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Friday, December 7, 2007

Finding Your Potential Audience

Here's something you can do. Post the first few pages--10 to 12 would suffice--on your website, then send a nice email to your friends and relatives, preferably people of different ages, and a good mix of male and female. The more people you write, the better (go as high as humanly possible). Oh, and make sure you know their ages.

Ask them for thirty minutes of their time to read your work, stressing that you're doing this for your personal growth as a writer, then email you back. They don't have to do it right away, but you would appreciate it if they could spare some time over a weekend. In their return email, have them briefly and very honestly answer the following questions:

1) Is the story the kind that interests you? Yes or no.

2) If your answer to the first question is "yes," please specify that part of the story that interested you. If your answer to the first question is "no," please enumerate two or three stories that you've read and really liked.

3) Do you know someone who might be interested in a kind of story like this, like a friend or relative, preferably someone I haven't met yet? Yes or no.

4) Did it matter that the story was told in comics form? Yes or no, and why.

5) How many fiction books have you bought in the past six months?

6) Please name five commercial establishments--restaurants, stores, bars, etc.--that you frequently go to. Also, please name three special interest websites that you frequently visit.

7) In a newspaper or news website with lots of different sections, what sections do you more often read? Politics? Arts and Culture? Finance and Business? Entertainment? Fashion and Lifestyle? Sports? Motoring? The advice columns? The opinion pages? Something else? Please specify three.

This is a simple piece of market research. The results can give you an idea of the market segment who might be interested in your work. Do note a few things:

a. The people you know would most probably give you thirty minutes of their time. Plus, you'll most likely get serious answers when you tell your friends and relatives that you're doing this for "your personal growth as a writer," as opposed to "I wanna sell this!"

b. You're not going to ask them to read your comics, but your story. Arguably, the word "story" carries more weight than "comics," so there's less chance that there'll be the dreaded bias against the medium.

c. You'll be asking them if they know someone, a "referral," who might be interested in your story. Send a follow up email and ask if it's alright to ask if you could contact the referral. Once you have the contact information, send a new email with the same message and questions, except #3. You don't want to bother any more people.

d. Depending on the answers you get for #4, you'll more or less know if the person is open to reading comics as an alternative storytelling medium.

e. The answer for #5 can tell you if they're the kind of people who buy fiction books on a regular basis. The more books they buy means that they're the type who can go out of their way to get a book.

f. The answers for #6 will give you insights on the lifestyle and purchasing power of your respondents. This information is valuable because it can help you find other people who might be interested in checking out your work.

g. The answers for #7 gives a rundown of topics that your respondents are interested in.

What happens next? Tabulate. Isolate those who answered positively in the first five questions, and try to pin down what's common among them. Are they mostly male or female? Are they mostly single or coupled? Are they mostly teenagers, young adults, or mature adults? Do most of them frequent a specific set of establishments? Do most of them frequent a specific set of websites? This is why the more people you get answers from, the easier it gets to isolate a distinct "potential target market."

By the way, don't forget to thank everyone you send emails to, even if they tell you that they can't help you. After all, we need to be professional about these things.

Do you have an idea what to do with the information you've culled together? We'll go into that in my next post.

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