Bernie pic

Bernie pic

Friday, 10 February 2012

Pet Peeve # 1

THE most abused word in the literary world is audience.
And this, dear readership, introduces an occasional Save the Book series, Pet Peeves.
You are welcome to comment or send in a guest peeve.
Now back to Pet Peeve # 1

  • From Oxford University Press
THE most abused word in the literary world is audience.
Writers misuse it, along with editors and publishers.
Readers do not listen to a book; they read it, unless it is from the relatively small emerging class of audio-books.
The word is appropriated from the theatre. To the pedant, the word is wrong there, too. Theatrical consumers are audio-visualisers, though that makes them sound like producers rather than users.
What makes audience an acceptable descriptor in theatre is the passage of time.
I do not want time to make audience an acceptable synonym for the perfectly serviceable readership. I believe that boat is yet to sail. We do need strategies to prevent it leaving port.

Strategy #1
You are pitching your novel to a publisher and she asks, ‘what is your target audience.’
Usually, my favoured response to this question is: `people who can read.’
Now I suggest a more specific reply. You feign obtuseness to ask: ‘You mean when my novel is turned into a play?’
It will probably cost you any chance of a contract but who wants to ‘nurtured’ by a publisher who does not know the meaning of words.

Strategy #2
A friend asks how your self-published history of artichokes is going. Reply: ‘not well, the audience walked out before chapter 4.’
Most people know writers are crazy and your friend will nod as if what you just said made sense. And he will pass on your appraisal to other friends, some of whom will realise you made a sophisticated jest.
As a reward for your bon mots, a few will buy copies of your history of artichokes, which, BTW, I found fascinating.

Strategy #3
 Your editor says you are losing your audience with too much back-story in the early chapters. You reply: ‘I only wrote it for deaf people.’ The editor will process the reply and soon realise you are making fun of her where it really hurts: her trade of words. She will hate you forever after but she will be scrupulous in further editing of your book so you do not catch her out again.

Strategy #4
 You are ecstatic the literary editor of your local newspaper chooses to review your book himself.  It is a glowing review with the central theme of your great connect with your audience.
You write a letter to the literary editor, pointing out his continual misuse of the word, audience.
You never receive another review. You lament the loss of a few thousand readers, but are proud of doing your bit to save the literary canon.

Strategy #5
You re-send this blog through social media. Your friends who read it think: ‘That Bernie Dowling is a nit-picker. Shouldn’t he be finishing his play instead of writing stuff such as that?’
And you are right. I should get back to my play. My readership awaits. I mean my audience calls.

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