When I worked for a company that really cared about teaching their management staff how to understand their employees and make the environment better for each person working for them, I attended a set of meetings that helped us learn about the different generations and how to best relate to them. So what are those generations and what do the gaps mean?
We will start with the eldest of our generations, the Silent Generation. These people were children of the Great Depression and frugality is a way of life for them. These people were born between 1925 and 1945. At this time, these people don’t care much for reading…the words on the pages are too small. Therefore, appealing to these people is difficult.
Technology is not their friend so digital copies are not very interesting to them. Paper copies work, but it is hard for them to read. Solution? Audio books do well with this generation. You can tell the story and they can take it all in by listening to you.
How do you reach these people? Mailings are the best way, but word of mouth that reaches a family member can work as well.
Next, we look at the Baby Boomers. These people were born between 1946 and 1964. Many of these children learned to be very thrifty from their parents so cost is always a factor when looking into luxury items such as books. Most of these people do not appreciate electronics the way the later generations do so a paper book is much more appreciated. If your book resonates with this crowd and you don’t have your book in print, you are missing out on sales.
This generation prefers to curl up with a great book, to smell the pages and bend back the cover…even dog ear the pages to mark their place. This generation loves to please people, they are loyal and dependable. Once you convert them to being a fan of yours, they will be faithful to you until you do something to destroy that relationship. Unless a parent or sibling was lost to death, most of these families were in tact, two parent families so moving and emotional stories tug at their heart strings.
How do you reach these people? Well, more and more, this generation is using social media outlets like Facebook to keep in touch with their family. If you can capture their attention online, encourage them to “like” you there. Ask them to share their thoughts about your work on Amazon and refrain from using the word “review”. It is a very intimidating word that makes people feel the need to be technical and not sincere. Getting a snazzy mailing will get their attention, but you need to be thoughtful about your price point. There are mailing list companies that will compile lists based on specific demographics and printers such as Vista Print that allow you to create and print items such as postcards to cater to your audience.
Then, we have the Generation X. These people were born from 1965 to the early 1980’s. I think of this generation as the “in betweeners”. Yes, I am aware that that isn’t really a word, it is just an expression I came up with. These people were born and raised around the evolution of computers and cell phones. I am a Gen X kid. While I had two parents all of my childhood, both of my parents worked outside the home. Many of my friends were from single parent families as divorce rates began to rise. We were a generation that raised themselves, yet most of us still had two parents at home after work.
This generation loves to be praised. It is thought to be due to a lack of it when both parents are absent more than present. They need to feel wanted and needed.
Dramatic movies with effects that were the cornerstone of today’s movies started a virtual evolution and a love for fictional stories. These people have learned to adapt to a new way of life, a digital life.
When I read a book, I still love a paper copy in my hand and the way the ink looks on the page. However, I do like being able to download a book onto my Kindle app and have it right there. I am the type that I only collect the paper copies of books that I am most loyal to and others, I commit to technology. When I become a large enough fan, I buy the paper copy.
So, this generation will prefer either type of book. It is a good idea to market a choice of formats for these people as some are very against digital copies while others prefer them. You can reach the majority of your audience by the web as mailings can be boring and add to the pile in the trash can. Things like Facebook ads direct emails will grasp the attention of these people. Placing bookmarks in local bookstores or grocery stores may help them find you.
This group of people used their imaginations as kids. They love descriptive works that are easy to read and hold their attention. For many, the characters come to life and the setting will take them away as a means of escape. If that works for them, the story doesn’t have to be technically accurate for them to be fans. The vacation is what they want.
One thing I have found is that this generation really displays little loyalty. They can love your work and give you a marginal review. They rarely stand up for you, especially if you are new to the publishing scene and shout to the world that they like you. They are afraid of being condemned by their peers for their opinions. Many of these people are happy to follow but not to be the start of great things. (This is not to offend any Gen X people out there…This is just what I have found. My least loyal crowd are Gen Xers.)
Words of appreciation and praise will help them create a relationship with you. Be warned, however, that even my closest friends and family have turned their backs and never “share” my links even though they rave about my work. If this happens, find a new crowd to help you out. Your target may be these people, but the Gen Y people may be of more help to your reputation.
And then there was Generation Y. These people were born early 1980’s to the early 2000’s. They are lovingly referred to as “Millennials”. This was the birth of the technological generation. Everything is digital, everything is virtual, everything is instantaneous, and everyone is a winner. These people are very particular about movies and books…even food. This generation can feel more logical in their thinking. Imaginations don’t exist much and that is a product of their environment.
With a lack of imagination, movies and writing must be very accurate or you lose the interest of this generation. They require precision. Whatever they do, be it movies, gaming, or reading, it must be very real or it immediately sucks.
Cracking into this audience is quite a feat, but if you do, they have the technological know how to reach out to waves of people that can spur your career forward. Catering to this generation can be your ticket to a bestseller!
Gen Yers know the importance of spreading the word for you…but be prepared that it might not be the words you want spread out there. While other generations don’t complain as much, this generation can be brutally honest in giving feedback. They mince no words about the fact that your story had a few typos or a historical discrepancy. For them, it is black or white…they love it or hate it.
More than any other generation, these people use the social outlets like Twitter and Facebook most so they can be your best friend! This generation is big on blogging and can exhibit a “big mouth”. Meaning, they have groups of people in their corner that they have never met in person so they can speak volumes when they give their thoughts on your work. Even being able to post an article as their guest can gain you new followers.
Digital copies work the best for this generation. They are a “I want it now” kind of people…used to microwave food, 3D movies and up close and personal video games. They don’t think about how their words affect people as much. Most of these people are from broken homes and absent parents. They have completely raised themselves. They cannot fail out of school or lose a soccer game. This is a world where no one loses, so they don’t think about how they come across. Respect is not first and foremost with these people as they feel the world owes them a little something.
Reaching this audience will be very much computer oriented. Hooking them with concise advertisements will prompt them to click and could result in a new fan.
There is a name for the newest generation…Generation Z. These kids were born after the year 2000. If your audience is for the younger kids, remember that they are much the same as Gen Y where technology is concerned. These kids can teach you how to run your cell phone before you even pay for it.
Modern stories with real situations they could encounter will capture their attention while old school scenarios will turn them away.
However, with this generation, you must appeal to their parents as well. You don’t want to offend the parents or you get no sales. These parental generations will be Gen X or Gen Y so use of the computer will reach either audience. You can bet that a Gen Z child will read their books from a tablet or another device. If you don’t have a digital version of your book that pertains to this audience, you are losing sales.
This is a lot of information, I know. Are you marketing the right way to fit your audience?
Every author wants to believe that their books do fine with all generations. Don’t cheat yourself! Really work at determining who wants to buy your work. If you write for a Baby Boomer crowd and you market to a Gen Y, you will not be successful. You need to focus on your specific group of people and from there, it could explode on you.
Some authors will even recognize the opportunity to write for the Gen X and Y people as they are the easiest to reach and hook. There is something to this strategy. But I feel that you should write a story that speaks to you, not cater the story to your audience.
This post skims the surface of determining your audience. It is just another way to follow the avenues that will lead you to a marvelous reader base. I could go on for pages and pages…
So, here is the loaded question: What generation is your target audience?
Psst…Mine is Gen X and Y. However, there are many Baby Boomers that enjoy my work as well. But X and Y are my targets. Digital copies and paper copies are a must. Mailings and online activity are my ways of communication. I also write for two of the most difficult audiences that there are.
What about you?