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Stop Writing for Everyone

I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and neither are you and neither is your book. So stop trying to write for all readers.

Write Your Genre

I think one of the biggest mistakes authors make, especially early on, is worrying too much about what will make their book appealing to everyone. You won’t. You can’t. Even today’s biggest selling books have their detractors. Heck, they have haters as much as they have lovers.

Your book is YA or it’s adult. It’s not both. If you’re super lucky you’ll have some crazy breakout book that will sell to all audiences, but when writing and querying the book you are appealing only to one. Harry Potter was not written for adults, neither was Twilight or Hunger Games. They were read by adults, but the authors never wrote them trying to make them appeal to everyone. They just did.

Your book can’t be a romance and a mystery and SFF and a memoir. It is one of those things. It might absolutely have elements of the others, but at the end of the day you’re writing a book with an eye toward one of the audiences above.

Writing Your Book

The same holds true of writing the book itself. Too often I see writers confined by the so-called rules (often passed along in writing groups) that keep them from really just writing a great book.

Even when choosing a genre, you will still not appeal to every reader within the genre. Not every romance reader likes romantic comedy, or bad boy heroes, or historical. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write them, that just means your book won’t be every romance reader’s cup of tea.

Choose Your Agent

The same holds true when choosing agents. I am not the agent for every writer. I don’t represent SFF or middle grade and I wouldn’t know where to start, I’m not great at hand-holding, and, whether you want it or not, you’re going to get (potentially) tough editorial feedback from me. Some of you might think all of those things are great. Others would rather find someone else. Either choice is great and perfect.

When searching for an agent I can’t stress enough how important it is to find the right fit for you. That’s not necessarily your best friend’s agent, your sister’s agent, or your professor’s agent. It’s your agent. Your business partner.

I would give the same advice to any reader choosing the only book they get to take along on a deserted island. Find the book that’s right for you. It’s not your friend’s, your mom’s, or your sister’s. Its the one you can happily read many times and love.

Honestly, I long ago embraced that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I long ago embraced the idea that not everyone likes me. I’m good with that. I can’t please everyone and if I did, I think I’d be doing it wrong.

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9 comments

  1. I’m sort of very glad to see this post! At the same time I’m rather anxious now that my current WIP won’t fit one of the four genres you’ve mentioned. It’s certainly not romance, SFF or memoir, so I’m wondering if it’s enough of a mystery – it does not have a crime whodunnit thingie… 🙁 🙁 🙁

    I’m 100% sure it’s adult – that’s not difficult. And I’m totally prepared that not every adult will love my book. A beta reader already told me that they didn’t like being in the head of my antagonist (too edgy!), while another beta reader told me they think it’s excellent.

    I’m so anxious now that I’m failing with this WIP as well…

    But thanks for this post, it is otherwise encouraging!

  2. Jessica, taking your perspective above into consideration, what are your feelings about NA (New Adult) books/demographic?

    1. Hi. It’s a tough market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write books with characters in their 20s, but the market labeled New Adult has never really reached an audience.

  3. Good points, Jessica. It’s hard fighting the urge to keep trying to reach as wide an audience as humanly possible. Perhaps there’s a sweet spot of balance between reaching a wide group shallowly or a narrow group deeply, but that’s a very nebulous target and is it really worth the search? And is one side of that balance point really better than the other in the long run? Finding a comfortable place takes a lot of trial and error.

  4. Does what you’re saying also count for commercial (contemporary) fiction?

    I’m asking because I thought that commercial fiction is supposed to be appealing to a broader audience?

    1. Absolutely. You might be appealing to a broad audience, but it’s still a specific audience. Not every reader reads every type of commercial fiction and you aren’t going to win them all over. You still have a specific target audience.

      1. Thanks so much, I am SO relieved, to be honest.

        I’d find it much harder to try and please everyone – just like in real life.

        Thanks again.

  5. I’m writing my first book. It’s a book of shorts stories I have no clue what genre it belongs to. Guess I’ll figure it out when completed

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