Sunday, July 28, 2013
Who Do You Picture Reading What You Write?
Embedded in all the news this month about JK Rowling’s secret identity as a crime writer is the story of her previous submission rounds—with book one of Harry Potter’s saga. Most of the articles make passing mention of the fact that, in 1996, the lightening bolt scarred protagonist failed to excite between six and twelve publishers (reports vary) before the book was purchased by Bloomsbury with an advance of £2,500.
What the stories haven’t mention is the very best part of the Bloomsbury acquisition process. Rowling’s agent (who only signed her because his assistant liked Rowling’s illustrations and pulled her manuscript out of the trash) sent the partial ms to the chairman of Bloomsbury, trading on a personal favor.
Did he read it? Nope. But he did bring it home, where his eight year-old daughter slipped it off his desk, devoured it in one night and begged (BEGGED!) her dad to publish it so she could read more.
I would like to hug that little girl Alice (I have a feeling her dad since has. I hope he bought her a pony too.) For me, this story is a powerful reminder of who kidlit is for, first and foremost.
It’s for kids.
Simple, right? Except it’s not so simple. Publisher’s Weekly published a study last September that claimed 55% of YA books were purchased and read by adults, with the largest segment aged 30-44 (a demographic I also fit within).
I write MG and I’m fairly clear on my target audience of tween girls. When I write, I imagine my reader as the amazingly self-confident, lanky, eleven-year-old girl who arrives at my kids’ bus stop every morning with her face in a book. Last year she worked her way through Meg Cabot’s entire catalog and I knew we were soul sisters (not surprisingly, she considers me “crazy bus stop mom who won’t stop squee-ing about book boyfriends”). Aside from her, on occasion I’ll write a line or add a reference that I just know one of my CP’s will adore and I’ll imagine them reading and commenting (I have one who highlights favorite funny lines with a green highlighter and I admit the quest for more green highlights has upped my game big time.) But most of the time it’s Bus Stop Girl.
Now that I’m venturing into YA territory, I’m having a harder time picturing my intended reader. Is it my teenaged babysitter or is it my best friend? (Seriously, people, this is not the same person, especially since my babysitter really doesn’t get my obsession with ABC Family. Besides, my best friend is the girl at the bus stop. She just doesn’t know it yet.)
I’m curious: Do you picture your ultimate reader as you write? If so, is it a kid? A Twitter friend? A CP? An editor? And how does that imaginary reader influence the words you write?
Labels: contemporary, craft, creative juices, discussion, editor, jennifer, MG, tips, writing, writing life, YA
Four truths and a lie: My MG debut AT YOUR SERVICE (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin) publishes Summer '14. I spent a gap year traveling the world solo (favorite spot: Nepal). I'm repped by the fantabulous Holly Root at The Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. I met my husband on the highway. I went into labor on Stevie Nick's tour bus. Okay fine, the truth is that there isn't a lie.
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