Fledging an author
When I sat down to write my first book, I asked myself: who is going to read this?
The answer: my fourth-grade classmates.
So I shelved the idea of writing a philosophical treatise, and instead wrote a cute little story about a purple buttercup who just wanted to fit in.
It didn’t hit the New York Times Bestseller List, but it did get put into the school’s brand-new library collection and enjoyed lots of readings for the next few years. It was my first lesson in how to get published.
That question is still the one that guides me every time I write: who is the audience? It is also the question every publisher asks of every author, though it might be phrased a bit differently as “who is the market?” Either way, knowing your reader is an essential first step to not only crafting writing that someone else will want to read, but it is also the determining factor in whether or not you’ll succeed in finding a publisher.
Twenty-three years ago, I decided I wanted to write a local newspaper column about my experiences as a stay-at-home mother of five. Living in a newly-sprouted suburb, I met other young mothers every place I went. I noticed what we had in common, what we chatted about on the neighborhood playground, or complained about in the grocery store aisles. I realized that I especially enjoyed the company of other parents who made me laugh about the mundane pieces of daily life, like waiting for the plumber while you were toilet-training toddlers, or wiggling out baby teeth for the tooth fairy’s first visit (who then forgot to show up that night!). I decided I wanted to share those laughs with more parents to lighten the tedious moments we all experienced in our child-raising.
With my friends in mind, I wrote a set of three columns about the funny stuff I’d dealt with in the course of a day. I made it specific to the events and places in our suburb to increase its appeal for my intended audience. I kept it light and short, and I modeled my work after the fabulous humor of Erma Bombeck, who absolutely knew her readers inside and out. I took the columns to our local newspaper editor and asked him what he thought.
“Let’s give it a try,” he said. “I’ve got lots of young families, and this looks like a fit for them.”
It was, and I enjoyed five years of column-writing and connecting with readers who became my friends, as well as my audience.
Now I write humorous mysteries about a birder. Yes, I’m a birdwatcher…along with 81 million other Americans. I can tell you all about them as a market segment, too – what they spend on their hobby, their educational backgrounds, their age distribution. Now if I can just get them to put down those binoculars to pick up my books….wait…I think I hear a Pileated Woodpecker out my back door…
As a special thank-you to my visitors today, I want to share with you a sneak peek at the first chapter of my newest Birder Murder, titled A Murder of Crows, to be published next month by North Star Press. Drop me an email on my contact page, put “I love a parade!” in the subject line, and I’ll email a PDF of the first chapter to you! Thanks for stopping by today, and if you’d like to receive my twice-weekly humorous blog in your inbox, click on this subscription link.