In the previous blog post, we discussed the first three of the six unknown questions on how to target your audience better, as a writer that writer. These included:
What is the genre of the novel?
How to target an audience when dealing with subgenres?
How to write for a target Audience? (With its two sub-questions of: A. What is a fitting Style Of Writing for the genre; and B. What content is fitting for the genre.)
Now, we shall assess the remaining three of the six unknown questions on how to target your audience better.
Question 4 – What If The Audience Is Small?
Writers should never concern themselves with the relative size of their target audience. Just enjoy writing the novel (however niche it may seem) and be passionate about it.
Successful writers did not become successful because they feared that their target audience was too small. Rather, they succeeded (and in many cases still succeed) because they enjoyed writing and made their novels as exciting as they could. That’s what matters and new writers must never forget that.
Question 5 – Would It Not Be Smarter To Go For A ‘Catch-All’ Target Audience?
The fifth of the six unknown questions on how to target your audience better, as a writer, centres around whether or not it would be more clever to go for a ‘catch-all’ target audience to draw in more people.
The answer to this question is a resounding no. A ‘catch-all’ makes for a muddled story that cannot make up its mind on what it wants to be.
Question 5 – Example 1
Take the 2015 film, Fant4stic (stupidly titled and widely derided as “Fant-FOUR-stick” instead of Fantastic Four). The Fantastic Four are meant to be superheroes in light-coloured outfits, who save the world from Dr Victor Von Doom. The risible nature of the villain’s name is supposed to give the heroes a fun (if camp) edge that is meant for teenagers, predominantly.
The 2015 remake of the Fantastic Four is an example of why writers should not take a ‘catch-all’ approach vis-a-vis targeting their audience.
But Josh Trank’s 2015 movie darkened everything in an attempt to replicate Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy (to the point of giving a disturbing slant to where The Thing got his “It’s clobberin’ time” saying). Trank tried to make the movie fitting for an adult audience in addition to teenagers, and it failed miserably because Trank forgot that Fantastic Four is meant for a relatively young audience.
Therefore, a ‘catch-all’ approach can make for a confused, half-baked fruitcake of a narrative. That is bad enough. Yet, it can also come across as a cynical attempt by writers to short-cut the writing and promotional process (i.e. the hard work) in an attempt to rake in as much money as they can. Guess what? It doesn’t work.
Question 5 – Example 2
To hammer-home this point, I will use two more examples where studio executives have made alterations to movies to try and make a quick buck. In 2012, the film Red Dawn was released. After filming had wrapped, the studio decided to change the nationality of the bad guys from the Chinese to the North Korean.
This decision was designed to appeal the Chinese market. Only, this negligible, pathetic effort to make easy money off failed. No-one who watched 2012’s Red Dawn believed that little North Korea has the same technological and military capability as China to launch a full-scale invasion of the USA. It simply made the movie laughable and stupid.
Question 5 – Example 3
Oh, and writers should not think that sprinkling some diversity into the cast will equate to people from that ethnicity wanting to read the novel or watch the film in droves either. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (which was so average it needed the word ‘amazing’ in its title to deceive its audience) put the Indian actor, Prashant Rai, at the forefront of the film’s marketing campaign for the Indian market.
Yet, Rai only had a small role in the movie and the Indian market was not fooled into buying tickets to see the film. Consequently, the film did not perform particularly well at the box office and the third installment in the franchise was cancelled.
Question 6 – But James Bond And Harry Potter Appeal To All Audiences, So Why Is It Unwise To Adopt A ‘Catch-All’ Approach?
Yes, nowadays, franchises like James Bond and Harry Potter take a ‘catch-all’ approach and appeal to many different audiences. But the optimum word here is nowadays.
Neither Sir Ian Fleming nor JK Rowling started off by adopting a catch-all approach when they targeted their audiences. Initially, Sir Ian wrote his Bond novels to be a glamorous satire on the espionage industry, so he targeted a mature audience; Rowling, conversely, wrote the Harry Potter series to be about a gifted boy who goes to a special high school for wizards, so she aimed her novels for children and teenagers.
James Bond and Harry Potter are two franchises that have earned the right to adopt a ‘catch-all’ approach in terms of targeting their audiences. New writers cannot think to copy their approaches until they have established themselves.
Fleming and Rowling (as well as subsequent Hollywood studio executives) only went for the ‘catch-all’ approach after their novels had become phenomenally successful (and when movies from their works had become franchises).
Thus, once a writer has a large, diverse readership (and Please God this will be the case), then and only then can he/she write for a wide audience. Until then, though: writers should target the audience that is best suited for their novel’s genre and cater to that audience rigidly.
Whichever genre you decide to write your novel in, choose a handful of books within the genre and look up who made up the majority of the readership for those books. What did you notice?
Thank you for reading this blog piece. I hope you have enjoyed it, and that it helps you find the right audience for your novel.
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