|At Gamers Gauntlet for Convention|
So when you get bad news or negative reviews from someone who isn’t in your market, don’t fret. It doesn’t mean that their opinion isn’t valid, but at the end of the day, it means a whole lot less than the people who are actually going to buy it and read it.
I wrote a middle grade children’s novel (not yet published, hopefully next year!). I really liked the story and my younger sister really liked it too. I tried getting my older sister into it and she just couldn’t connect to the young children on their journey and admittedly stated that if they were older, she would be more accepting of it. It wasn’t the story, but rather their age. I was a little bummed out about this, until my youngest sister said, “Katrina is twice the target age group.” When I told Katrina this, she was horrified at how old Tina had made her sound, but it put me back in reality. She also felt weird watching something like Avatar: The Last Airbender when Aang had a crush on Katara and he was no more than eleven or twelve years old. So essentially, she just didn’t want to read about kid drama or watch it. If it was young adult, that would be different.
I’m not saying completely disregard everyone who isn’t in your market. For children’s books, you do have to consider the adults because they are the ones who are going to buy the book. Is it too dark? Is there enough educational value in it? Are you teaching the kids the right lessons? If a parent feels that a book is safe, they’ll give it a shot. Some parents want to read with their kids and be entertained, but most parents that pick out books for their kids want to make sure that their kids can read it and that it’ll be a story that their child will actually want to get through.
I think the only way to really know how good your book is and if it’ll speak to your market is to try it out. Companies run tests on selected groups before releasing products out to the public. Nobody really goes in blind. Test your ideas out on people. Talk to somebody as you’re writing your project and before you get it published. Then when it’s all said and done, go somewhere to find your market and see how they react. If you get picked up by a big publishing company that can do all this stuff, that’s great. But if you’re on your own, it takes a lot of work to make your dream a reality!
I’ve been to several conventions that had a “Kids Day” or free admission for children. Parents would walk by and see a huge and colorful Superkid poster. Even if they didn’t stop or buy the book, the parents and children would go, “Look! It’s Superkid!” This was gratifying to me, because a couple of my siblings didn’t care for my cover. All of the reactions I got from consumers really affirmed my decision. Everyone I talked to really liked the concept and was intrigued by the characters.
I went to an event recently and an eight-year-old boy came up to my table and looked at the Superkid book for a while. I asked him if he would like to know a little bit about it, and he nodded his head. I asked him if he liked to read, and he said, “All the time!” He talked about how he really liked the concept and when I told him the price, he replied, “Hmm. It’s really affordable too!” I got a real kick out of that.
The best place I really gauged how well Superkid was being accepted was at a school. The students were excited by the cover alone and pointed to characters that they wanted to be. When I finished one chapter, they begged for me to read another. I read to K-5th graders. Everyone really liked it, but the older the kids got, the more they laughed and appreciated the wit in the book.
The best way to understand what works is to get out there and test your market. If you’ve got the next Twilight series, maybe you should visit a Twilight Convention. Those fans who pay good money to meet minor actors in the film will judge whether or not your book speaks to them or not. If it’s a religious book, try a religious convention or bookstore. Get engaged and interact with your fans. If you don’t have any, you need to make some! Those connections are everything.
Joss Whedon always had to fight to keep his television series running. Buffy, Angel, and Firefly never had Glee or CSI ratings. However, they have fans that kept the show alive and made it into a cult classic. Maybe critics may not think you’ve created a masterpiece. Maybe you can’t get your foot through the door by publishing a book traditionally. That doesn’t matter as long as you have an army of people dedicated to your work and will spread the word.
Harry Potter was published because the publisher reading J.K. Rowling’s manuscript had a child there that read it and demanded to read the rest of the pages. Rowling had rejection after rejection before that. Never underestimate the power of your market!
Get the reception that you need to understand whether or not you’ve really got something. After you’ve got that, learn how to utilize and how to build on that.
Remember, your greatest critic is your market!