If you thought that this series of posts was pretentious so far, I’d turn away now if I were you…

From the conversations I’ve had so far with publishers and agent, it appears that if you want someone to publish your book, you better have a pretty clear idea about your audience. Who is the book for?

And for a commercial business that’s fairly obvious and sensible. Because a publisher in particular needs to know “Is this book likely to make me money?” and part of being able to predict that is to understand what the addressable market might look like.

It needs to be much more precise than “anyone” and significantly less targeted than “Steve Gribblethwaite of 37 Acacia Avenue, Romford”.

It’s a question with which I have struggled. And in part that’s because “Is this book likely to make me money?” just isn’t on my radar because in of itself my overwhelming view is that it won’t. That’s not because I don’t believe it can’t be a good book, interesting, entertaining, a good read. It’s just that the evidence today shows that books in the majority financially suck.

And because I’m not thinking about the book making money in of itself, who the reader might be isn’t something I’ve found easy or particularly important to answer. Anything from “Whoever wants to read it” to “Me” have bounced around in my head. I’ve never been able to actually put an effective finger on it.

And this in turn plays into the question of yesterday – why am I doing this?

And whenever I think long and hard about that question I end up with just because. It’s climbing a mountain stuff. It’s because it’s there to be done.

Which would be hugely outlandish if it weren’t for the fact that that is, in essence, the driving principle of the book. Make time to do stuff you think you should even if you can’t articulate why because interesting things will occur.

Which in turn leads me to think that my life is becoming more like that of an artist than anything else. I do things because I feel I should and as best as I can find people who can commission such stuff because they feel it will be interesting or useful. I’m not targeting markets to be exploited, more creating things I feel are right and then seeing what happens. I don’t know who the audience or the reader will be. That’s kind of the point.

Which, of course, leaves glum faces amongst the publishing fraternity.

So either I need to buck up my ideas and play the game on this one, or I need to veer away from the idea of traditional publishing routes.

I have one clear customer – David. David’s already promised to buy a number of copies for his team. David is the CTO of a medium-sized organisation who has a team who do interesting things. David (and his team) make a good starting point for the definition of my audience:

  • people who need to be creating things, building things, and coming up with new ideas
  • people who work in organisations
  • people who are open-minded to new ways of working, and to learning from people from across many different fields
  • people who are of a “What could we make this do?” mentality, rather than a “What will this do for me?” mindset.

Just stating that makes me realise that this isn’t a job of evangelism – it’s about preaching to the almost-converted. That in itself makes for a clearer definition of things that I’m trying to achieve through this whole process.

Back when I was doing management training we used to talk about the Three Rs of learning – revelation, refresh and reinforcement. Revelation is the discovery of something completely new; refresh is the reminding of something that one already knew that they haven’t actually done anything with; reinforcement is finding out that something that you already do is also done by others (usually a positive, peer-reinforcement).

The book is looking to reach an audience that is already open to new ideas, and needs to be unafraid to balance all of the Three Rs in that audience. I might have been focusing too hard on just revelation.

That feels like progress. A few more “meta” things to look at before getting into a bit more detail about the structure of the content: so tomorrow it’s looking at literary format. What is the style I’m trying to achieve?

Big thanks, by the way, to those people who’ve already been in touch with comments and thoughts. Really appreciate it.

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3 thoughts on “3. Book Reset: the reader

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