#ThursdayThoughts: Reviewer Mismatches & Target Markets

A while back I submitted both the Lone Prospect and the Dawn Warrior to a Self Publishing Fantasy Blog Off Contest, basically, ten book review bloggers agree to review 30 self published fantasy novels each and choose the best one for that year (even though the books don’t have to be published in that year.) 300 books, 1 prize. (And there is a book cover contest, which I’m not sure is entirely fair since many self published authors buy their book covers like everyone else. Okay, you get a prize for choosing a good cover for your book? Yay?) Every type of fantasy book was welcomed, the runner said as long as there was an element of fantasy or if the author defined it as fantasy it was acceptable for the contest. Today I went to check it out on a whim and found while the Lone Prospect hasn’t been gotten to yet, the Dawn Warrior had been knocked out of the running.

Apparently my prose is nonsensical, my writing awkward and I need a good editor. Ouch. Tough love. (My grammar mistakes I accept with hat in hand. My story is my story and my style is my style. That isn’t changing.) The review “team” themselves admitted that all reviews are subjective and that none of them really warmed to the concept of the Dawn Warrior.

That’s fine. They aren’t my target market.

And I mean, if my writing was truly that awkward and nonsensical, I would hope after 15 years of being in the writing game one way or another someone would have told me. (No. I get asked for years “Why don’t you write original?” And now that I do write original, I doubt any of that crowd would actually read it.) This is, by the way, not an excuse for trolls to come out of the woodwork and go “You’re writing sucks! You suck! Die. Die. Die!” Yes. I know my writing can improve. All writing can improve. But my basic style is what it is. Trying to force something is the way to writer’s block and depression and pain.

Here is the peril with entering any sort of fiction blog contests. You book may not appeal to the reviewers involved because they you don’t write for them as readers. They aren’t your target market. And looking at their reviews in the their blog, this team is decidedly on the ‘serious fantasy’ books side of the fantasy spectrum.

I am most thoroughly am not. I don’t take fantasy or science fiction soberly or with a straight face. I thoroughly believe that fantasy and science fiction can be fun and doesn’t have to be an editorial on today’s society wrapped in magic and aliens. The concept of elves and dragons and aliens lean towards faintly ridiculous already. Why not have fun with it? (Ghosts though, ghosts are very serious matters.) I most likely won’t ever win a Hugo or a John Campbell award or anything of that nature. My princesses ride on intelligent dragons and fight witches. My werewolves go up against evil on floating motorcycles and have their own werewolf daycare. My vampires… wait, err… haven’t started that series yet. Shhh.

If I had been looking for book reviewers and came across their blog by their review content I wouldn’t have submitted my book to them. Just because I would see by the books they do review, they wouldn’t like my genre of fantasy. It would be a waste of both of our time. But for the contest, books were assigned randomly in the order they came in. There wasn’t much thought to who got what books and if the reviewers would even like those books.

At best, I write in the style of romantic fantasy. A genre that was the precursor to middle grade fiction and had writers like Anne McCaffery and Mercedes Lackey (who were a big part of my high school reading experience.) I come from the era X-Men animated series, 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Captain Planet and Dragon Heart. (Does anyone remember Dragon Heart?) At times, even Narnia is too “serious” for me, especially the later books. Though I love Narnia. Magic wardrobes. Talking animals. Centaurs! Movies like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Men in Black, Van Hellsing and the Mummy appeal to me because the fantastical is wrapped up in humor and fun. (I also like the Expendables but not really fantasy or science fiction there.) I keep up with the webcomic Girl Genius on the basis that mad science really is mad and funny! (Girl Genius has won Hugos. Go Girl Genius.)

Those are the type of readers I’m trying to reach. The ones who like fantasy and science fiction and like fun and humor.

I entered this contest on a lark. The entry requirements were low after all. Fantasy. First book in a series or stand alone. Self published. That’s it.

Target markets are tricky things. Because a lot of what gets talked about right now is the high brow serious fantasy fueled by the likes of Game of Thrones. (Though rumor has it Game of Thrones started as a satire of the fantasy genre. This seems to have been forgotten in the HBO furor.) Bloggers review and blog about the same books. (The review blog echo chamber is uncanny.) Thus those books get more and more attention while other books struggle to make a dent in the internet sphere. That’s the way the motorcycle rumbles it seems.

Personally, I have a few more things to worry about than whether or not a team of fantasy reviewers like my writing. I have an apartment to move out of and a new job to start soon. -crosses fingers-


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