Thursday, December 17, 2009

Attitudes Sell Fiction

Let’s talk about demographics and psychographics. Demographics deal with such things as sex, race, age, income, education level and location, among other things. Psychographics deal with personality, values, attitudes, interests and lifestyles. There’s a fuzzy line between the two, since things like sex, race, age and education level can indicate some things about a person’s attitude, but it is helpful to think of them as separate.

If you are trying to sell a how to book, demographics are likely more important than psychographics. If the book is about how to write a device driver for a new piece of hardware, your target audience is like to be highly educated in Electrical Engineering or Computer Science. That could also be considered a firmographic (dealing with a person’s firm).

But when we move over into the fiction world, demographics aren’t as important. If we write a story that takes place in New York, we can’t assume that someone in Los Angeles won’t be interested. Just because the protagonist is a man doesn’t mean that women won’t want to read it. The amount of money a person has will not influence whether he wants to read a story about a rich man or a poor man.

Shortly after For the Love of a Devil came out, an acquaintance of mine looked at it, put it aside and said, “Too close to home.” As you will recall, For the Love of a Devil is about a man whose wife leaves him, but he fights to get her back. My acquaintance experienced a very bitter divorce in which his wife left him, even though he tried to get her to stay. I don’t expect he will ever read that book because it touches a very tender sore. Demographics won’t tell me that, but psychographics will.

Suppose we could look at an online community and we saw that many of them are hurting because of divorce. It would be a waste of time for us to try to sell a book like For the Love of a Devil to this group. What we would like to do is pick the psychographic attributes that would describe a person who would enjoy this book, find a group that has most of those attributes and market it to them. We can’t always do that, so the next best thing is to match the psychographics of a group with a book they are enjoying, find a similar book and try to sell that book to them. In part, this is why traditional publishers are more successful than self-publishers. A traditional publisher can select the book for the group rather than the group for the book.

But, if you are interested in seeing fiction sell, pay attention to psychographics. People’s attitudes, combined with the storyline, have a great influence on the sale of novels.

Question: In what way have you seen your own attitude toward things or life in general influence your desire to read a novel or to write a story?