Do I have a target audience?
I did a phone-in interview with Spirit Blade Productions’ Paeter Frandsen a few nights ago (I’ll let everyone know when it’s posted) and that was the question he asked me: What is your target audience?
It’s not the first time I’ve been asked that in regards to my debut supernatural suspense novel The Strange Man, and I’m always stumped when it comes up.
After a second’s hesitation, I told Paeter the honest truth: When I wrote this story, I had no idea about things like the “market” or “target audience”. Would you believe I didn’t even know what “CBA” was?
I first began writing The Strange Man over ten years ago. I was barely into my twenties, still living at home, and was content to read comic books and watch horror movies—much like The Strange Man’s protagonist Dras Weldon. At the time, I was working with Christian filmmaker Rich Christiano with lofty ideas of breaking into the indy Christian film business and doing my own little film—one that would “change the world”. Up until that point (1998/1999) Christian film was mostly comprised of 20-30 minute “church movies” that youth groups might show at lock-ins or that a church might show at a revival or in a Sunday night service. They were short, high concept, but usually low story/low character/low budget pieces that had one simple goal: Share the Gospel. They were tools for evangelism, plain and simple, and didn’t really aspire to be anything else—certainly not “Hollywood”. I had plans to change that. Why couldn’t I share the Gospel and my faith, but in a dynamic, Hollywood way, in the genre I loved most—namely “horror”?
You see, I love monster movies. Scary stories, urban legends, monster books, you name it. I grew up in the 1980s where every middle school kid knew who Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers were—even if we were too young to watch their films (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween respectively). Since high school I had a burning drive in my gut to create something that combined my faith and convictions with all those monster stories I had loved hearing ever since I was a kid.
I wanted to write a “Christian Horror” story.
The Strange Man began life as a film script, but when I realized I couldn’t raise the money for that endeavor, I adapted it (and greatly expanded it) into a novel. Beyond that, it’s grown into The Coming Evil Trilogy—a sprawling epic of ordinary believers who must combat an invasion of hell’s worst monsters. This series has been my passion for my entire adult life and it’s something that’s wholly me: 100% Christian and 100% monster nerd.
But who in the world was my target audience?
Many Christians are going to be turned off by the scary elements (and there are plenty) and the horror crowd certainly doesn’t want to sit there and read a book that’s got the spirit and word of the Gospel in it. Did I just shoot myself in the foot or what?
The truth is I didn’t have a target audience except for two people: Me and God. I wanted something that honored Him, and something that entertained me. I wanted carnage and explosions and lots and lots of monsters, but also wanted to write something that was just as passionate about standing for truth, putting our trust in Christ, and laying down our lives for our faith. I wanted a Hollywood-quality thrill-a-minute roller coaster ride with the powerful Biblical truths that challenge me as a believer.
Will anyone else read that? For the longest time I figured nobody would even publish the thing, but Realms Fiction—God bless them—proved me wrong. Now the book is out there and people are really responding to it in a positive way. This little story that I wrote to amuse myself seems to be finding an audience, in spite of me.
So, no, I never had a target audience in mind, but I’m trying to trust that God does and that He’ll get the book into their hands.
How important do you think it is to have a target audience? To the writers out there--do you have a target audience?