Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Reading and Audience

How age, gender, and other demographics factor into book creation and marketing.
Renee Frey, COO Authors 4 Authors Publishing
I remember, shortly after reading Pride and Prejudice, seeing a follow-up novel written by a contemporary author in the bookstore. I eagerly asked my mother to buy it. She hesitated, and told me she wanted to check it before I could read it.
Many years later, I went back and read the book—and it was definitely NOT appropriate for a young ‘tween!
But how did I find a book that was so out of my interests and ability? Why did it appeal to me? And what does this have to do with how books are marketed and sold?

Audience Matters

Genre and age classification are, in fact, two separate things. Today, I want to highlight how publishers determine age category, and what that means for you when you are writing or selecting your next book.

Age Category

At this moment, books are usually split into child, young adult, and adult age categories. However, much like the remote control, you decide what to read. I read “adult” books as a middle schooler, and know many adults who read “young adult” or “children’s” books. The category is more about how the book is marketed.
No matter what age category, all books strive to have the targeted age demographic as the protagonist(s). Almost no adult books have child protagonists, or if the protagonist is a child, they don’t interact with the world as a child (like Ender in Ender’s Game). The book should also have themes that correspond to the targeted age or demographic’s personal issues, dilemmas, and struggles. A young adult book will deal with coming of age themes, such as identity and sexual awakening, whereas an adult book may handle financial struggles, career problems, or mature relationship problems like commitment or infidelity.
Children’s Books
Children’s books are for younger ages, including both read aloud books and beginning reader books. Characterized by a sense of joy and earnesty, children’s books:
  • Have strong characters
  • Are instructive either literally or emotionally/psychologically
  • Seek to expand concepts, vocabulary, and world view.
Read more about what makes a good children’s book here.
Young Adult Books
Young adult typically includes high school readers. Some post-high school readers do exist, but are not typically the target demographic of these books. Young adult books:
  • Are told from a young adult’s point of view, often in first person
  • Have the young adult protagonist solving problems for themselves, independent of adult intercession
  • Is fast paced (especially compared to adult classics)
  • Include diverse people and situations
  • Are mostly optimistic, with the protagonist accomplishing a lot despite numerous setbacks
  • Deal with emotions that are important to young adults, usually along the lines of coming of age, identity, and responsibility
  • Can include any  genre.
Read more about the common elements of young adult literature here.
Adult Books
Adult books are unique in that they are separated by genre, with differing genre conventions applied to their relative works. These books have more intense targeting, usually broken down by gender, specific age, socio-economic class, political ideology, and religion. As it would be impossible to cover every specific genre here, we are doing a high level overview of genres and subgenres in the following weeks.

Other Demographics

Just as television advertising is geared to the demographic watching the program, book covers and marketing are geared to specific demographics. This is even more true post-Kindle, where strong niche markets consisting of key subgenres of subgenres exist. Romance, for example, could be different or same gender couples, targeting LGBT audiences, although they are overwhelmingly male and female single combinations targeted for adult woman readers.
Publishers use a combination of cover art and targeted marketing to help books find their readers. Likewise, as a publishing company, we review submissions with the reader in mind: who would read this story?

What Does This Mean For Writers

As part of a writing group and as an author myself, I’ve heard lots of rules and adages about writing. One phrase keeps coming back: write your story. This is self-serving and disingenuous. As a writer, you must consider your reader, and target the story to the reader. If I want to sell to a female audience, objectifying a woman character is probably not a good choice. So tell your story, but consider your audience, and adapt your choices accordingly.

What Does This Mean For Readers

Nothing—and everything! As you learn about genres, audience, and the writing process, you can make more specific and targeted selections of books to read. If you prefer a certain style, while you may not belong to the specific demographic, you can find other related stories by following the audience parameters. However, just as an older child can read and enjoy an adult book, so too can adults enjoy books intended for younger audiences.

Are there any differences we didn’t cover? Any other ways that understanding audience can help a writer or a reader? Post a note on our Facebook page or leave a comment below!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Content Ratings

Are there any, and where can you find them?
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Unfortunately, there is no official standardized rating system for books as there is with movies and television shows. There are several websites, and even publishers, that have their own rating system, so their readers can find books they’re comfortable with.
Why isn’t there a rating system?
While there’s no easily Googleable answer to this question, I suspect that it’s because the ratings for movies are trademarked by the MPAA and TV ratings are owned by the FCC, so they can’t be used by the general public. That, and books are somewhat self-censored by reading level and genre. I have yet to meet a ten-year-old perusing the romance section for any reason other than to giggle at the covers.
Good news! We want to rate our books.
Since there isn’t a standardized rating system for books, it leaves an opportunity for us as publishers to rate our own books, and even others in our book reviews. There’s nothing worse than picking up a book that has a great story only to find that you’re not getting what you expected. We at Authors 4 Authors Publishing want to ensure that our readers find exactly what they’re looking for, whether that means books with blood, guts, and sex, or a clean read with no explicit language in sight.
How we do it:
We use a two-part system when rating our books, a general age description and a more detailed breakdown of why it got the general age rating. Keep in mind the general age rating is the youngest age the books would be appropriate for, not necessarily what audience (Children, Middle Grade, Young Adult, etc.) the book is written for. Please note that these ratings are not a commentary on the quality of the work but are only meant as a guide to indicate the kind of content within the books.
General Age
Our general ratings go from Children to two adult only categories, Strong Content and Extra Strong Content:
C: Children: This is appropriate for very young children and generally contains no questionable content.
8+: Older Children: This is appropriate for most audiences but may contain mild violence or concepts which may frighten or confuse younger children.
11+: Preteens: This is appropriate for preteens. May contain moderate violence. Characters may notice their own bodies changing, experience budding attraction, or kiss briefly, but there is no other sexual content.
14+: Teens: This is appropriate for most teens. Violence may be intense but is not gory. Sexual content is limited to intense kissing and suggestive language or situations.
17+: Older Teens and Adults: This is intended for older teens and adults. Violence may be frequent or graphic. Sex may occur but is not intense.
S: Strong Content: This is for adults only. Violence may be frequent and graphic. Sexual content may be graphic but mainstream. May contain extreme language. May contain frequent drug use. Many adult books fall into this category.
XS: Extra Strong Content: This is for adults only. Violence may be gory, frequent, and disturbing. Sexual content may be frequent, graphic, and fetishistic. May contain frequent extreme language. Most erotica and extreme horror fall in this category.
Detailed Ratings
Additional details are added to each age rating based on content in four possible categories: Language, Violence, Sexuality, and Drugs. Milder levels of some categories are used only for lower age ratings. An absence of a category means a story is free that particular content. Each category may be noted by its frequency when applicable. There are two special categories that are included in the detailed ratings, Traumatic Themes and Cultural Controversy, which will not change the general age except in the case of Traumatic Themes upgrading a C rating to an 8+ rating.

For a more detailed guide, please visit our Content Guide page in our Books section on our website.

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Next Time

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Where It All Started

How a publishing company run by authors could be the new, big thing.

Renee Frey, COO Authors 4 Authors Publishing

So last week I talked about what we at Authors 4 Authors Publishing didn't like about the publishing industry. Today, I want to share our dream with all of you: a publishing company that just gets it right.

An Idea

It all started with an idea. I knew I wanted to write and met the most wonderful group of writers on Scribophile (check out our group website here). We started collaborating on short story anthologies, which got me asking questions about publishing. How did it work? As a writer, all I focused on was telling my story the best way possible. Little did I know there was a whole other world out there.

I work in wonderful (sometimes) Corporate America. I have seen firsthand how business is done. Large companies use their pool of resources to negotiate discounts—making competition from a smaller, up and coming company more difficult. Not trying to get overly political here, but we all know how Wal-Mart, for example, has run smaller businesses out of town. Publishing is no different. Authors either spend just as much time, if not more, trying to get someone to publish their work as they originally did writing it, or else sink their own resources into it.

But what if there was another way? What if independent authors worked together and pooled their resources? What if a writing group, instead of just helping each other with writing, helped each other with ALL aspects of book production?

Cooperative, Democratic, and Progressive

Within my writing group, two wonderful ladies agreed with me wholeheartedly. So we decided to create our own publishing company—one that gets things right.

We are a Cooperative

We incorporated as a cooperative—that means that we are all owners. As we grow, we will extend opportunities to key people to also be owners. This means that everyone working on a book has personal stake in it—we all own it, and we all want it to succeed. No one at our company will just be there for a paycheck.

We are Democratic
We want to empower everyone in our company. Part of us all being owners means we all vote on key decisions to shape our company. Our culture begins and ends with empowering everyone in it to seize the day and their destiny. No underpaid slush readers here—everyone you interact with has a vested interest in how your work will help us grow!

We are Progressive
Electronic publishing has disrupted the industry. Publishers need to change how they do things—and we want to lead that change. The same culture that makes us want to get things right—from how we treat everyone in the company to how we handle authors—makes us forerunners in business as well as relationships.

In English, Please
Sorry—I do get a little excited about business! But what this means is that we recognize that behind every manuscript, no matter how developed it is, lies a real person who invested time and effort into an idea—just like we did.

We wanted to make our company culture, or the way we are, something that works better for creative people—like authors! We want our company to reflect our personal values of respecting all walks of life—so we did!

We are currently accepting submissions, so please visit the Submissions Page to learn more!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Open Submission Call

Renee Frey, COO Authors 4 Authors Publishing

It’s been a long time coming, but here at Authors 4 Authors, we are OPEN for business—the business of publishing! What started as a crazy idea within a group of authors on Scribophile is now a reality: an independent publishing company owned by authors with the goal of putting writers and authors FIRST in the publishing journey.

As authors, there are a few things that we didn’t like about the current publishing industry:
The Query Process
The more we learned about traditional publishing, the more ridiculous the whole scenario felt. You get an idea, work your butt off writing, revising, editing, proofing, and finessing the idea. You then send a...wait for it...letter? To an agent? Who may or may not read anything beyond that letter?

For the lucky few who get an agent to read part of your novel--congrats! But then the agent has to choose your book. And while they are reading it, don’t even think of sending it somewhere else! After rejections, some of which are form letters that automatically populate your name, you might, after months, finally get one agent who then TRIES to sell your book.

That’s right, folks. No guarantee of a book deal yet. And IF a publisher picks up your book, you’re given an advance you have to earn back before you can earn a paltry 10% of the sales price in royalties. Um, no thank you.

Independent Publishing

As authors on a critiquing website, we know quite a few independent publishers. We think they’re awesome!’s a LOT of work. And you have to pay for everything yourself up front. By the time you pay an editor or proofreader, a cover artist, purchase the ISBNs, format the manuscript, it costs hundreds of dollars.

Also, as a one person operation, you pay premium price for EVERYTHING. You don’t have an established author to send interest your way by featuring your work in their back matter, or accompanying you on a book tour. It really is a full time job--and most independent writers don’t make enough with their writing to actually make it their full time job. In fact, most of them are lucky if their sales can earn back their production costs.

A Better Way

The goal here is to offer a better way of doing business that combines the best parts of both industries in a way that keeps authors FIRST. More on that next week!

Post on our Facebook page—what do you hate about traditional publishing? Or independent publishing? What do you wish could be different?

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Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on our books, authors, and more!
Can't wait? Check out our website for available books!