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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.

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Sunday, 11 July 2010
Jackie asked - did I know who my readership is? Were they constantly changing or did they remain loyal? Did I think of my readers when writing someone else asked. I do know some of my readership, and they are wonderfully loyal and they write to me and some I like to think of as friends. However when writing I don’t think of them, I can’t. The writing takes over and becomes the be all and end all. If I managed to squeeze a thought of who I was writing for in, I’m sure it would inhibit me, hold me back. I’d be worried if they were enjoying it, would they understand what I was doing, would they like it? So, best not to go there.
Years ago an editor, not liking something I’d written, advised me to “Think of your reader.” I was still a novice and she was an experienced editor so she must know what she’s talking about I reasoned. So, the next book I thought of my reader. But who was she? I had only had a few books published so I had no idea who was reading them. But I had a go! Disaster. All I could bring to mind was a relative by marriage who loathed and despised me. As I wrote I would see her face, screwed up with disapproval and censure and the writing became drivel. I didn’t try it again. And of course, I had not realised one important fact – while my editor was a good one she could not write novels, so really she was not in a position to tell me how to, if you see what I mean. Where have they come from? It always surprises me the different ways. When I began it was promotion and publicity which drummed up the trade, many liked what they found and stayed with me. And bless them they told others, who passed on the word. I get letters galore from people who picked up one of my books in a charity shop, liked it and went out and bought the rest. This is why I cannot get cross at charity shops selling second hand books - except Oxfam who have gone too far with their dedicated book shops, they are putting out of business many small independents. But do you know what really annoys me? those clever clogs who think tha writing middle market fiction is easy. There is one big thing that sets us apart from the Literary authors and that is the breadth of our readership. At one point my youngest reader was nine and the oldest ninety two. The cross section was bewildering, electricians, a plumber, a Bishop, two vicars, many doctors. From those who had no OLs to a two university Professors, and top of the tree – a Noble prize winner. If you pause and think of the above list you will, I’m sure, understand that expectations in the book will vary, that ways of reading it will be different, that all these people are needing to be entertained and able to enjoy your book. That my friends is one tall order! Easy? Expletives removed!!

4 comments:

  1. Absolutely fascinating Annie - since we were told by the PR and Marketing people from Random House/Cornerstones that the truly successful writers were the ones that knew their readers. We heard the same things from other people the whole weekend...

    My own take on it was that I am writing for me and women like me so I hope that will work.

    I the diversity of your readers though - brilliant.

    lx

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  2. Yes, this is good food for thought Annie.

    I'm early doors down the path to publication and hope my philosophy to write the kind of things that I like to read myself will help to this end.

    warm wishes
    Debbie

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  4. I take heart from your advice, Annie. What a range of readers you have - they chose you, not you them. That is the best way.

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