Production Blog for the new anthology from Jason Rodriguez, coedited with James W. Powell
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Thursday, April 20, 2006

James W. Powell: Audience Analysis

At my day job—where I act as the managing editor for an aviation training company—I always ask the question, “Who is my audience?” If I can’t answer that question, the product we’re working on is doomed to fail. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t know your audience, then you won’t succeed in any business.

POSTCARDS is no different. As the co-editor, if I didn’t understand the primary audience for the book, I couldn’t do my job. And the last thing a book of this nature needs is an editor who doesn’t understand every facet of what’s going on because the job entails much more than applying those grammar principles you learned in grade school.

Let me illustrate. We recently received a story idea from a writer interested in the anthology. Personally, I thought his idea was fantastic. The story focused on the supernatural tie between a young girl and her brother. It took the words on the postcard and spun them in a way I had never considered. It was fresh, exciting, and full of potential.

However, and this is a very big however, it simply didn’t fit our audience. For POSTCARDS, we’re targeting not just your typical indie comic shopper, but also those who might dig antiques and history (and Jason’s mom, too, obviously). See how this recently submitted story idea doesn’t fit? It was a fantastic idea, sure, but for another market. It was a little too heavy on the supernatural for it to find a home in POSTCARDS.

If this particular writer writes as well as he creates interesting story ideas, he’ll do just long as he knows his audience for future story pitches. But don’t get me wrong, the whole “know your audience” plays a part in everyone’s writing, not just amateurs wanting to get noticed. A couple of times we’ve reminded one of the book’s writers to picture the audience. No, no one pitched a story about zombies taking over Manhattan. It was much more subtle than that. But that friendly reminder of our audience still played a factor in the editing process, and it will continue until the day it’s printed.

As an editor, one of my duties is to take a step back from every story and ask, “Does this entire story work for our audience?” That may sound like an easy question to answer, but it’s not always so simple, especially when you're dealing with pros who've turned in fabulous scripts. But in the end, it doesn't matter how spectacular the story or how famous the writer...if the shoe doesn’t fit, we can’t wear it.


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