Surprise Discovery about My Audience

I recently got a nice message from a fellow author on who told me a cute story. Her 12-year-old son came to her with a list of books he wanted to get. He proposed a point system for his school grades, whereby he would earn books in trade for points. She shared this personal event with me because the future Vaetra Chronicles novels were on her son’s list.

This is the kind of story I live for as a writer. We put our books out there into the world, and we never really know what readers think about them until we get a review or a personal contact. Releasing a book is more than a little scary because we can’t be sure how the public will react. When the reactions start coming in, they have the power to hurt or reassure.

So far, I’ve been extremely fortunate. My reviews have been mostly positive and the criticisms have been fair. I don’t expect Vaetra Unveiled to appeal to everyone, and I know that those low-star reviews will arrive eventually, but I’m grateful that the readers who have taken the time to share their opinion with me so far have all been supportive, at least on some level.

The story of the enterprising young man and his point system interested me for another reason though. I learned that Vaetra Unveiled may hold some appeal for younger audiences.

I did not set out to write a Middle Grade (MG) or Young Adult (YA) series. In fact, I don’t think the Vaetra Chronicles qualifies as such because none of the protagonists are in those age groups.

On the other hand, my writing is largely G-rated, or at worst, PG-rated. So, while my books are not targeted at a young audience, they are suitable for a young audience. So far, the strongest swear word is “spirits,” and the sexual content hasn’t gotten any more explicit than a few smooches. As my wife pointed out, Calvin and Hobbes had smooches.

If I did get a PG rating, it would probably be for the one scene of “fantasy violence” in Vaetra Unveiled. I won’t say anything more about that scene other than to say it’s unlikely to be nightmare inducing.

The second (forthcoming) novel of the series, Vaetra Untrained, does have a fade-to-black sex scene. There’s no nudity though. I figure that if I’ve gotten to the point where I am describing body parts that are normally kept private, I’ve gone too far. You’ll never see erotica from this writer!

It just goes to show you that you never really know who the audience is for your books until you put them out there and start getting feedback from the reading community. I remember reading that John Locke was surprised to discover that his readership was 70% female. Having read his first book, I found that demographic surprising as well.

Since it can be hard to predict exactly who will enjoy your writing the most, I’m discovering that it’s worthwhile to pay attention and remain flexible in my vision for my stories. Not that the knowledge I gain about my audience will necessarily change how I write, but it might stop me from changing how I write.

At least for the duration of this series.


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  1. You know, it’s funny – I’ve discovered the same thing about my Arbiter Codex. One of my friends picked up ELEGY and read it to his kids, who are 10 and 8. Then they read LEGACY. He told me the other day that they now play games where they pretend to be Arbiters.

    Writing that just gave me a chill.

    It reminded me that there really are kids out there who still love to read and to hear stories, despite the fact that the common belief is that modern kids spend all their time on the computer and hate books. Young readers do exist! Storytelling is alive and well, and adventure stories like ours still have their place.

    I really liked that you said that this discovery will not change how you write, but might *stop* you *from* changing how you write. That’s exactly how I feel about it as well, but I hadn’t thought to put it quite that eloquently.

  2. It’s funny, but *reading* how your friend’s kids were playing Arbiters gave *me* a chill just thinking about what that would mean to me as an author. That is the one of the coolest compliments you can get on your writing, IMO. I completely agree that young readers are out there, and they are a pretty sharp bunch too.

    It’s nice also to see someone else who believes in sticking to his own vision for his writing. We all grow and change how/what we write, but I think it is worthwhile to remain true to the creative inspirations that gave us the impetus to become writers in the first place.

  3. Well congratulations, sir. It sounds like you have truly donned the robe of author. That’s an enviable position to be in.

  4. Thanks, Michael! I really like my new robe. 😉

  5. What a wonderful story. That must feel really great to know that you made this childs list. I used to put Roald dahl on my list as a child, and I idolised him! Michael Offutt you are right, what an enviable position!

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Michelle. It did feel great to know I made his list.

    One of the things I like about the new era of authors interacting more directly with readers is that we get to hear stories like this. I love that people feel comfortable reaching out to me and sharing a happy moment. It makes sitting down to write that next scene in my latest work all the more rewarding.