You Can’t Please Everyone, So Ya Gotta Please Yourself

“But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well. You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself” — Garden Party, Rick Nelson

One of the things you learn early on in the fiction game is that you need to lose your ego, because it’s going to be tromped on. You have to learn to take criticism with equanimity, because you’re going to take a lot of abuse. Sometimes the criticism is constructive. In fact, I cut more than 10,000 words from WITH ARTISTIC LICENSE after beta readers all complained about the same thing (belaboring the protagonist’s daily grind at the office). Sometimes a story takes you in a direction the reader doesn’t want to go. TIME MANAGEMENT, A NOVEL, got rave reviews from most readers, but a few objected to the story taking a left turn (essentially changing genres) at the one quarter mark. It was planned, and most readers found that the most compelling aspect of the book. But it wasn’t for everyone. Similarly, I’ve had some wildly enthusiastic and flattering 5-star reviews for EVELYN MARSH. It also received a 1-star review that read as follows: “Offensive. Didn’t make it to chapter five. Used God’s name as a curse word. Returned.” Yes, indeed, one of my characters muttered a goddamn. It’s good she didn’t get beyond chapter five, because there are a couple of fucks in there too, not too mention some sexual content I’m sure she would have found offensive. C’est la vie. I’m not disturbed by her taking offense; I’m amused. But I did click on her name beside the review to see what else she’d reviewed. It turns out she mostly reads books on Christian scripture, which begs the question as to why she would choose a psychological suspense novel for reading material. The point is, no matter what you write, you can’t please everyone. Another reader strongly objected to the trope of the hunky pool boy, and another to Evelyn’s upper middle class lifestyle (“Who cares about rich people?”). Evelyn is who she is. Take her or leave her.

I can only write what is presented to me by the muse, or my subconscious, or the creative ether — whatever it is that sparks the imagination. It’s why I haven’t repeated a genre yet. I can’t please everyone, so I have to please myself. Nonetheless, I’m not here to break new ground, to expand the form, or break the rules. I’ll leave that to someone else. Because to me the purpose of literature is to communicate and entertain. If your prose is formless, or you try writing without punctuation, or write stream-of-consciousness novels with no story behind them, there’s a slim chance of holding a reader’s interest to the last page. There are rare exceptions, and they’re notable for it. In the old days (pre 2010 or so) that manuscript would have been rejected and end up in the bottom drawer of the writer’s desk, where it would languish until the writer’s heirs threw it in the dustbin. Today any writer, talented or not, can self-publish a novel and put it up on Amazon. There is no agent, or editor, publishing house, or literary critic to prevent it. The gatekeepers have all left the building. The final arbiter of a work’s worth is you the reader. If I write a decent book, I’ll have a chance at finding readers. If I disappoint them, I’ll lose readers. Simple as that. The publishing world has become very democratic.

All Kindle Scout Winners on Sale

In celebration of their second anniversary, Kindle Press is putting all Kindle Scout winning books on sale for 99c through April 3rd, 2017 (you can find them all at Evelyn Marsh has only been out a week. It normally sells for a modest $2.99. I’m anxious to see how the 99c sale price will affect the number of books sold. And I want to sell lots of books. Like anyone else, I’d like to be remunerated for the many months or years it takes to write a novel and bring it to market. But more importantly, a sale means a reader. It’s also a validation that what you’ve written is entertaining enough to attract readers. I have no use for esoteric books that sit unread on the shelf. I have no interest in being remembered a hundred years from now for experimental prose that no one will read today. I’m writing to connect with readers during my lifetime. Finding readers is no easy task. You’d think with the millions of English speaking readers in the world, it would be easy enough to attract the attention and loyalty of a few thousand. It turns out it isn’t easy at all. It takes craft and art to write the story. It also takes marketing and promotional skills that take time time and effort away from writing.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of self-published writers today are only too happy to give away their work to attract the attention of readers. My own feeling about this is that the only time it makes sense to give away a book, is if it’s the first in a series, which gets the reader hooked and ready to buy and read more. Otherwise it’s disrespectful and a disservice to the writer. Ebooks are so cheap that a 350 page novel sells for about a penny a page, or less. I don’t know of any other product or art form that is valued so cheaply.

A New Cover for Evelyn Marsh

Evelyn Marsh launched this week. In preparation for Kindle Press’s 2nd anniversary sale, they’ve revamped my cover. The old cover, on the left, had a noir feel to it, due to the old house, font etc., but it didn’t tell the reader much about the content. The new cover has a more modern feel, though still in the noir tradition, and the house, the pool and the stiletto heels don’t reflect the descriptions in the book, but it does clue the reader into the genre, and Kindle Press feels the new cover will spur sales. Your comments?