Renee Miller had an interesting post about writing to taboos and offending readers. I don't deliberately go out of my way to offend or shock people. But, if I did my job right, I am bound to offend someone.
Why do I know this?
Because I write to a specific audience. The people who like my work are a profoundly elite group. They are most likely well-educated, curious, and eclectic. They aren't afraid of new ideas or stabbing the heart of old ones.
It took me MANY years to understand who I was writing for. Readers who like their heroes slight and dewy-eyed will not care for my men. We are talking alphas here, confident, hard-loving, bold men. I don't apologize for that. Those are the kind of men that appeal to me. And obviously, I'm not the only one.
My women are not doormats. They are self-assured and proactive. They might even be unlikable until you learn why they put up the barriers they do, the same walls you and I might put up in dangerous situations.
The men and women in my stories are partners, companions, and allies. I expect them to be equals in the eyes of each other, regardless of actual status.
My writing is very deliberate and confident. I know what I want to say, and I don't try to be everything to everybody.
I think the problem a lot of writers face is that they desperately want to be liked and admired by everyone. And that's just not possible. Better that you wow a loyal hard-core group of fans who appreciate and understand your work, than to try to please everyone.
So my best advice is to learn who your core audience is. Who do you write for? That's not as easy as it sounds. But the upshot of this is that once you know who your market is, the easier it will be for you to brand yourself.
The way I discovered my brand (and by extension, my audience) was by listing the books already published as well as those in the wings awaiting publication. What was the thread that ran through each of them?
At first, I didn't see it. I had written science fiction, post-apocalyptic, paranormal, and romance. What did they all have in common? How were they connected? The parallels seeped into my subconscious gradually.
Mysticism, the preternatural, and mythology were the three things that made them similar. Even though the stories and the worlds were entirely unique, these elements remained constant.
The people I write for delight in the unusual, the sublime, and the unexplained. That in itself is a pretty vast scope of potential readers that can be refined even further.
My mission now is helping them find me, and allow them to decide if my work is worthy of taking up shelf space--virtual or otherwise.
Writers: Who do you write for? Can you identify your brand?
Readers: Are you an adventurous reader, or do you prefer to stay in genres that make you comfortable?