Thursday, June 3, 2010

Knowing Your Target Market, or Not as the Case May Be

I just got spam for windscreen repair in Kuala Lampur.  Ummm, those guys really don't  know their target market, do they.  Which really has nothing to do with today's post.  I mean, I suppose I could write a post about knowing who you're writing for and how to market toward those readers, but... well... I suck at that.  Not the marketing part, but the knowing part. 

:shrug:  I write for myself.  I'd like to think I'm not so bizarre that others won't want to read the same stuff I read - and therefore the stuff I write - but identifying them?  That's like trying to identify which people are eventually going to becoming your BFFs by running them through a reality game show.  (Oh, wait, that's what Paris Hilton does. D'oh!)  Or in an example closer to home, that's like me trying to figure out who in a crowd of people I can have an intelligent conversation with by just looking at them. 

Needless to say, I'm not good at that either.

This was easier when I was selling electronic components.  I knew who wanted capacitors, or cordsets, or EMI filters.  Except, now that I think about it, when I was cold-calling.  That's basically driving through an industrial park and stopping by companies you think might be interested in your product - asking for the purchaser and more often than not leaving literature at the front desk never to be heard from again.  I sucked at that, too.  Sure, when I could see into their warehouse and saw electronics-looking stuff poking out of boxes, it was a safe bet they wanted what I had.  But that was so rare.  I wasted a lot of time at the reception desks of food processing companies and paper goods distributors and toy manufacturers (the non-electronic kind). 

And then I'd find the one - like the guy who ran an engineering business out of a big Victorian house in the suburbs.  That wasn't a cold-call, it was a lead, but when I stopped to check out the lead, I thought it would be a waste of my time.  Turns out the guy was designing something totally amazing for the local headquarters of a national pizza chain.  His designs turned into something you might've heard of - The Heatwave Bag for Dominoes.  That was a major sale for me, big money for my company, and we all worked well together until he changed the design and our cordsets got swapped out for a less expensive kind that had a better lead time.  And he wasn't even a lead for cordsets.  He started out looking for a little plastic box to put the guts of a controlling device into.  (Sold him those, too, if I remember correctly.)

But that's neither here nor there, is it?

I guess it's stuff like the above example that makes people mass market to anybody.  It's what leads a windscreen repair business in Malaysia to land their spam in my box.  It's not an efficient way to market, but sometimes one unexpected contact can make the whole thing worth your time and money. 

How does this translate to writing?  I dunno.  I'm just rambling.  I'm in no way suggesting that you mass query anyone who looks like they might be related to publishing.  It all goes better when we target where we attempt a sales call.  Lord knows, I've got the targeting part down when it comes to queries.  It's just the end users I don't know about.  Seriously. 

Think about it.  Does Brandon Mull even think about a middle-age housewife/writer when he writes things like Fablehaven??  I'm guessing not.  I know I'm not the target market for Rick Riordan either, but I inhale his books.  And when Dean Lorey wrote his Nightmare Academy series, he was thinking about the MG market - not me - but I'm the one inhaling his books when they come out.  (And then donating them to the library so kids can enjoy them, too.)

I guess all we can do to target our readers is the best we can do and hope for sales after that.  I also expect this thought process is what leads some writers to say things like 'my book will appeal to everyone' in their query letters.  Because, really, who knows.  Maybe someday I'll get a fan letter from a 70-yr old grandma and a 16-yr old honor student in the same day. 

It could happen.

Now it's your turn.  You tell me.  Who do you think your target market is?  If you're already published, what's the most unexpected fan you ever encountered?


  1. Ooh, great post, B.E. I'll let you know who I'm targeting (specifically) once I figure out my voice (waffling between medieval romance lovers and chick-lit fans with a side of quirky). I do know that most of my readers will be those that love romance - so I guess I have some general ideas.

  2. Presently I think I am heading towards the adult ladies section, but when I wrote Fan Fiction, I had men followers. Sooooooo ya never know.

    I am still figuring this one out.