In this week’s episode of the Inside the Writer's Soul podcast, we’ll be talking about audience or reader expectations. In this episode:
- The four ‘E’s of audience expectations – what audiences are expecting from your work, whether you’re an #author, #filmmaker, #photographer, #artist, #songwriter, or other type of #creator.
- The story shared in this episode: How each ‘E’ applies to different facets of my books or life, plus I reveal my Hogwarts house!
“No matter what medium you are using to express yourself, so long as you keep these different audiences in mind and what the expectations for the various audiences are, it can help you with your work.”
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After you listen, join our podcast community on Facebook or comment below and let me know: Do the 4 Es ring true for you and your content? Why or why not?
As with many of my podcast episodes, I have a FREE resource to help you. Download your cheat sheet of ‘E’s from this episode.
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[00:00:00] In this week's episode, we'll be talking about the four E's of audience expectations, what audiences are expecting from your work, whether you're an author, filmmaker, photographer, artist, doctor, songwriter, or other type of creator. If that sounds like something you're interested in, please keep listening.
[00:00:16] You may write alone, but you are not alone. Inside the Writer's Soul focuses on how personal experiences can inform your writing and help you speak from the soul to really connect with readers and other authors as well. Your writer's soul doesn't need to take the writing and publishing journey alone. Join me, your host M. Khan, and let's move forward together.
[00:00:43] Hello and welcome! In this week's episode, we'll be talking about audiences and the 4 E's of expectations that they're looking for when they pick up your book, watch your movie, or consume your content, and I'll share how I use each E in my author business. I came up with this idea a while ago while I was thinking about the variety of readers I have, and the different things that readers have told me over the years about how books or characters have affected them in different ways. From that, I started to think of myself as a reader and a consumer of content and I began wondering, well, what is it that I usually want when I pick up a book or a movie or a television show or a piece of music and a song when I tune in or pick them up? What exactly am I looking for? From that came this idea of the four E's, which are entertainment, engagement, energy, and empathy.
[00:01:34] These E's could be the promise that the audience or the reader is expecting from you and your work or your books. So these four E's again, entertainment, engagement, energy and empathy, are what I'm going to be talking about today, and I'm going to go into how I use each one of these in different ways in my author business and how the audiences for each of these can overlap.
[00:01:57] The first E is entertainment, which is one of the first things that stuck out to me from the perspective of an audience member such as a reader. When audiences tune in or read because of entertainment, they just want a distraction for a few hours or more, or they need those few hours away to maybe forget something that's going on in their real life. I think this is one of the reasons that bingeing on television shows has become such a big thing. Because you tune in for a few episodes but you continue to crave that distraction, so you keep watching another episode and then another and another. Does that sound like something you've done? I know it's definitely something I've done before.
[00:02:34] I think of action movies and more recently in the superhero movies have a lot of audience members who want entertainment, and I think that's one reason for their appeal. If you watch a superhero movie, you know you'll likely be entertained when you do. That promise of entertainment will be and has been fulfilled by the end of the movie. It's a few hours where you can just go to a movie theater or even just sit on your couch and curl up in bed and you can forget about the world around you and just be entertained. Books, I think, also meet the audience expectation of entertainment. A lot of the time I know I have often reached for a book when I just cannot deal with this one thing that's going on in my life, so I need a distraction from it so I pick up a book and read for a few hours. That's the promise I'm expecting the author to meet when I pick up a book of fiction. When I pick up nonfiction, the expectation is a little bit different, but you still want to be entertained. I think that's why several of the non-fiction books I've read recently have actually woven storylines into them, or have had really interesting stories which keep me entertained while I also learn about the topic I'm reading about.
[00:03:39] The second E is engagement. So we had entertainment which was wanting to be distracted for a few hours, but engagement is when audiences not only want to be distracted, but they want to engage with the world that you are creating through your work. They want to go a little bit deeper and become part of that world. So a good example of this would be, say, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or science fiction and definitely superhero movies again. Here you see the two types of audience needs and expectations being met, entertainment and engagement. People buy wands and claim their Hogwarts houses if they're fans of Harry Potter, for example. I'm a Ravenclaw, by the way, Go Eagles! Or they buy golden rings if they're a fan of Lord of the Rings, or they buy shields or Thor's hammer or costumes because they love that world so much and they want to become a part of it. So if you write fantasy, this is very likely an expectation your audience will have for your work.
[00:04:35] The third E is energy. So this is where I think music tends to fall a lot. Audiences here may want something that's going to give them energy in a variety of different forms. They could want physical energy for their workout, mental energy to prepare for a long, tough day at work. Maybe they want creative energy or inspiration. And this is something that I definitely need from music as an audience member. I get very inspired by music to help me write, and I'm often playing something in the background while I do write. If I'm not dictating my novels, other things such as art or books or movies or TV also inspire me and give me creative energy. One book I wrote was inspired entirely by this beautiful image I seen in a graphic novel as well as the Beyonce song "XO". An entire book just from that image and that song. When I know I need something to give me the right mental or creative energy to put me in the right frame of mind for the day, I'll read a book in the morning or listen to music or watch something before work, or before I start writing. As an audience member I reach for works that will give me that right energy that I'm looking for.
[00:05:45] If you're a musician or a songwriter, then maybe you want people to feel a certain type of energy from your work, whether that's an inspiring energy or a comforting energy. The songs I love are the ones that helped me the most with energy and empathy, which is the next E we'll talk about in a minute. Certain songs can make me feel uplifted or comforted or more confident and even more motivated. So if you're a songwriter or another type of musician, these are all different audience themes to keep in mind as well. You tell stories through music and through lyrics, but that doesn't mean that your audiences don't have expectations as well when they listen to your next song or pick up your next album.
[00:06:24] Now, something which often comes up is whether or not we should reconcile audience expectations with our creativity and the content we create, and that's something I'll talk about in just a few minutes.
[00:06:35] The fourth E is empathy, which is when an audience wants to connect to that work or book on a deeper emotional level. You not only want to see yourself in that book, you want to see yourself in one of the characters or you want to see your emotions reflected back to you. I can't tell you how many books I've read which, by the end of it, have healed a part of me that was hurt or broken or cracked in some way. There are certain authors that are auto-buy for me because I know they usually have something in their book that heals me and that is incredibly powerful. Music, as I've already mentioned, does something similar for me as well.
[00:07:12] As an author, one of the things I did not realize until after I was writing for a few years was that I was trying to heal myself through my own words. It wasn't until I took an objective look back at some of the books I had written a few years later, that I realized what these characters were going through sometimes reflected emotions or situations - and yes, these are all works of fiction - but they were reflecting things that I, too, was going through in my real life, and emotions I was feeling through these words. I was kind of learning who I was and healing myself of past hurts at the same time.
[00:07:46] If you're a filmmaker or a songwriter, maybe there are certain aspects of filmmaking or storytelling that you were always drawn to, snd it might be that emotional connection you don't realize is there. So even on the creator side where we are making these works in these different pieces of art and music, and film, from the audience side as well we are consuming it and feeding our soul where there are gaps that we may not realize exist.
[00:08:10] I will often get this sudden urge to reread a book I've read before or rewatch a scene from a movie or a television episode. It might be years since I've read or watched it, but the sudden urge pops in my head. I used to fight against these impulses, but what I've realized that those impulses are God or the universe telling me something, because so often when I go and I reread a particular book or scenes from a book, or watch those parts of movies or shows or even re-listen to songs that I have an impulse to listen to, I will get inspired or I will get healed from something that I am currently struggling with. Even if I have read that book before, I'll go back and reread it because I'll realize I'm in the same emotional situation again. Even if the details are different, the emotions are the same. In watching a character go through that on screen or in the book I'm reading can help me in my present situation because I'll see my own life reflected there. I'll think, yes, this is a character going through this. It's not real, it's fiction. But I can get through what I'm currently struggling with too. So for me, empathy is the strongest audience expectation and the one that is most reflected in my own work.
[00:09:21] I've touched on this a little bit through various podcasts and content, but I'm a big fan of exploring creativity and really storytelling through different methods. Writing is the way I do it most and I absolutely love it, but I enjoy exploring it through different means as well. There are art projects and video and audio through these podcasts. I just like to tell stories in different ways and that attracts different types of audiences with different expectations.
[00:09:48] Even when I was thinking of names for this podcast, I kicked around so many different ones. But in the end, I just really liked the idea that I was storytelling from the soul. And so that's why soul is in the title of this podcast. I really want to tell stories in different ways. I want to explore storytelling in different ways because I really like the connection that I feel to other stories that I have read or listened to or watched throughout my life. That sense of empathy has really impacted me from those stories, and I wanted to pass that along to someone else. They have impacted me so much and I feel like I want to give back and hopefully help someone else in the same way that all of these beautiful works have helped me through the years.
[00:10:29] No matter what medium you are using to express yourself, so long as you keep these different audiences in mind and what the expectations for the various audiences are, it can help you with your work. If you're stuck in a book. For example, you could think about what kind of audience are you really hoping to attract with that book. If you're writing fantasy, then think of elements that get the readers engaged in your book. Hogwarts, for example, has different school houses people can be sorted into, which many people love to do to engage in that world. What could you put in your book that would help engage the audience in a similar way and be inclusive as well? If one of your goals is to become the type of writer that speaks more emotionally through their storytelling, then maybe you need to incorporate more empathy in to get those types of readers.
[00:11:15] So your audiences can have multiple expectations and, even with the same work, they can feel all four of these at different times. I know for me, certain books I expect all four depending on the mood. I mean, when I'm reading them, I can pick up the book one time and just want the entertainment and distraction. I can pick it up another time and I want to see that empathy, that emotional connection to a character or their emotion or situation. I can pick up that same book yet another time, and I just want the mental or creative energy or inspiration that I get from it. And then there are other times I just want to be engaged and I want to delve into that world and pretend I'm part of it in some way or another.
[00:11:53] And as I've mentioned a little already, audience expectations can overlap. Superhero movies are great for expectations of entertainment and engagement. Not everyone is going to dress up like a superhero, but some will. Some of them can even have great empathy. When we see a character we love die on the screen, or even give a certain energy, or their soundtracks can give us certain energy, too.
[00:12:16] Now, something to consider is whether or not we should reconcile audience expectations with the content we create, and there isn't one straight answer because multiple answers are correct. There's this idea when you first start writing that you want every single type of reader there is. You want everyone to read your book and you especially want everyone to buy your book. But your books will not resonate with everyone out there because the audience expectations are different depending on the genre you write or the type of book you write, even if you're writing in first person versus third person.
[00:12:46] Some authors will write specifically to market and what's popular in that moment in order to meet those audience expectations, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Side note, this is a topic for another podcast, but there's absolutely no shame in loving money and wanting more book sales. If you do go this route, however, of writing or creating for the current market, you still need to be honest and genuine as well.
[00:13:11] Don't give audiences the expectation to be entertained and then end up giving them a book that deals with heavy emotional material because that could cause someone to be unintentionally triggered by the work you do. The same instance happened to me when I expected a light, fun read, but instead a character casually mentioned a deeply emotional and troubling situation she'd been in before, and that set off all kinds of triggers for me. It's okay to want people to buy your books and to write to market, but just be considerate of your audience when you do.
[00:13:42] Creating for the current market or reconciling creativity with what audiences expect can be tricky. I tried to do this with my first few novels, and while I do love those characters and those books, it wasn't the books I wanted to write most. So my next few novels focused on those characters and situations I wanted to delve in and live in, and I was so much happier writing those books. Those novels still sell and they still have an audience and that expectation is being met for that audience, I'm just now writing what I feel most inspired to write, while also pushing myself to write new characters and experiences, too, that take me out of that comfort zone and focus on a different market. The fantasy series I'm worldbuilding now, for example, is a little bit like that. So you can do both produce work towards these audience expectations and produce work towards your own inspiration and expectations as the content creator, too.
[00:14:37] As with most things in life, it takes time and practice to find out where you're most comfortable. So those are the four E's of audience expectations: entertainment, engagement, energy, and empathy.
[00:14:49] Now I want to hear from you. Head to the blog and join in the discussion. Do these four E's ring true for you and your content? Why or why not? As with many of my podcast episodes, I have a free resource to help you head to the blog to download your cheatsheet of these four E's. And, while you're there, don't forget to leave a comment about this podcast and join our community of writers and listeners. Please also take a moment to leave a review for this podcast wherever you like to listen. Thank you.
[00:15:19] Thank you for listening to this episode. Check out the show notes for links to my blog and our community where you can get involved in the discussion and support others. While you're there, don't forget to sign up for my newsletter to get to free and powerful tools to help you. One: access to my growing library of free resources for authors; and Two: you'll also get access to my exclusive writing challenge "How to Write Faster in 14 Days" where I share all my tips and techniques that helped me finish over 20 works in five years. Check out the show notes for all the links and thanks again for being part of this community.