The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

A is for Audience


As writers, one thing we need to be aware of is our audience. My primary audience is lesbians, but mystery buffs might like my books as well. One of my protagonists is blind, so I need to make sure that I don’t just make stuff up about blindness that may not be true.

I’ve seen some interesting things lately about audiences. I recently edited a great book that my publishing house, Puddletown Publishing Group, is going to publish. It’s for middle grade kids, and features a Chinese-American family. Named Wang. Now, if you’ve spent much time around middle grade kids, and as a former teacher I have, you see the problem. Every teacher on earth will curse you if they have to make a fifth grade boy read aloud about the Wangs.  The author got it immediately when I pointed it out. Name change is in the works.

Place is also important to the audience. I live in Portland, and I write about Portland. When I read books set in Portland, I build mental maps based on my lifetime of experiences in Portland. I have no problem with made-up neighborhoods set in Portland, or made-up locations set in real neighborhoods. But if you put something in Portland that is illogical—for example, say you put a huge park in the middle of the downtown area, or a giant mall where I know for a fact none could ever exist—I, as the reader, am not going to trust you. If you have a character ride the light rail to someplace the light rail doesn’t go, I’ll know. And all my “willing suspension of disbelief” will fly right out the window. So, think about your audience when you write about real places. Some of them will live there, or will know the area well. Give them what they expect for the most part, and you can mess with the little details without messing with their heads.

I’m sort of surprised by how many straight folks are interested in reading my book. Now, some tell me it’s enough to turn them gay (hello, toaster oven!) but most of them don’t care. They just like good stories. I made an assumption that limited me in my marketing options. Yes, the women in my books are lesbian, and some of the men are gay, but why am I ghettoizing myself? I read “straight” books all the time and, unless it depicts really explicit sex, I don’t even think about the sexual orientation of the characters. Unless they are homophobic. That I’m going to notice. Or racist. Or classist. Or misogynist.

Anyway, this blogpost brought to you by the letter A and the words aubergine, antithesis, angst, and angel.

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Comments on: "A is for Audience" (3)

  1. Hah! A little Sesame Street-esque ad at the end. Love it.

  2. THERE’S the problem! I’m writing for myself! don’t know if my characters will adapt to a hypothetical audience. Especially since we are marketing to mid-kids, and most of my readers and fans are matrons.

  3. One of the reasons I love having beta-readers is because it helps me get to know my audience. It’s amazing how many things we work out that we think are seamless and then, like the Wang story, someone sees in a different light.

    It’s interesting that you bring up having a straight audience with a lesbian book, because this is something that’s always fascinated me. (I don’t know why, as you said, I also read plenty of books about straight people.) I think that readers just want a book that’s believable, and I think reading about a different type of relationship is interesting, because…I can’t really explain it…but heat and passion is genderless, and depending on the type of people engaging in it and their relationship to you, it effects you in different ways. I love feeling that passion from the other side of the fence as much as I love reading it with lgbt characters.

    ❤ Gina Blechman

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