Almost the first question an agent or publisher asks is who are your readers? I can’t be the only writer who fails to conjure up a collective market-speak noun for the person who has just turned the last page of my novel with (I hope) a sigh of satisfaction.
The people who read, and give me feedback, are people who know me. They have read my books because they are kind friends or relatives, fellow-writers or new online friends. They are male and female, aged 16 to 90, and include a wide spectrum of interests and incomes. As a writer I could not survive without these people, but they are not the distinct target group the agent or publisher is looking for. What is more, I really didn’t know who else in the world, would want to read my novels… but I got lucky.
In December I wrote about the moment when dreams and real life coincided (Writer (almost) faints). I met a reader totally unknown to me who loved my second novel, Unseen Unsung, and so, apparently, did her book group.
Last night I was the surprise guest, invited by this reader, to a birthday meal for a member of her book group. So I met Tracy, Susanne, Janet, Sarah, Marie, Tracey and Judy (who couldn’t stay to the meal). My presence was for the fun of it, I didn’t have to perform, or sell myself, I was able to eat, relax, and discover who my readers were as people. Tracy birthday girl Suzanne (Goldie) Janet (left to right) Tracey, Marie and Sarah
So what, if anything, makes Tracy, Susanne, Janet, Sarah, Marie, Tracey and Judy a group. They were vibrant, funny, unsentimental, open and tolerant people. Their energies and concerns were first for their family members, then for each other, and after that any individual in their orbit who was in need. In doing all this they also looked after themselves and made their own fun. They worked, played and read widely. In every other sense each was a distinct personality. We were in Tracy’s house, her mother was upstairs, recovering from an operation, her father appeared from time to time as did a fifteen-year-old son, an undergraduate son and her husband (and there was a daughter elsewhere). Apart from her own spaniel (?), she was temporarily caring for a couple of pugs to help a friend.
The Chinese proverb runs – Women hold up half the sky. These women were certainly holding up more than they share share of the sky and I feel all the better, as a writer, for being their choice.