Who are you really writing for?

Cutthroat Island

Cutthroat Island

Who are you really writing for?

Every writer should ask herself that question because it matters in the marketplace. You can write a terrific tale, but your audience may be smaller than you imagined because your piece doesn’t speak to a large group.

If you become seriously concerned that your target audience is limited, you may decide to retool the work, or to press on and be faithful to your story.  You may, after all, be mistaken.  Your audience may turn out to be a broad one. And sometimes a story simply grabs the reader by the scruff of the neck and carries him away.

But that is not often the case.

To illustrate how a commercial venture may fail in this way, I offer this from Matt Gamble’s post* on the film Cutthroat Island, a film I thoroughly enjoyed but lost $88 million dollars for the studio that backed it.

Cutthroat Island was directly competing with were Jumanji and Heat which were both action films. Now I’m not much a fan of either film, but I think it is safe to say that Jumanji is a comparable film in quality while Heat is clearly superior to both. Jumanji is a sort of swashbuckling adventure story told at a breakneck pace to young kids and it held a great deal of appeal to them, while Heat is a gritty and realistic action film for adults. Both these films highlight Cutthroat Island’s weaknesses; that it is far too stuffy for younger kids, and it seems positively childish when aimed at older audiences.”

Cutthroat Island was a ripping yarn, but had no audience. If it had kids in the cast or fantastical elements, it might have been a children’s classic.  Davis and Modine were fine in the film, but they didn’t have the sexy, romantic spark of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley or the swaggering, woozy charms of Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

The writer would do well to imagine who will read and recommend the book to others.

* http://wherethelongtailends.com/archives/cutthroat-island

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