Thanks for all the responses about my “ideal reader.” It’s good to hear that I pretty much have it nailed. I guess my instincts were right. And it seems that I have a lot of Hufflepuffs among my readership. I’m more of a Ravenclaw, I’m afraid, possibly a Ravenpuff. Or else I’m the Ravenclaw who hangs out with Hufflepuffs because the other Ravenclaws are a bit too intense and competitive for me. But I digress.
I was asked where the Rebel Mechanics books fit into this. When I was writing that first book, I was aiming squarely at the steampunk community. I figured it would be right up their alley. There were characters who actually were “steampunks.” It was a subculture within that world. There was fun costume potential. I even came up with a plot reason to put gears on things as a decorative element. I had all kinds of fantasies about the steampunk crowd at conventions wearing gears on red ribbons and it becoming a thing.
But the adult fantasy publishers all rejected it, saying it was “too romancey” and suggesting I submit it to romance publishers. Instead, since the characters were all pretty young, I did another edit on it to tighten it up, added a bit more romance and emotion (yes, the version rejected as being “too romancey” had even less romance than the version that got published) and submitted it to YA houses, where it sold. That publisher marketed it to the YA segment (schools and libraries) but didn’t market it as fantasy or as steampunk, so the steampunk crowd didn’t really find it. A few people in that community found it and have loved the series, but it never seems to have spread or caught on there. I never see it mentioned when people ask for steampunk book recommendations.
In spite of what I had in mind when I wrote it, I suspect that the core of my “ideal reader” is probably the same there. Possibly less Harry Potter (though the Fantastic Beasts movies are getting closer) and more of the Jane Austen/Jane Eyre interest, but still a very similar-looking Venn diagram intersection. There would probably be more outliers who don’t fit in that central overlap, like the few steampunks who found it, and there’s the big circle of the actual pre-teens and teens. Some of them might fit a number of those key characteristics (they’re the younger versions of the “ideal reader”), but I think the big factor there was that the kids found the books through teachers and librarians, and most of the teachers and librarians I’ve heard from fall right in the target zone for my “ideal reader” demographic. For YA books, I might spread my promo to hit a younger audience, but I think my core “ideal readers” would still be my main target.
The trick will be finding a way to communicate with a broader audience of this readership to reach more people who might like my books. A lot of the things I’ve been doing or have been thinking about doing probably won’t do a lot of good. Since these aren’t hard-core fantasy readers, I doubt they’d be reading the SF&F magazines, so trying to sell short stories might not bring me new readers. They might read anthologies, though, so that may be something to focus more on. There are a lot of aspiring writers in that group, so writing tips might be good. I might need to be more active on Goodreads and get back to posting reviews. That seems like a place my ideal reader may be likely to hang out. Pinterest seems to fall right into that area, so I might want to explore it. Science fiction conventions might be a waste of time unless one of the other guests is someone who’s a really big name that would lure people who might also like me, but speaking to library associations or teachers groups would probably really pay off for me. I should probably talk more about books on my blog (alas, I’ve been in a reading slump and haven’t read anything I’d strongly recommend lately), possibly discuss some of the other things my core readership is into.
Having this hypothetical reader in mind actually makes me feel better about a lot of things. I’ve hated going to science fiction conventions and feeling invisible, but knowing that my readers aren’t likely to be there makes that make sense. I’m also less likely to be someone considered as a special guest at these cons because that’s not where my core readership is. I likely won’t get nominated for the big genre awards because my readers aren’t likely to be members of the relevant groups. A lot of the things I’ve considered career yardsticks are probably not realistic. Not getting them doesn’t mean I’m failing. It just means my readers are elsewhere. Now I just have to find where they are.