I was browsing Twitter yesterday, and came across a post from someone I really admire.  They were complaining about romance arcs in mystery novels, and vice-versa. I looked at my fresh new fragile baby of a first novel, which has both mystery and romance arcs, and winced.  The rest of the conversation was a series of complaints that tore at every trope and element of my writing, and of books I enjoy reading. It was pretty devastating, since I haven’t quite developed the thick skin of authorship yet.

But then my partner gave me some words that completely shifted how I look at writing. “Even if you make the New York Times Bestseller list and sell millions of copies, more people will always dislike your book than will like it.”

Just to be clear, this wasn’t him downing my book in particular, which he thinks is the bee’s knees.  It was a general statistical statement.  People have very specific likes and dislikes.  Not everybody reads. Some people only read one genre, or are very particular about which books they like. Some people will dislike your main character.  Some people will think your ending stinks. Some people will hate your book because their pastor or co-worker find something offensive in it. Some people will hate on your books for the sole fact that it is popular. It is impossible that everyone will like it.

This isn’t meant to be depressing. It’s meant to be liberating. It’s a careful balancing act to decide whether to include something in your book that people find objectionable. If you’re looking to please everyone, you will inevitably fail. This is not meant to excuse racism, misogynism, or other bigotry that turns away readers en masse. But the bottom line is that you can’t actually write the mythical perfect book your anxiety tells you you need to write.  You only need to write the book you want to read.

3 thoughts on “No, People Won’t Like Your Book

  1. This helped me. An agent turned me down over the offensiveness of animal-death in my YA. Ever since, I’ve seen myself through this lense of I’m-offensive. It’s just one opinion.

  2. The thing about Twitter, and one reason why I’m not on it anymore, is that you’ll find people who say they support you and your work, then turn around and trash you behind your back. Getting sucked into that way of thinking is easy and damaging.

    What helps me feel better is going to those popular authors Amazon pages and seeing their negative reviews…because they will ALWAYS be in the background judging your work. This is why I think one of the most important pieces of advice any author can take is to have faith in your work. Love it no matter what, then other WRITERS on social media, won’t matter.

    I’m not saying all writers are like this, those who aren’t are a rare breed. Find those and embrace them. <3

  3. Precisely. If I accidentally pick up a book featuring vampires, I put it down the instant I twig. It’s not a reflection on the book. Heck, it may be the best vampire book ever written. It’s not a reflection of the author. They might have a personality so sterling I’d want to be fast friends for life.

    It’s just that I don’t like vampire stories, that’s all. My wife can’t stand fantasy. Half the people I know can’t stand /reality/ and won’t read nonfiction.

    Everybody’s got choices, and that’s awesome.

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