“I Only Write for Teenage Girls” Syndrome

For those of who you love science fiction, fantasy, horror, and pretty much any other genre besides, there’s a magical event called Dragon Con, and it happens once a year in Atlanta Georgia. It’s a convention with a who’s who of popular genre writers, actors and actresses from your favorite sci-fi or fantasy TV shows or movies, not to mention artists and industry professionals – and that just scratches the surface.

While at Dragon Con earlier this month I got the chance to meet some amazing authors, but there was one interesting author interaction that is still bugging me. I’m going to address it here because it makes a big difference for pretty much any reader or author…

Have you ever read something that wasn’t something you were “supposed” to read? I know I have. Most of my friends have too. Maybe you’re that adult who loves reading teen books. Maybe you’re a teen who has varied tastes and read Lord of the Rings when you were 13 and The Hobbit when you were 10 years old.

Whatever your own personal experience, my point is that we as readers often don’t fit into the neat little marketing boxes that publishers (and sometimes authors) like to place their readers in.

One author I highly respect, Janine Spendlove, recently mentioned during a writers’ seminar at Dragon Con, “A good story is a good story.” An author who writes well is going to appeal to people beyond their ideal target audience, whatever that audience happens to be. That’s not a bad thing – in fact, that’s the beauty of writing. Good storytelling is so infectious that it usually has universal appeal.

So it was with some confusion that I listened to a certain YA paranormal author at Dragon Con tell her audience of adoring fans one evening that her books were written “only for teenage girls.”

Hmm. Really? The irony of the moment was that even as she said it most of the audience were NOT teenage girls.

In fact, teenage girls were the minority. It was a testament to the strength of the author’s work that a wide cross section of people had come to see her. I talked with people next to me who were well into their 40s, and who absolutely adored all of her books. When I asked one of them how she felt about the author’s statement, the answer was “Not good.”

Authors need to be careful about being exclusionary and caring only about their so-called “target audience.” Why alienate readers? Why limit your appeal? It’s bad marketing and it’s in poor taste. In fairness to the author I’m referencing, I don’t think she intended it to sound as off-putting as it came off. And the point is crucial for all authors: don’t let your publishers or your ego tell you that only 1 type of reader matters.

Welcome all types of readers- it’s good for the pocket book in addition to being the right thing to do.


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2 Responses to “I Only Write for Teenage Girls” Syndrome

  1. Here, here! Why would you ever tell someone that they shouldn’t be reading your writing?

    Do you think she was trying to ride the wave of other, recent novels that have had their wild success connected with the teenage girl demographic (even if wrongly so)?

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    • P.S. – I think you’re right. My guess is that her publisher advised her to really hammer home that connection, i.e. identify with that demographic, and then she took that strategy and went overboard with it. I think it’s easy for authors sometimes to get bullied by the publisher rather than thinking for themselves sometimes.

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