Who’s Your Geek Reader?




As a writer, we’re all aware of the need for readers–readers that review for story, for grammar and punctuation, and for readability. But we tend to forget about our geek reader. In any particular genre (fantasy genre being not the least of these), there are geeks. Readers who not only live, eat and sweat their geekery for a particular genre, but they consider themselves the geek gate keepers. They’re the first to cry, “there are no sparkly vampires!”, and the ones to remind you that “zombies could not walk on the ocean floor because their dead, bloated mass keeps them afloat(actually, the arguments still out on that).” Now, some of you writers are getting squeamish already, I know. I feel ya. Seriously, put MY beautiful manuscript in the hands of a raving geek?? I remember the first time I sent off a manuscript and concept art (drawn by Carlyle McCullough) to a geek friend of mine and he absolutely tore it a part. I cried like a man-child, wondering where it all went wrong. I realized something though, he was my benchmark. Geeks are the heart of fandom. Instinctively, they just know when something’s “awesome!!!!!” (I left off about five exclamation points for readability). They’re thee word of mouth. Frankly, for all the readership out there, it’s your geek reader that tells you if this is commercially viable – and that my friends, is a must. Let’s put the egos aside and realize that if we (or a publishing house) are going to put big money behind something, then your book should have the courtesy to make the money back.
And so I pulled myself up from my cheap carpet, stood up, reworked the manuscript and sent the concept art to Carlyle with suggestions. I then sent subsequent manuscripts and concept art to my geek friends. It was only when I got the veritable geek stamp of approval, “Awesome!”, that I knew it was time to ship.
Who’s your geek reader?

6 thoughts on “Who’s Your Geek Reader?

  1. Outstanding post, Kevin. What’s amusing is that this echoes an upcoming blog post of mine that was inspired by some negative reader reviews of another author’s self-published novel. The tentative title is “Things authors don’t want to hear.” In fact, I’m going to link this post of yours to it.


    • Thanks Rick. I think we all have learned there is little room for ego when it comes to our work. We have to be open to constructive criticism and remember that our work will only be better for it.

  2. “They’re the first to cry, “there are no sparkly vampires!”’

    That seems to undermine your thesis a bit. A lot of vampire-geeks don’t like Twlight. Twilight has also made such a pile of money between the books and movies, that it’d probably take 100 more geek-pure vampire books to equal it in pure value. If the publishing company passed on Twilight because of vampire geeks, they would have made one of the most bone-headed publishing decisions in recent years.

    There’s a difference between appeasing the hardcore fans of a genre and wide-spread commercial appear. If you can hit both great, or if you want to target a niche audience on the long tail that’s also great, but I wouldn’t really say that geeks are necessarily taste-makers in a wide sense.

    I’ve also seen countless times that geeks REALLY like something that consequently dies a horrible death because it was way too attuned to the geek sensibility and not enough to a wider commercial sensibility. Again, I am a ‘geek’, so maybe my perspective is different, I’m just thinking how often geeks thrive on something being obscure and taking pride in the obscurity.

    Many years in various fandoms also tended to teach me that, in many cases, hardcore geeks want such purity that they would actively decry anything that remotely moves things toward a mainstream audience and more commercial viability.

    Heck, to take a different sort of example, I’m reminded of a thread I read once where a hardcore history geek complained about a book he read where a very minor factor was wrong (the women were wearing nail varnish in an inappropriate period). He raged, raged, and raged. The book he complained about is selling very well. Going by his logic, the book shouldn’t have even been published.

    So, yeah, appeal to hardcore geeks if you want a strong niche following, but they most definitely aren’t the people who define if a book will be overall commercially successful. I’m certainly not anti-niche (and some of my writing goes in that direction), I’m just rather dubious as satisfying the geek as a good proxy for decent marketability.

    • Us geeks are definitely not an easy crowd to please. And a writer cannot compromise the integrity of their story for the sake of fan service. But having someone that is the geek in your genre is still one of the most valuable assets. So, taking my illustration, “no sparkly vampires”, if I tried to include sparkly vampires in my fantasy adventure genre (not paranormal romance), it would be the death knell. And my geek gate keepers would be the ones to tell me that. Conversely, if I wrote for paranormal romance, then sparkly vampires would be greeted with open arms – i have a good deal of friends that like the sparkly vampire vibe. So, the point is finding the geek of your given genre. A fantasy adventure with sparkly pretty vampires would not be a commercial success because thirteen year old boys wouldn’t stand for it. (or thirty year old men).
      Now, do you do everything your geek readers tell you to? Absolutely not. The art of writing is to know when your reader is right and when they’re wrong. And that’s not only for your geek reader, but your story editor and your copy editor and anyone else that has a say in your book. I received a ton of advice from various (and conflicting voices). It was my job to sift through all that and decide what I should keep and what I shouldn’t, especially my geek readers.
      Truly, the most important element in the “geekness” of your story is you. If I am not first and foremost a fan, then I fail. I can usually tell when a writer is writing outside of their genre because they are playing only to the tropes of the given genre instead of their passion for it.

  3. “Truly, the most important element in the “geekness” of your story is you. If I am not first and foremost a fan, then I fail. I can usually tell when a writer is writing outside of their genre because they are playing only to the tropes of the given genre instead of their passion for it.”

    That’s a really great point. Something a lot of people should keep in mind whenever some starts blathering about the latest “trends”. Write what you love! 🙂

  4. Pingback: Write Well, Write To Sell - What writers don’t want to hear…

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