Friday 14 September 2018

Hello! I'm talking to you! Who's your reader?

by Addy Farmer

Let me tell you straight off that I opened this new post with NO IDEA what to write about. My fellow bloggers have done it all, really they have and done it brilliantly. So ... why bother? Why should I write anything at all? Am I just filling space? Honouring a committment? Fulfilling a self-aggrandising ambition which included seeing my name in as many places as possible? Um, maybe. And probably all three but it's also about a need to talk to someone out there about what the flip I'm doing being a children's author. It's about talking to people who understand that it's not all about launches and cake. Or wine and cake. Or cake.

Lemon drizzle - my favourite

Is anyone listening? Have I got your attention with CAKE? Well, if that's so then I must be talking to the vast majority of children's writers, because in my experience, rather alot of us like cake. I hope I know my audience. Why do we write with an audience in mind? For me, it's all about HEART.  The nine year old protagonist in my WIP is based on and written for a nine year old from a primary school I worked in. I want him to identify with my protagonist and feel that this book is for HIM alone (and the millions of other readers who will also buy it). And maybe, just maybe it can make a difference to someone.
Image result for kids audience
So not only do you excellent readers want to see cake in my blog but you also want a cracking personal story of ambition, struggle and eventual success. Give me a moment on that one.

Image result for mountain climb black and white
I've no idea what's going on her but it looks like a struggle to me
And call me a custard cream if I'm not correct in assuming that you also want a few TOP TIPS on how to make your writing shine by knowing your readership?

Well, here are some tips for you based on my writing for junior children with a school element involved...
  • find out what your chosen readership enjoys reading! Simples. Try seeing if a school will let you in - schools generally love volunteers. My WIP is 'funny and magic' - so many children love funny stuff - but if it doesn't suit you then DO NOT FORCE IT. Find another way - magic/football/pets/therearemore. Have combos e.g. funny magic; magical pets; footballing dogs.  
  • note quirks and habits which will make your characters stand out e.g. I noted so many children played with the wretched plastic trays placed directly under the tables or fiddled about with pencil sharpeners or took hours to wash up the paint stuff or gave out letters with a great deal of fussing ... it goes on
  • understand the way a school works - it's changed since you were young! School is such a massive part of a child's life that it's important to know roughly how stuff is taught and timetables
  • Know more about the culture in primary schools today or at least in the school you research! Schools have staff who specialise in nurturing pupils/teaching English as  foreign language/SENCO support/booster classes. So much! 
  • You don't have to include everything of course but any research will shine through and will help bring a story and characters to life and into the hands of your chosen reader

Identify books which are similar to yours
Once you recognize who your competition is, it may be easier for you to pinpoint your potential readers because chances are, you share the same target audience.

Having trouble identifying your target audience?
Ask other authors or industry professionals for help! There's a certain SCBWI conference coming up in November in Winchester ... it's a great place to find out about publishers' target audiences and lap up their knowledge. Also children's authors love to help fellow authors at these dos. 

Kids seem a bit happier in schools nowadays

Some stories that speak to their readers

Harry in his cupboard - alone and friendless except for 1 000 000 000 readers who felt his pain and his thirst for something more than this

Harry Potter by JK Rowling

Dogger by Shirley Hughes is about the terrible anxiety of losing a beloved toy, the unsentimental love of your hero big sister and the immense happiness of finding it again. It is the world of the four year old completely.

Then there are the teen/YA reads - the Guardian has a great list of books where readers have so identified with the story or the protagonist that they have saved lives. Can't say fairer than that.


  1. Addy, where do I get that T shirt? I WANT ONE!!!!

    1. I want one too! That is not my chest by the way.

  2. Replies
    1. On reflection, I really should have done the whole thing about cake.


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