Thursday, 8 April 2010

On Becoming a Bestseller (2)

Now that you have established your reason for writing (following the last lesson), your fundamental reason for putting pen to paper, I want us to go a step further and put another building block in place. Two in fact. What kind of writing do you easily produce and To Whom do you write? Again, all these questions are relevant in the quest to becoming a bestseller.


So, what form of writing do you produce (or love to produce)? Is it fiction (stories based on imaginative creation and not facts) or non-fiction (topical, thematic or subject-based writing)? Is it poetry (rhythmic writing, usually with verses) or prose (the ordinary form of written language, without metrical structure)? Is it inspiration (designed to infuse with life and stir the heart towards a particular end) or academic (designed to engage the mind and deliver some educational value)? There is much benefit in knowing the kind of writing you are wired to produce. This will help you define your audience (which I'll come to in a moment).

As a fiction writer, there are a number of genres in which you may write, including mystery, fantasy, crime etc. As a non-fiction writer, you may discuss a subject, solve a problem, give self-help tips etc. It depends on your sense of calling as a writer and what comes naturally to you. I started by writing short inspirational notes. My first book was a collection of thoughts on the Why and How of Sharing the Word of God with others. Later, I began to write prophetic teachings and messages. I even shocked myself by writing a novel (The Greatest Well-digger in the World) after years of saying 'I am not a fiction writer'! The lesson? Don't restrict yourself to a writing box. You may write in a particular genre for a season and uncover some hidden potential to write in other genres later on.

Now, very important in this foundational process is a definition of the people you are writing to. It is not enough to say, 'My writing is for the whole world.' What you have said indirectly is that your writing is not meant for anyone in particular. Whilst the whole world may end up reading what you write, you need to start with an audience in mind. So, are you writing for men, women or children? If your writing is for women, what kind of woman? Single women, married women, career women, nursing mothers, abused women, women who are facing divorce? Who are you writing to? What kind of people will want to read what you write, fiction or non-fiction? When you zero in on a particular kind of person, not only will you be clearer in your communication, you will know where to find the people who would be interested in reading your work. In marketing it's called a niche market or a target audience. Whatever it is called, you need this working definition of potential readership for each of the works you produce. You are not ready to produce a book if you don't. Engage your thoughts and define the people to whom you write.

When I started writing, I was confident everyone needed to read what I wrote. Potentially, yes, but practically... it does not really work that way. It was not enough for someone to endorse my writing and say, 'Every Christian must read this book.' Again, whilst this may happen eventually, it is better to have a kind of person in mind. A very good example is the book of Luke and Acts in the Bible. Doctor Luke had an audience of one in mind, namely Theophilus. Because he wrote to this one audience, his writing was distinct from the other gospels and good enough to gain admission into the Canon of scripture (see Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1,2). He wrote to one and has been read by all. I love that! Another example. John Wesley wrote his journals for himself, but the whole world has read them in part of in full (see this Amazon page for some of the titles on John Wesley's journals).

I have finally learnt this lesson. My new book, The Shift of A Lifetime (to be released soon), is written to Nigerians born between 1960 and 1970 (+/- 2 years), those living in Diaspora and at home in Nigeria. It is that specific. I could write the same book to all Africans living everywhere but have learnt that the narrower the niche, the better the chance of a wide readership.... Don't ignore this lesson. When you define your readership, you are more likely to be read by them.

* * * * *
In the next lesson, we will discuss a very important point: Why do you want to write a book? (Remember I said in the last lesson that this is different from the question, Why do you want to write...) . Until then, remain inspired!

2 comments:

PK,  8 April 2010 at 09:50  

Informative and a good read, looking forward to the next lesson

. 10 April 2010 at 10:51  

Thank you so much for this. It has helped clarify a lot of things. At the moment I do a lot of inspirational writing.

I believe as I write I find myself exhorting the body, unveiling spiritual truth and encouraging them towards faith.

I also try to motivate the body of Christ to Evangelistic action trough my writings (not sure how to classify this).

Then I also write to unbelievers subtly unveiling biblical principles and helping them to see that the God and the bible are not irrelevant, but very relevant to daily life... this is also motivational.

So I would say - Inspirational and motivational.
To both believers (discipleship) and unbelievers (evangelistic.

Thank you for helping me sort this out.

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