Tuesday, July 27, 2010

You Can't Please All the People

When you are asked who your readership is, be specific, be knowledgeable, and don't say everyone. You can't please all the people with whatever you write. For instance, I've received three negative emails in the last week about my work with FundsforWriters, consisting of:

1. "You're all crooks."
Not sure what crooked company I'm keeping. Maybe I need to watch my back and avoid these sleezy sorts I'm cavorting with. Seriously, this person is probably getting rejected, doesn't want to learn the business, and writes off everyone in the biz. Unless I give this person what she wants, which I have no clue what that may be, she will be disgruntled. Unless I master mind-reading, I'll never win this person's loyalty.

2. "Your original advertisement was deceptive. I need monies to get my first book published."
The most common question I receive is how to get a grant to pay for self-publishing a first book. I can't name one. FundsforWriters posts grant calls, but most of them require you prove your expertise as a writer. In some cases that means a work sample, but in many other cases, it's publishing credits, education degrees or a freelance portfolio. Grants are also affiliated with retreats, conferences, fellowships at institutions, travel opportunities and many more writing experiences. But no one anywhere, to my knowledge, is handing out grants to unproven writers who want to test their hand at writing via self-publishing. If I find one, I'll post it.

3. "You don't provide the right grants that help me."
Again, I've got to get that mind-reading thing down better.

I try to be all things to all writers, but reality tells me it ain't going to happen. Same goes for your writing. Be prepared for negative feedback. Hey, I didn't like Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible, considered a classic. I'm not a fan of Stephen King's endings. No, I haven't read Dan Brown. Are these authors losing sleep because they missed the mark with me? Nope. They are selling books to the customers who love them, and that's how it's done.

Your job is not only to avoid being all things to all people, but to recognize who the people are you are supposed to be writing for. If you could design a Stepford Wife robot that epitomized the perfect reader for your writing, what would it look like, where would it work, how old would it be, what would it like to do, what social interests would it have, where does it hang out?

Before you write this exercise off as wasted effort, realize that knowing all this information tells you how to advertise, blog, and self-market your writing. Find out where these people are and go to their havens - become one of them. Rubbing elbows with your style reader is how word-of-mouth lights a spark and takes off.


Unknown said...

Thank you, Hope, for once again speaking your mind.

Out of something negative comes something good and that's why I love reading your blog.

From this recent not-so-flattering criticism you've received, I've been fortunate enough to gain another wonderful insight from you.

I've been struggling with the whole "voice" topic-thingy lately and part of the lesson fits with being human and trying to please everyone and understanding who I am and what I represent in life; my core values or belief system.

So, from what you've said, I need to recognize who I am in the world, firstly, and then take my place in the world and find others who think on similar ground and write for them.

Thank you, Hope.

Great Post!

We, writers, constantly learning and re-evaluating...

Ekklektia said...

Thank you so much for this post. It reminds me of something that Ntozake Shange once told me about poetry: "Don't edit it to suit everyone's tastes" because everything isn't for everyone and if they don't get it, it's not meant for them to get.

(Of course, I just happen to have read--and loved--everything Stephen King and Dan Brown ever wrote. Don't hold that against me. :-))

Jessica Ferguson said...

Really good post. As prez of my local writers' group, I find myself trying to be ALL things to ALL people and feel stressed when I can't encourage them, teach them, make things happen for them. Your post helped me see that.

Yours is the one blog I faithfully return to over and over. And FFW is the one newsletter that I look forward to week after week after week. Keep up the fantastic work, Hope.

Anthony J. Langford said...

I understand new author's frustration at trying to get published. It feels like there is a conspiracy against letting new blood in, and there is alot of nepotism etc, like in any business, so it is easy to become jaded.
However blaming you is entirely missing the mark. I find all of your posts very helpful and I feel lucky that there is someone like you out there helping people. You don't have to do it.
I wouldnt even respond to people like that. They are merely searching for someone to vent their frustrations. I get that, I really do, especially as many agents/publishers these days don't even give you the courtesy of a rejection email. It can be a very draining experience.

So we push on, and I hope you do too. Because we need you.