Almost any job a person can perform - from doctor to ballet dancer - boils down to one fundamental premise: adding value. A writer's task is no different. In a world over saturated with entertainment in a variety of forms, delivering value to the reader and in doing so standing out from the ever-expanding crowd only becomes more critically important.
What is the concept of adding value? From a business standpoint, it's the value a business creates by undertaking the production process. Simply put, turning raw materials into a finished product causes value to be added.
A writer's job really isn't so different. Actually, it's essentially the same process translated to a different medium. Take an idea, create a plot, add an outline, and then layer in the sentences that form paragraphs that slowly transform into a story. Along the way, hopefully value for the target customer, in this case the reader, is added at every step. The writer is like a chef; adding ingredients together and stirring them into something greater than the sum of their parts. Where the finished product transcends everything used in its creation lies its added value.
How does an author know if what they've created truly adds value? This can be tricky. What constitutes value for one reader might not necessarily translate to the next. It can be alarmingly easy for a writer to get bogged down in subjectivity and uncertainty.
A few pretty simple steps can help any author avoid this and hone in on adding as much value as possible as effectively as possible. Understand your target audience. Understand the objective of your book. And understand how your delivery methods best service the first two points.
For any author with commercial aspirations writing is a business. One axiom rings consistently true: you can't sell anything if you don't understand who you're trying to sell to. Knowing who a book is intended for is extremely important, and isn't always as cut and dry as we'd like it to be. Some of this is dictated by genre. Understanding different genres and their respective audiences is paramount.
A quick Google search ("readership demographics by genre") uncovered some valuable information. Some of its is fairly predictable. Women read more romance than men. Conversely, men read more sci fi and history books than their female counterparts. But what comes across as interesting is, according to (link), women read more thriller/mystery/crime than men. Also, Statista tells us that there are more self-identifying female readers than male.
These are merely example for a couple studies, but they illustrate the power of knowing as much as you can about your genre and its respective demographics. Understand the broad strokes of who you're writing for and then begin to narrow it down. Is your book middle grade, young adult, or adult? How old are the characters? Is there a specific age range of reader you expect it to appeal to? Will readership be limited by any geographic or socioeconomic constraints?
For instance, could you picture the Queen of England flipping open a comic book? Or a coal miner on their lunch break poring through one of the Russian classics? (Both of these might actually happen...I'm not trying to pigeonhole anyone. But neither scenario paints the picture of a reliable readership when we're thinking big picture.). Knowing your reader as well as possible is the first step to adding value.
Having a clear cut objective is just as important as knowing your audience. Sometimes a book's purpose is straightforward - a cookbook's goal is to teach readers how to cook recipes, and a book about the history of Istanbul serves to inform the reader about the subject content.
Novels can be much trickier. Sometimes a novel is meant as an allegory for a specific event or society as a whole in a set time and place. Often they're about imparting a deeper message, or theme, and teaching the reader about morality in a specific way. Other novels focus heavily on character growth and interactions that frame a transformation over the plot's course.
What the objective IS isn't necessarily important with regards to adding value, as long as it resonates with readers. A powerful message will elicit emotion. That should always be the author's goal. Books that invoke an emotional response or connection get read. Ones that don't get passed over.
Consider your themes and the message as a whole. Even the most harrowing, action-packed thriller comes with a cleverly disguised message. Ask yourself "what's the point?". Once the objective is clear only one step remains.
Any art form comes with subjectivity. But it's hard to deny that in certain situations specific techniques seem to work better than others. When everything comes together and just works, transcending mere words on page, it can have a powerful effect.
How does an author assess which methods work and which don't? Again, it's complicated. The tools of one genre don't necessarily translate to another. The epistolary format that feels right at home in a Victorian novel would feel out of place in a modern spy thriller. Conversely, writers are always reinventing things and coming up with ways to push the boundaries of conventional literary thinking.
Methods like point of view, writing style and technique, format, chapter layout, viewpoints, timeline, and plot length are all ways to influence the feel of a book. Before making decisions on any of these topics, think back to who you're writing for and what the story's objective is. A novel in first person with one hundred chapters set over 24 hours with several different viewpoints will have a wildly different feel than one set over a lifetime and told entirely from one perspective.
Generally, shorter timelines denote more action and excitement and are a common technique in thrillers. First person lends more immediacy to the main character (though not always) and can be a better way to see into their head, while third person can invoke the feeling of watching the plot unfold from an outside perspective. Certain genres are characterized by short chapters with frequent cliffhangers while others focus on character development and a slow build over time.
Choose the stylistic methods that best support your work. In this regard, feedback and reading other books in your chosen genre are key. Understand why and how their structure and methods service the target audience and overall objective. Everything ideally works together to add value. Added value is what agents and publishers are looking for and what eventually leads to contracts and sales.
Creating something with tangible value means it has the chance to get read. Then the only remaining obstacle becomes getting the book into the target audience's hands.
Thanks for reading and remember to comment below and subscribe for more! And I almost forgot perhaps the biggest value adder of all. Originality. Putting a new exciting spin on something that's been done a million times before is a great way to go places.
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