Re-asking myself some important questions, and how I answered them.
Why do I write? Who is my audience?
Eventually, every author must come to the point of asking themselves these two questions. Why do they write, and who are they writing for. Of course, one cannot produce a single, right answer to either of these questions. But whatever answer a writer may come up with, will shape and change everything about them, not just their writing.
I took a very long break from social media where I didn't do a lot of posting, or engaging, and suddenly have gotten back to posting quite a bit because of my upcoming releases. But instead of being excited, or successful, I'm feeling very dragged down and empty.
I must re-answer these questions for myself and face the consequences of their influence.
Why do I write?
Ever since I was young, I've been impressed upon with this need to write and share stories that help people dream bigger, or escape. I write because I too want to escape, because I want to write the books I want to read.
But I also write because I have something to teach. I want others to read my writing and see a new way of looking at the world, at life, at other people. I want my writing to sit with them for a long time, to come back to them like some quite truth or friend they can rely on. That though we cannot often relate to characters that are half human half horse, or have magic and ride dragons, that we can relate to the way they face the world or find deeper meanings in their twisted bodies or strange powers. I want readers to read my books and then look at the world, only to realize we very much live in a crazy, magical world that's full of life and purpose and beauty.
But even more than that, write because my soul was born in a different world, and I want to go home. I write because I have to catch a glimpse of that place, that feeling, that world I once called home, that has left a piece of itself lodged deep in my soul. I write because I feel that if I don't, I'll forget it all as if it were only a lovely, far away dream.
I write because I have a story to tell, and not just one of fairy tales, or magic, or dragons, or adventure, I write because someone, somewhere needs to be remembered, lessons must be taught, people must be grieved and loved, and for lives to be lived once again.
Who do I write for?
I have always struggled with finding my audience. Do I want my books to be Middle Grade? Young Adult? Adult? Adventure? Romance? For Christians or Atheists? For homeschoolers? For girls or boys? For booktok/bookstagram, or the real world?
Authors are bombarded with this pressure to conform to a set audience. We're told over and over we have to write for our audience, to please them, satisfy them, pacify them, as if they are some great gods we must make sacrifices for, that we must strive to reach as they sit in their lofty thrones of Olympus. Our audience makes or breaks us, it's true. But are they what's most important? Or rather, is it really most important to shove our audience into a box of stereotypes, rather than realizing they are individuals who can and are a part of hundreds of thousands of interlapping, different, unique audiences?
Instead, I've found that my audience is simply people. It's not battling the social media algorithm with targeted hashtags or putting easy to use key words in my books' descriptions or slapping an age label on the back cover. It's people looking to escape into a fantasy world with Centaurs, Dragons, and magic. It's people browsing through a local bookstore wanting to support the community and who thought my book's cover looked pretty. It's the people who stopped at a yard sale, only to buy my book for their daughter, and then for that same little girl to run into me at an ice cream shop years later with a love for Rasa in her heart. It's for people like my Great Aunt who dragged me aside while I was visiting family just so she could fan-girl about my book with me. It's the man fresh out of jail who saw my book sitting on my "adopted" granny's side table and asked if he could borrow it, and then fell in love with it.
This is my audience. The people whose souls are called to my books and my world, just the same way I was called to it.
The number of reviews my never go up as they read my books, I may not see myself tagged in a bunch of posts about my series, I may not have very many sales because people are borrowing my book from their friends and family, but that's okay.
Because these are my people, the audience of lovely, unique individuals who I write for.
What does this mean for me?
Despite having a positive mental shift, it's often still extremely difficult to live each day according to your new convicts. And what I mean by this is, logically, I know my audience doesn't lie on Instagram where I've spent the last two years trying to build a platform, but I will still continue to try and post content worthy of likes, stress when I don't feel like I've gotten enough likes, and then compare myself to other authors who I feel are doing better than me.
So what am I going to do? I must start building my platform where it really matters—in the real world. This means more book signings, getting more local bookstores to carry my books, and talking to people about it more instead of just shyly stuttering that they're hard to explain.
And as I grow and find me and my books' worth, the rest will come and eventually I will not seek for the likes or feel the need to compare myself to others who are on completely different journeys.
Knowing why I write and who I am writing for means I can move forward, grown, and become healthier and happier as a person and an author. Even if it is a long-term struggle, it is also a long-term investment. And it is something all authors should do.
So, ask yourself this. Why do you write? And who do you write for?
Thanks for reading and may the suns smile upon your presence.
—Effie Joe Stock