So I’ve launched my author website. So far so good. The reason I launched it was to start promoting my as-of-yet unpublished book.
“What is your book about?”
The first editor I spoke with asked me this question.
“About climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with my son,” was my answer, and I immediately felt how lame that sounded. Sure, not everyone climbs Mount Kilimanjaro. But of those who do, I’m pretty sure everyone feels they have a story to tell. What made me think mine was special?
I wanted to convey everything my book was about. The meticulous planning. Or not so meticulous, as it turned out. The hilarious group of friends I climbed with. The amazing parenting moments as a result of having my son come with me. The laughing. The crying. The singing. And my obsession with the toilet tent. Most of all, the toilet tent.
But before I even got the chance, she followed up with more probing questions. Like “Who is the target audience?”
That one made me come to a dead stop. Not because I didn’t know the answer (I didn’t, really) but because I knew with sudden clarity that this was the key question. Get the target audience right, and your book will sell. Not in any Fifty Shades of Grey kind of way, of course, but enough to make you happy for a time and spur you on to write the next one.
I contacted several more editors, in between scouting out potential cover designers, and knew I had found the right one when I read this paragraph in her email to me after I had sent her a sample:
…Will readers be armchair travelers/adventurers? (The newbie aspect of your voice would be attractive to this group.) People who might want to climb Kili? (Your tips as partial expert seem geared to this group.) Experienced hikers? (Your hilarious rendition of what happens on hiking trips re. potty obsession and water taste etc. will be very familiar to experienced folks, and they’ll laugh in recognition.) Parents? (You have comments about parenting/family that stand out, and your being on this trip with your son may be something you explore.) I can see all of these groups as potential readers just from the two chapters I’ve’ve read, and there may be more.
I think she totally nailed it. She had only read two chapters, after all, and probably only once, when I have read the entire manuscript approximately twenty jillion times, and yet she zeroed in on the target audience with laser vision. That’s why she makes her money with editing, I suppose, and I don’t.
The one group of people I DO know I had in mind when starting the book are my loyal readers on Joburg Expat. Most of them have followed me from the moment they set foot on Africa’s shores. They trusted me with their questions about a school for their children and whether they’d be safe driving home from the airport, they obediently printed out documents I told them to keep in their cars should they be stopped by traffic cops, and once they were settled in their homes they wanted to know where to travel. It’s a funny thing when you’re an expat in Johannesburg. Never mind that you probably live in the most beautiful house you’ve ever lived in, with a beautiful patio looking onto a beautifully sparkling pool, waking up to beautiful sunshine every morning and having someone else do all your dishes and laundry, apparently you cannot WAIT to pack and get away again.
So what do your readers want to know about traveling? Well. They want to know which places you recommend. If they also have children, they want to know if it’s the kind of place you can take four bickering kids to without losing your sanity. They want to know who you booked it with. They want to know what time of year you went there, and whether it was good. They want to know if they’ll have a good time doing the same thing. And, most importantly, they want to find this all out without being bored out of their minds while you’re telling them. So, since you asked – you did ask, didn’t you? – it was with these faithful readers in mind that the Kilimanjaro book was born.
Now I just hope that I can deliver my first travel memoir safely into your hands, sometime in March of 2014. Self-publishing, much like climbing a mountain, is very much a journey and a new adventure. And you know what I do with those, right? I chronicle them. So stay tuned for more on writing and publishing on this site.
By the way, speaking of Fifty Shades of Grey, my husband is very much hoping for some steamy sex (I’m talking about the book). I’m not quite sure he thought this through, considering he isn’t a main character in the story, but I guess both you and him are going to have to wait to find out.