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25 January 2011 @ 11:58 pm
Target markets  
At work, I spend a lot of time thinking about target markets. These days I edit a mass-market magazine and my target market is young mums and single women, then nannas. I slip little jokes into craft stories so they will feel that the person on the other side of the magazine wants them to have a smile on their face as they contemplate whether or not they have enough energy to embroider anything this year, or whether they should just turn back to the food pages. As my first editor used to tell me, 'Never underestimate a mass market audience. They're usually not thick, though they may be drunk. God knows I am by the time I get home.' You can tell our offerings because they have bright pictures on the cover and names about homes, families, gardens and food, including adjectives like beautiful, delicious and stylish.

Back in the days when there was more money in print, I worked in news mags. We had a different target audience, and rather than inserting a joke to make your audience feel familiar, we were more likely to insert a pertinent reference (although very occasionally there was a chance to have a comedic pertinent reference, happy days!) This worked though, because the audience was either someone who would nod at the reference and sagely say 'Ah yes, I can see the parallels ...' or a student who would say 'Ooh! I want to learn more about that other thing so I can see how it fits in.' Both of them were made happy by this. These mags had Serious Photographs, or Clever Illustrations on the cover, and names including words such as finance, economics, bulletin, news and journal.

Further back in time, we helped out our target audiences in bookworld with covers. If you wanted something that said 'I'm terribly serious, probably studying formal logic' you would look for our offerings with stylised photographic covers and sophisticated typography and a line of understated support from someone like Salman Rushdie. If you wanted something that said, 'This is not my thinking time!' you looked for something with a lively illustration, loose typography in pink, green or Tiffany blue, and an effusive blurb from Helen Fielding.

The reason that I mention this is that there are few markers for target market in fandom. We tend to do our best in the limited opportunities we have. Warnings are a major trick: Dark fic, NC17 loads of porn, character death, heavily political, Abuse issues ... As a community, fanfiction is also pretty good at leading people in the right direction with our summaries and author notes, where it's not uncommon to read slightly spoilery material such as: full of fluff, considerable numbers of awful puns, significant heartbreak, contains mpreg and I am unashamed!

But for all this, there is little to guide a reader when you compare this medium to print. This sometimes leads to great unintentional comedy in reviews, as the wrong person reads your fic (the 'this fic would be improved by dropping the text speak you use with your young friends' person who read For the Public Good is still my favourite). Some people aren't your target market, and that's fine -- I'm not a lot of people's target market, either. For a start, I'm not really keen on porn, so I have to read a lot with my eyes closed. There's nothing wrong with that -- in fact I am often charmed and delighted when I find that a story resonates deeply with me despite being porny, and when someone who is very much not my target market nevertheless connects with a story of mine.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that while I did have a fit of giggles at the review I received today on ffnet that told me the reader had enjoyed a story 'Even if the chapters were REALLY REALLY long!', I also wanted to give the reviewer a big hug for not running away when he or she saw how long that scroll bar was. Bless!
Kerryblazekerryblaze on January 25th, 2011 01:53 pm (UTC)
'Never underestimate a mass market audience. They're usually not thick, though they may be drunk. God knows I am by the time I get home.' That may possibly be the best thing that I've ever heard.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 25th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
She was a great editor! I also loved the one I had when I worked on an airline magazine who would sometimes call me over and say 'Can you rewrite this so I can understand it if I need three whiskies to get through take-off?'

It's actually a maxim that works well in all journalism, because the clearer and simpler you can make something, the better it generally is.
Kerryblaze: Merlin: Arthur LOLkerryblaze on January 25th, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
Really. I choked on my coffee. :DDDDD
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 25th, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC)
Young people today miss out on these sorts of insights, now that there are no lunch budgets ;-)
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blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 25th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
You want to read Martin Millar's Lonely Werewolf Girl!

I have to confess that I have a sizable part of my back brain trying to come up with a seminal werewolf origin story: there is a hole in the market for one!
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blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 25th, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)

It's a stonking big book that was written in language that allows it to be marketed as YA literature at the same time as being all at once an intense treatise on what it means to be human and an individual; as postmodern romp through genre fiction; and a darkly hilarious piece of social criticism. I am a big Millar fan, though his language is very idiosyncratic, so he is a love of loathe writer for many people.
Nennenenne on January 25th, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC)
You made me giggle as well. :D Really, really long chapters is a good thing in my book, but I might actually be part of your target market.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 25th, 2011 04:11 pm (UTC)
You are! I actually write fanfic for about two dozen people -- the day that you, goddessriss, raitala, wemyss or 20 others hate something I have written, I will have a little cry.

I do wish I knew the commenter so I could give her or him a hug. It's a lovely thing to have someone see something they don't like and trust you to make it worthwhile anyway!
Nennenenne on January 25th, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
I'm quite sure there won't be any crying anytime soon. :)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 25th, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC)
You say this because I have never finished the slug animagus porn fic I began for Calanthe ...
Nennenenne on January 25th, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
*runs and hides*
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 25th, 2011 04:45 pm (UTC)
Very wise!

Although leopard slug mating is strangely lovely: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/nurspest/Limaxmaximuscourtship.htm
Nennenenne on January 25th, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
Strangely lovely is probably a good phrase. It still made me shiver a little though.
being_herebeing_here on January 25th, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC)
Aw! The sweetness!
mrsquizzical: fandom subtextmrsquizzical on January 25th, 2011 11:39 pm (UTC)
oh that is precious!

embolinaozembolinaoz on January 26th, 2011 03:48 am (UTC)
Everytime I get one of your posts on my friends page I smile. There is always such a gorgeous insight from you because you are a writer of human experience with a very sharp eye for social commentary and a wit that is fantastic - your dialogue is brilliant. Maybe you don't write for the mass fandom market, but you nail it for me each time! And being the selfish prat that I am, that works for me :)
sorrel_forbes: mad hattersorrel_forbes on January 27th, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)
You have brought a smile to my face with these observations, even as my mind boggles at trying to reconcile Public Good with text speak! On the other hand, I can imagine you punctuating your texts nicely, or maybe arranging unadulterated words telegram-style, but that may just be my fangirlish romanticising.

As for formal logic, I would like to point out (respectfully) that it is not necessarily such a stuffy and serious pursuit as it is sometimes made out to be. The theory of modal realism, for example (which is respected, if not widely supported), supposes that every AU actually really exists. Including, even, the ones where Fathers is finished. And the ones where it is true.