Market Research

As my previous posts demonstrate, I’ve had a small amount of success in flash fiction and none in short stories. I’m in the commercial short story group on WriteWords but everything I’ve written has flopped. I decided that I simply didn’t know the market well.

While home for Christmas I found myself in an excellent position for a bit of market research.

I was a little bored one afternoon so I wandered into my parents’ bedroom, to see what my mum was up to (Dad was hogging the TV downstairs). I found her curled up on her bed reading a magazine. I saw the name of the magazine and realised that it’s one that other writers in the group have had success with. Now was an excellent time to find out what the readers think. However, my family don’t know about my writing hobby and, for various reasons, I want to keep it that way. So I tread carefully.

“Hey, Mum, what you reading there?”
“Dunno, a mag your Gran gave me.”
“What’s is called?”
“People’s Friend”.
“Ah, you read this often, Mum?”
“Yeah, I like the stories?”
“Really. Which type exactly?”
“The funny ones. I’m not into the heartfelt ones, but I like the jokey ones.”
“Oh, that’s interesting, Mum. Which ones does Gran like?”
“How should I know. Anyway, why are you so interested?”
“Erm, No reason. Gotta go…” I run off to make some notes.

A few days later and I’d been asked to pick my gran up and bring her round for dinner. I decided to ask her questions about “People’s Friend” and see if her answers complement my mother’s. It was a little hard work as a simple question like “So Gran, I hear you read People’s Friend with Mum”, prompted a 10 minute rambling story on the complex social circle that is the People’s Friends reading group that my Gran so heroically set up! I was ever the dutiful granddaughter, placing appropriate “uhuh”, “ooh” and “really” throughout.

Anyway, eventually I managed to get in “so are the stories nice to read, are they funny?”

“No they’re not funny!” she replied. “They’re nice, clean stories. You know, no frills.”
“Oh,” I said, not daring to ask anymore questions. Not that I needed to, as she’d already moved on to why one of the ladies in the group was always forgetful and always late for coffee…

So, what I learned from that is my 60-year-old Mum thinks they’re funny, my 90-year-old Gran thinks they’re warm and heartfelt. This was not as helpful as I thought, so I decided to read one.

It was quite funny, heartfelt yes but also quite surprising in some ways. I had always been under the impression that a world of polite people and ideal families was portrayed. However, there was one divorce with a single parent family mentioned and the MC was getting together with someone else with no hint that both were actually single. They were both grandparents so it’s not like they were portrayed as bachelors! Not exactly as clean as I thought it would be. But then I sometimes see a twinkle in my gran’s eye that suggests she’s lead more of a life than I want to imagine!

Anyway. I think I’m going to give up on market research when it comes to my family, too much like hard work.


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