Thursday, April 26, 2012

Essential Advice

My issue of Essence magazine arrived today.
If you glance to the side -> you’ll notice I am not an African American woman, the target audience for this magazine.
I also live in an area where you’re much more likely to smell curry, and about half the store signs are not in English.
Let me explain.
I have incredibly dry skin, and a while back I made a purchase entitling me to a free subscription of Essence magazine.  I politely declined, but the issue showed up on my doorstep nonetheless.  This went on for about three months before I started having nagging feelings of guilt.  I wasn’t reading this magazine and in fact, it went straight to the recycling bin every month.  Throwing it away for the third time felt so wasteful. If it was my hard work, I would want each magazine to fall into the hands of someone who would gain something from it.  My thoughts turned from big business conglomerate, to the article writer hoping she’s making a difference somewhere.  
I decided to call subscription services to stop my “service.”  A very nice sounding Southern woman answered the phone.  We went back and forth for a few minutes.  Me, trying to explain the situation in the politest terms possible, her, insisting I continue my “free” subscription, and would I like another year for a discounted price?  I tried being firm, “I don’t need this magazine subscription when I already have so many I don’t read!”
“But it’s free!” she responded.  
“I’m not an African American woman!” I exclaimed in exasperation.  
“Darling, don’t you have a friend you might gift it to every month?”
“Maybe you don’t understand the area I live in?”  I wanted to say.  “It’s simply not the right kind of ethnic for Essence magazine.”
But I didn’t say that, because to admit I couldn’t think of a single African American woman to gift my magazine subscription to, sounded wrong.  I even took a moment to flip through the latest issue hoping there might be something for my Filipino neighbor, or the Mahjong group at the community center. 
No luck there.  I was out of excuses, and her southern lilt melted my firmness.  I thanked her for her time and resolved myself to another nine months of “Essence.”
When this issue arrived in the mail today, I gave a little laugh.  Lately I’ve been spending so much time thinking about this darn magazine, I couldn’t see the practical application to my writing life. 
Be careful about your audience.  This is especially true for you indie authors out there.  So often we spend time networking and talking to fellow authors, ignoring the people who we’re really writing books for.  It’s your time and money, make sure you’re not wasting it.

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