Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Guest Blogging with Cherie LeClare

This week I'm being interviewed by author Cherie LeClare at  http://cherieleclare.com/blog  I'm talking about my latest release, "Flawless" and about what I'm up to now. I hope you can drop by!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Targeting My Audience

Photo Credit: Melissa Gray
I’m taking a class from Writer U right now called “Growing Your Audience: For Published, Unpublished, and Under-published Authors”. The whole concept is about finding an audience for my books and selling more copies.

We’re talking at present about targeting our audience for our books, a concept I have not even considered before. The idea is to focus our promotion efforts into identifying and finding those people who would be most inclined to read our books. One of the examples that Ann Charles, one of the co-presenters gives is of comedian Jeff Foxworthy, best known for his “You might be a redneck if…” schick. Ann says “Do you think he's interested in attracting white-collar urbanites of any age? Or gangsters? Or sticky-handed, Disney-loving munchkins? No. His target is the heartland of America-whether rural or blue-collar, and those from the low to medium income bracket. He's not so interested in age groups as a socio-economic target audience.”

So, as an exercise for the class, Ann and her partner Jacquie Rogers have asked us to write down who we think makes up the target audience for one of our books. Notice I say “one of our books”. Turns out that in promotion, one size does not fit all.  Patricia Fry, in her article “Your Book Promotion Plan” says “The point is that every promotional method does not necessarily work for every book. In fact, it might take an author several weeks or months of experimentation to develop a plan that’s appropriate for his or her title.” For example, for her book The Mainland Luau, How to Capture the Flavor of Hawaii in Your Own Backyard, Patricia targeted reviews in cooking magazines and cooking sections of newspapers. If her next book was How to Create a Hawaiian Garden, she’d have to take a totally different approach.

But I digress. First we have to figure out who are target audience is before we can aim our promotion towards them. Patricia Fry’s article “How to Determine your Target Audience” urges writers to take a close look at their book, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and find some aspect of it that can be used to target an audience. For example, if your heroine is an animal lover and animals figure prominently in your work of fiction, you could target groups on the web devoted to animals and animal welfare, such as shelters, humane societies, kennels clubs etc.

It doesn’t hurt to have marketing in mind when you’re writing your book. For instance, Ann Charles wrote a series of mysteries set in Deadwood, South Dakota, knowing there would be a built-in audience for a story set in this historic western town. Jacquie writes: “Some authors will tell you that you should write the book of your heart. This is great advice, and we wholeheartedly agree. Write that book with your audience in mind, making sure to include the "what's in it for me" concept, giving them more bang for their buck than just 200+ pages of sentences.”

The book I’m targeting for this class is called “Flawless”. It is a historical romantic suspense set during World War Two in occupied France. A priceless blue diamond, “Le Bleu Coeur” has been stolen by the Nazis. They plan to barter it for weapons and supplies that could crush the Allies. The French Resistance, with help from a spy from the British Operations Executive, plans to steal back the diamond from the Nazis.

So, based on that, my target audience will be:

- readers of romantic suspense
- readers of historical novels
- readers of spy novels
- people who are interested in stories about WW2

I’m not sure whether I have listed all my targets, and at this point I have no idea how to find this audience on the Internet or anywhere else. Finding the audience I have identified will be the next part of this class, I’m sure.

Have you thought about targeting your audience? If you have, who are they? By the way, our presenters say that even if you are not published you can begin to target your audience, as long as you have a publishable product ready to go.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


My writing group, the Saskatchewan Romance Writers, is putting together an anthology of romantic short stories set in our province. Most of us in the group have contributed a story or two, and now as we prepare for publication, each of us is attempting to write a tagline for our story. I’ve never written a tagline before and oh my goodness, am I ever finding it difficult! How do you boil down the essence of a 1,500 short story (or a 50,000 word novel) to one succinct line? This line must tell a bit of the story, hint at the conflicts, and entice the reader. That’s a lot to ask of one little line!

Fortunately, Kat Aubrey, our intrepid editor for this project, has posted some helpful articles on our private blog to give us guidance. So liberally borrowing knowledge from these articles, written by people much better at creating taglines then I am, here’s what I learned:

1. From Michelle McLean, at the Query Tracker blog, I learned that a tagline doesn’t have to boil the whole book down to one line, but it does have to convey some important information, such as characters, conflict, distinction, setting and action. A tagline has to let us know a little something about who is in the story (the characters), and what problems (conflicts) they’re facing. Distinction refers to what distinguishes this book from all the rest; what makes it unique? Nathan Bransford calls this the flavor. According to Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary it should let us know where the story is taking place, what genre it belongs to, and what kind of tone the book has; is it comedic, farcical, suspenseful, horrific? Lastly, the tagline should give a hint of the action we’ll see in the book/short story.

So with these things in mind, here’s my first attempt at writing a tagline for my story “Wings of Fire”:

Sometimes love finds you in the most unlikely places, like in the middle of the Canadian prairies in the middle of a war.

So going over the previous list, I think I’ve let the reader know the genre is romance (“love finds you”) and that the setting is on the Canadian prairies during a war, but which war? I haven’t made it clear whether we’re talking about the First World War or the war in Afghanistan. And I haven’t said a word about my characters or the action. And yes, I know I repeated the word middle. Back to the drawing board.

2. Next I checked out Nathan Bransford blog “How to Write the One Sentence Pitch”  He breaks down the pitch, or in this case the tagline, like this:

- The opening conflict – the first step in character’s quest
- The obstacle – whatever is standing in character’s way
- The quest – may be an physical of interior journey but it’s basically what happens to character during the story.

Bransford says that the basic pitch should go together something like this:  When OPENING CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER(s), they have to OVERCOME CONFLICT (obstacle) to COMPLETE QUEST.

Bransford also says that a good tagline is a description of what actually happens (the plot) rather than the theme of the novel (what the novel is about). The problem with theme as tagline (A young man comes of age and finds the meaning of life) is that it is very generic and doesn’t really tell us anything unique about this particular story.

Okay, so I’m going to try my tagline again.

A British pilot training in Saskatchewan crashes his plane in a farmer's field and unexpectedly finds a reason to believe in a future after World War Two.

This time I’ve got the character (the British pilot), the inciting incident, (crashing his plane), the setting and time frame (Saskatchewan in World War Two), the quest (surviving the war) but I think I may have lost the genre. Is it still a romance? Let’s try this one more time.

When a British pilot training in Saskatchewan crashes his plane in a farmer's field, he unexpectedly falls in love and finds a reason to fight for a future after World War Two.

Does this tell you something about my story? Does it make you want to read it? Let me know what you think in the comments.

3. Hilari Bell had some great tips. The one I liked best of all is “Don’t go it alone”. Sometimes we writers are so close to our stories that we can’t see the best tagline. For this same reason, the Saskatchewan Romance Writers are posting taglines on our private blog and asking for critiques. It’s great to have friends.

Like Nathan Bransford says, mastering the tagline won’t make or break or your writing career, but it’s a handy tool for quickly describing your novel or short story to editors, readers, or your pesky relative who keeps asking what you’re writing. And it’s a great exercise for learning to distill your story down to its basic elements.Check out movies trailers at The Internet Movie Database for examples of how the movies create taglines.

Do you like creating taglines? Do they come easily to you or do they fight you all the way like they do for me? I’d love to read some of your examples.

In other business, the winner of a download copy of “Flawless” for commenting on my post at Judy Nickles blog, The Word Place on April 26, is (drum roll please!!) Karyn! Congratulations! I hope you enjoy it.