Write for those who will appreciate what you have to say.
As a writer, you will certainly have your favorite books and authors. As some works are top of your list, others might sit at the bottom of your list. Ranking are totally normal as we all have preferences as readers — and limited time. As there are so many books in the world, the truth will always be that you’ve only read a tiny fraction of all books, including even the books that you might like best.
This is just a fact about the world of books. It’s one authors have to acknowledge and accept.
The best books for each of us give us a sense that ‘someone gets it.’ As Anne Lamott says in her book on writing, Bird by Bird, what makes a book great is that overwhelmingly emotional moment when a reader feels, “Someone finally spoke for me”.
Authors are encouraged to write about specific stories that are unique in their details but universal in their messages. This is admirable, but hard to achieve.
What about writing more narrow topics? This is equally valuable, and fills the ‘niche market,’ but will naturally have a more focused readership.
Here are eight reasons most people will never read your book and why that’s not only expected but perfectly fine:
It’s not their topic
Many people read by topic. They know what they like and stick to it. You might have written the best romance in the world, but those who don’t pick up romance won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. That is just how the world works. This goes for all subjects. Write your romance for those who love romance.
Bestsellers make up the majority of sales
Most publishers make their profits from the sale of a very short list of best selling books. This means most people are reading best sellers. Ideally, you can get in on the action.
The name on the cover
Many people buy for the name on the cover. They like the style and topic and to get their next great read, they just go down an author’s book list or pick up the latest. If you don’t already have a following, you can’t pick up this kind of reader — yet.
Few books reach launch velocity
Many people pick their books because they are ‘the best’. This could be word-of-mouth, because they top the best seller list, or they’ve just won a big prize. It’s like tuning it to watching a royal wedding just to be part of an event that involves a billion plus people. Reading them puts them in an in-group as the experience is widely shared. Book club reads are the classic place to find this kind of reader. This is a great bet for filtering on quality and discussing what you read, but since so few books reach this height, it’s extremely hard to win these ‘water cooler’ readers.
Big world and millions of books
This is just a fact of today. On top of there being a finite number of readers, spending a finite amount of money on books, there are millions of choices out there. You have to get beyond all the buzz to get a place on the bedside table.
They might love it but just won’t come across it
Even if you are on topic for someone, in the sea of books out there, they might just not find it. This is where networking, publicity and marketing are the defining factor.
Even if your book is on-topic, and found, a reader might not be receptive because of mood. Many of us are mood readers. What appeals one day, doesn’t the next. What we can deeply relate to in on period of our life, we’d brush off in the next.
Stuck on the bedside table
If the mood for your book doesn’t manifest, or time doesn’t allow, or bestsellers and buzz-books invade, your book might get stuck in the bedside table pile. People buy books with all best intentions. Be happy if it got to the bedside.
What this all means
These are truths that all authors face. All you need to worry about, is whether you did the best you could, and if so, then the book is what it was meant to be. Certainly, you can use these facts to tailor your strategy somewhat, like writing to genre, but it’s often far more important to write what you have in you, no matter what that is.
At the end of the day, your goal is to connect with the readers who will appreciate your book.
And the fact also stands, that almost all great writers have stories of long lists of rejections – including for many of the best-loved books ever written.
You can’t write a book for everyone. This just means you should go with your instincts and write what you have in you. This gives you a high degree of freedom. You shouldn’t aim to please all just the ones who will appreciate what you have to say.
The fact that most people don’t read most books is just a fact of life. It doesn’t mean your book couldn’t be the best things possible to someone because of its specific message.