Another writer friend blogged recently about how we see things. She wrote:
The ways in which people interpret the world have always amazed and intrigued me. How two people can look at the same situation, be armed with the same knowledge about it, and yet still come out with different conclusions (aka ‘politics’). How two people can have a very similar experience and yet react in wildly different ways. How something that can floor one person won’t bother another.
But even more subtly: how the individual ways in which we think about the world – our personal hermeneutics – help us to see things through a unique lens.
She concluded by making the point that not only should we try to notice more details about our world; we should also think seriously about trying to “flip the result around to view things from a different perspective.”
This got me thinking about two things. My day job is in marketing — specifically, content marketing — where it’s my job to position and frame products in a way that appeals to target customers. (More on that in a second.) Because I’m getting ready to launch two books, I’m thinking about marketing them in terms of the connections people might be able to make with them.
Forging a connection with the right words
When we have a connection with a person, it’s easy to assume that they know what we mean, that they’ll be able to tell a sarcastic text message from a serious one, for instance, or that we’re teasing them rather than insulting them. We might think we don’t need to choose our words as carefully as we do in other company, or that we can ever be misunderstood.
Yet, we forget that on any given day, our friends are dealing with a range of influences besides just ourselves, our words, and their regard for us. There are the current day’s or week’s stress factors, and the words or phrases or tones — sometimes all three — that can trigger deep, bygone hurts.
And when we, as authors, are trying to connect with an entire group of people? Marketing experts tell us to have reader/customer personas, the people we think our products (including books) would be the perfect match for. Creating these personas often involves a careful balance between:
- a loyal group of fans, a small core group of people who always leave great reviews, attend signings, and share your stuff on social media</>
- a broader audience, people who have some but not all things in common with your most loyal readers
From here, we’re supposed to be able to work out just the right ways to position and frame our books, to communicate whatever we want our takeaways to be.
When the ideal could be one among many
And yet, I’ve been finding that my ideal readers seem like as much of a mystery to me as people in general. In real life, I either connect, or I don’t; I have little control over this, other than to be friendly and approachable, but that’s about the extent of it. Just as I like to leave the door open for people to interpret what I say and to connect, however unexpectedly, I also believe it’s important to embrace whatever interpretation people make of my writing.
Needless to say, I’m still working out the “ideal reader” thing. It doesn’t help that I write such a range of stories; I don’t like to be locked into a formula any more than I like to be locked into a group of people. I guess most of all, I’m hoping to find people who appreciate that range, who will find one thing they connect to and keep coming back — if nothing else, to be pleasantly surprised.
How do you connect ideally with books and their authors?