Know Your Audience, Know Yourself
The Mad Genius Club has expanded, and now you have more Mad Genii to choose from! I’m Dorothy Grant, the marketing half for Peter Grant’s books. You wanted more marketing, you’ve got it every other Sunday. On the Sundays between, Brad Torgersen, the Powder Blue Care Bear With a Flamethrower, will be joining our rolling conversation!
The quiz is first, and only you know the answers right now.
Where do you spend your social time, and who do you spend it with?
Who is your target audience?
What are you really putting out there?
I had occasion recently to go to a site that I rarely frequent, and skimmed the first three articles to get a feel for the place. The first was praising the gory dehumanizing of a show named Hannibal, which stars the eponymous serial killer. The second was a review of a season of Game of Thrones, lusting for more rape and murder. The third article was a book review praising a “dark fantasy” where a woman is traded by her people to a dark wizard.
I won’t be back, because the very tone was dreary and debased. No amount of top-end design or beautiful visuals can make up for content like that. This is what happens when people focus for too long on the darkness they strain to see in every human heart, so that they might declare themselves superior. There is no joy there, no sense of wonder, no hope, no celebration of mercy, charity, hard work, or moral principles. These people do not laugh, except to cover themselves in case someone attacks their attack as insufficient or overreaching: “It was just a joke!” is their defense as they scuttle away.
There can be no celebration of achievement, only open season to attack in the cleverest way upon its announcement. This is moral bankruptcy, and that the knives came out in comments is absolutely unsurprising. The knives are always out, and they’re always circling to see who’s got the best cut, and praise them while planning a more clever cut or backstab.
I had nothing to contribute there.
I prefer to stay upbeat and cheerful, personally, because it’s a lot better to be kind than clever. In the end, trying to live up to moral standards and taking full responsibility when I fail has made my life full of awesome people, and full of opportunities that those awesome people showed to me, or helped me achieve. It’s built a community that spans continents, and friends like family across thousands of miles. If I make the world a better place for others, it does come ’round again and make the world a better place for myself, too.
I also know that professionally, as part of the public face for Peter Grant, it’s important to be upbeat and cheerful in my internet interactions with his fans. As his marketer, everything I do and say reflects back on him. This then leaves the impression that his books will be upbeat and interesting. (This also happens to be true; even the darkest moment do not prevent the books from reflecting the belief that in the end, evil cannot prevail.)
This brings me around to the initial questions. Where do you hang out? What is celebrated in those circles? What is encouraged in word and deed? What do you bring to the table, when you comment or post? Social media is, by its very medium, interactive, and you can leave a comment thread brighter or snarkier for your presence. (Or in the case of ones with puns too near Sarah, leave it filled with the mock-disapproval of metaphorically thrown bacalhau.)
What does your target audience want? If they are following you because of your doom, gloom, and despair, I’m sorry. Make sure you get a separate public and private persona elsewhere that has the ability to enjoy life, before the baying for more grimdark drives you to grind all the joy out of your soul, and tearing yourself open and bleeding pain for the crowd becomes a habit instead of a performance. This has been the downfall of many a shock rocker, when they couldn’t separate the stage persona from the rest of their life.
If they are following you for your entertaining adventures where the heroes will win in the end, that’s awesome! Don’t be afraid to try something new, and stretch and grow. It is important to continue trying new things, because getting stuck in a rut will lead to your old fans growing bored and leaving for something new faster than you can attract new fans.
What if neither applies to you, or you don’t know? Look at your fans, since it’s hard to see your own work clearly. Do they like to treat people as things? Do they reward sarcasm and cutting remarks above thoughtful replies, and have no interest in seeing things from another view? Danger, Will Robinson!
And no, this does not confine itself to any political or religious, tribal or cultural group. It’s a human failing, and we’re all human here in the heart and the soul. What you reward, you get more of – whether it’s good behaviour or bad. Unchecked bad behaviour drives out good, because people who don’t want to put up with it will leave. Thus, groups left unchecked will tend to spiral inward and downward, more extreme and more vicious over time. If you let your fans do this, or worse, you yourself fall prey to this tendency, your sales will also follow.
On the flip side, if you reach out to others, and are optimistic and entertaining, people will like you, and your stories. They’ll tell other folks about the things they like, and more people will come to enjoy some time along with you. People like to share the things they love, with friends and strangers.
Make the bystanders laugh, and you win at life and at storytelling. Play for the crowd out there, not just the crowd you can see. It’s always fun to be clever, but if it’s one or the other, be kind.
And if you want a good story where people do their best despite all the odds against them, check out the Laredo War trilogy by Peter Grant, starting with War To The Knife.