website. Interestingly, when women read historical fiction, they are drawn to strong female characters. Men and women (who both tend to be a little older than average) want stories that have a strong sense of what life was like ‘back then,’ and men prefer more action and adventure.
Additionally, Mary Tod noted that most readers of historical fiction find new book recommendations on GoodReads, blogs and sites about historical fiction, small book review sites, and Amazon. Both LibraryThing and Shelfari also show up as important resources for readers.
Mary Tod’s analysis has changed how I think about my newsletter and my blogging.
- Ask questions as you write your blog and/or newsletter that lead you to add your own opinions or share the experiences that led you to write a particular story. Share . . . the rest of the story, the story behind the scenes.
- Which aspects of characters resonate with your own life or the lives of your target audience? Why did you write about these particular characters? Or about this particular story?
- How does the content of what you’re writing challenge or affirm your beliefs?
- What particular stories did not make it into your project? Why or why not?
- How does the theme of what you’re writing connect to your audience?
- And, most importantly, what do you think about what you’re writing?
Just now, I’m participating in the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Some of the over 1,800 participants commit to a theme before the challenge begins, and some even write their posts before April 1. This year, I using the A to Z Blogging to write about my research for Rivers of Stone, my current work-in-progress, now in the revision stage.
As I write my daily post and respond to reader comments, I’m noticing that readers connect what I’ve written to their own personal experience. Readers are not returning necessarily to read summaries about my research, but to discover what I think about that research, what personal stories I tie into my research, and how this links to their own experiences.
American Idol offered an incredible promise and platform to new talent. Those singers who made the next cut brought hard work, discipline, and their creativity to a wide public. We writers may not have the same support system or the national platform, but this lesson remains:
For writers, it’s about the content of what we create and how we connect with readers. The more we understand who our particular readers are, how they find new books to read, and what appeals to them, the more insight we can gain into why our writing appeals to certain readers. This can help us to focus our marketing and to tighten that bond with our readers. May Round 2 bring you new strategies and new ways that encourage creativity in your writing!
For more about Mary K. Tod: https://awriterofhistory.com/
About the Blogging from A to Z Challenge http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/