Ready, Aim, and Fire at Your Target Reader!

We all have different tastes and not every book will appeal to every reader. So, when marketing your book, it’s crucial to identify the demographic of people who are most likely to show interest in your writing. That makes perfect sense.

But here’s the thing, it’s a true saying, never assume – it makes an ASS out of U and ME. This was at the forefront of my mind yesterday when I entered a room of OAPS at a sheltered housing complex. I had been invited to deliver a presentation, readings and Q and A for the Off the Page Book Festival organised by Stirling Libraries. My event was part of their outreach work taking the author to the readers, particularly if the readers are housebound. The age range represented was far higher than the characters in my novels. But I reminded myself that all of the women present had an understanding of the themes of motherhood explored in Buy Buy Baby. These were women who been there, done that.

And there was no need to worry that just because Talk of the Toun is set in 1985 and the main character is 17 that it wouldn’t appeal to them. They all remembered the 80s and the melodrama of their own teenage years. I had nothing to fear, the audience might not fit the marketing ideal of my target reader but they lapped up the nostalgia and banter like warm milk. The themes featured in both of my books are universal if you’ve ever loved and lost, no matter what the setting or era. In my writing, it’s the flawed characters that shine a light on human nature and that meant I had nods of acknowledgement throughout my readings.

During the Q and A, we discussed the stereotypes that sweet old ladies wouldn’t be the most obvious readers of gritty crime fiction. Two of the women are huge fans of the Bloody Scotland book festival and the more blood and guts make a better read for them! I am reading The Essex Serpent by Sarah Parry at the moment and although it’s set in the 19th century, friendship and love are timeless themes.

We are all different, and yet on many levels, we are all the same.

Do you limit yourself to only reading one genre? Or do you have eclectic reading tastes?

William McIlvanney – the Godfather of Tartan Noir

download (1)I’ve been to hear William McIlvanney before at Aye Write where he came across as charismatic and delivered moving readings. So when I saw that he was appearing at the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival in Stirling I jumped at the chance to see one of Scotland’s finest contemporary writers again.

The event was billed as, ‘The man who began it all ’ as McIlvanney is credited with being the man who created the ‘tartan noir’ genre and can lay claim to being the godfather of crime writing in Scotland.

willieMcIlvanney is back on the publicity circuit since Edinburgh-based publisher Canongate  relaunched the author’s Laidlaw trilogy after discovering his classic works were out of print. A surprise element of the event was when Jenny Brown, his new agent, announced that the Saltire Society was to award him with the Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun Award for his long-standing contribution to Scottish literature. It was an added bonus to be in the audience for this news and to hear McIlvanney’s humble appreciation of this great honour.

downloadOne of the reasons why I admire McIlvanney and feel he deserves this award is that his working class roots are at the heart of his work which is something I aspire to do in my own writing. And yet I’m ashamed to say that I’ve yet to read any of his novels. I don’t normally read crime fiction but I must add Laidlaw to my mountainous To Be Read (TBR) pile.

Although at the event, it didn’t matter that I, or my best pal, Veronica hadn’t read any of his work yet as we both felt that we could’ve sat all day listening to McIlvanney’s quick-witted banter. His anecdotes of growing up in Kilmarnock are very funny and touching at the same time.

After reading an excerpt from Laidlaw, McIlvanney also treated us to a piece called Zooistry which you can find on his website which hosts a variety of essays on diverse topics under the banner of ‘Personal Dispatches’, described as a “haphazard record of experience, feeling and thought . .  .” In Zooistry, his take on how our society’s relationship with pets has changed over the years touched a nerve with Veronica and I who both treat our dogs like family members rather than domestic animals and we laughed and cringed at the same time.

It might seem weird to rate McIlvanney as a writer I admire when I’ve never read any of his books. Have you been to see an author without reading their books? Do you feel guilty that you have writers on your TBR list who you feel you should’ve read years ago?