family history and genealogy

The Audience in My Head

Lately I’ve been reading about the need to define the audience for your family history or memoir. Kathy Pooler and Mandee Sears cover this topic, and other writers surely do as well.

Naturally, I also think about my potential readership, its demographic, and how best to reach it. Yet Kathy and Mandee both allude to one type of audience I’ve never considered at all—the private audience.

Some people write memoir or family history only for their personal use or to share with family and friends. Some write to leave a legacy for their descendants. Others write to work things out in their heads, or to achieve catharsis, reliving past hurts in order to overcome their lingering effects. Still others may write to settle scores, although this approach entails a certain risk of lawsuit.

I’ve always written explicitly for publication, however far off that mirage may seem. Of course, I also think about my family and the impression my work may make on them. In particular, I hope my son will one day read this account, the better to know his heritage, the better to know me, the better to have something of my voice and presence after I’m gone.

But my main wish is to be published, the sooner (and more lavishly) the better. Writing is what I do best. It makes me feel buoyant and alive. Besides, I’m close to bursting with the story of my family, enthralled with its drama, poignance, comedy, and universality. Writing for a private audience—or no audience at all—would be unthinkable.

My preoccupation has led me down new avenues. I read the blogs of Jane Friedman, Dan Blank, and other publishing luminaries. I’ve taken Dan’s class on building the author platform. I’ve started a blog and launched my own (sporadic) feed on Twitter.

It’s too soon to say whether I’m getting anywhere with this platform thing. But I have noticed that the goal of publication brings on many changes.

Like any other object of desire, publication carries its own cargo of neurotic anguish and delight. I’m subject to wild gyrations of mood. When I’m writing well (or just think I am), I feel outbursts of joy, an irrational exuberance that would make Alan Greenspan weep. When I’m not writing, or writing poorly, I’m subject to heartrending anguish. I feel snappish and enervated. A funk closes in.

The changes in publishing alternately excite me and depress me. It’s great to think I can build an audience without ever leaving home! On the other hand, building an author platform is a lot of work, which isn’t exactly what I need in my overcrowded life.

An RT or a mention on Twitter adds a little wind to my sails. An unnoticed blog post leaves me becalmed. I dream about the agent’s call, the arrival of proofs, or even a book signing, the last item being an especially remote possibility in today’s publishing climate. This fantasy also sometimes turns to dread as I think about the social demands a public appearance would impose on an introvert like me.

Through it all, I search for my audience. My ideal readers are cultured people in their middle years with a quirky sense of humor and worldly sensibilities. You know the type (or maybe you are the type): urbane, well read, ironic, rich with experience and wisdom.

And so it goes. I sit at my desk, musing about Twitter, Klout, and how to conjure the audience in my head. It’s a lot to add to the already formidable business of writing a book. Some people say it’s just part of the writing life now. Only time will tell.

© 2012 – 2014, Andy Kubrin. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

  1. Kathleen Pooler

    Andy,
    I appreciate the mention and link. What a fantastic synopsis of what writing is like in this current environment! You have struck a chord on all your points, spoken from your personal experience. Publication takes all the persistence, focus and hard work one can muster. It is clear you possess all of these qualities and I look forward to following your progress. In the meantime, I’m sending this gem into cyberspace so others will know they’re not alone. Thank you for sharing and best wishes on your writing and publication.

    Kathy

    • Andy Kubrin

      Kathy,

      Thanks for checking in, and for writing such a good piece on finding your audience. It’s such a basic part of writing, yet so many write for years without ever trying to define their readership. I liked your visualization exercise and the idea of working with personas in mind. That’s a good way to shape your work–it’s almost like writing a letter.

      All the best to you, too.

      Andy

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