Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How to Please Everyone

See that title? Are you all excited because I've come to you with the answer of how to make everyone happy with your work?

Okay, here it is...

You can't.


The fact of the matter is, when it comes to your writing (your singing, your art, your calculations of long division) you cannot please all the people...not even most of the time. After reading a review yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine and she said, "I get dinged for too much sex and not enough the same book."

At first I thought "Well at least that has never happened to me." But it has. That review in question? Didn't like the lack of sex in a book and felt that as a romance, it should have had some. Fair enough. (I fully believe that everyone has the right to their opinion on a book. So my undies are not in a bunch. Promise. Anyway...) I started thinking about it and realized while it wasn't specific to sex, there had been people who didn't like how much romance was in the book and would have preferred I stick to the action and gadgets.

(Now granted, if it wasn't a romance at all, reader #1 probably wouldn't have read it and wouldn't have been disappointed. But...that isn't the story I wanted to tell. So, romance it is.)

After that, I started thinking about reviews for my other books. And then I started reading reviews for books I either loved or hated. (Pretty much I read the opposing reviews. If I loved it, I read the 1 stars. If I hated it, I read the 5 stars.) Crazy thing. Turns out that on a pretty regular basis, the stuff I loved was the stuff someone else hated (or vice versa).

This makes sense (it just takes being able to step away from your own work to see it sometimes) because people are individuals. We each bring our own expectations to a book.

For myself, if an urban fantasy has romantic elements and there is sex, I expect to "see" the sex. Closed door in UF doesn't work for me and will yank me right out of a story. No sex is fine. Explicit monkey sex is fine. Finding out they previously had sex is even okay. But working up to the point and then jumping to the afterglow makes Sel a cranky reader. (In fairness, it's okay if it happens upon occasion in a book with a lot of sex because, you know, too much sex is no more fun than not enough sex.)

So, as a writer, you need to be able to take a step back from your work once it's out in the world. You need to let readers have their own experience with your book. Because, in that regard (and not any that would allow for pirating--we hang pirates around here), once you release the book, it's not your story any more. It's like when your kids go off to live their own lives. You don't get to control that. Your mistakes are on full display for the rest of the world. And so are your non-mistakes that people still don't like.

And that is okay. They have a right to like and not like whatever the fuck they want.

So you want to know how to please everyone?

You let them feel what they feel and don't try to own that. It's not yours; it's theirs.

In other words, don't be a douchebag author.


  1. Oh I saw this title and just had to run over to see what you had come up with. I know there's no way to please all, but was so curious. lol.

    You know, as a reviewer I have a terrible time rating books. Why? Because I read a wide verity. I love romance, when in the mood. I love good old fantasy, when in the mood. I love steampunk, clockworks with or without romance, action, UF...the list goes on.

    I know there are different styles, and I love them all. LOL! It's terrible. But yes, I've started looking at the one star reviews (or even opposite what I give) and a lot of times the one thing I think makes the book something special might not be liked by others.

    1. I'm like you as far as reading. So...mouthy heroine who cusses too much? SOLD! Sex too kinky for a romance? GIMME! ;-)

  2. SOOOO true! For every great review, praising your insights and saying it changed their life, there's that one star that says "I didn't get this at all." It definitely gets easier after a while, you stop wanting to hunt the reviewer down and pour gasoline on them. There are people who don't like us in real life, so it stands to reason some of them won't like our brain children.

    1. LOL I can't say I've ever wanted to do that to a reviewer (people I know for real, sure...). But yeah. I just sit back and say, "Sorry it wasn't for you. Moving on." I will admit I still get confused by people who read the first book in a series, don't like it and then come back for the second and are surprised when they don't like that one either. I don't have time to read like that.


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