Think for a moment about your work in progress. How should your book be marketed? What kind of reader do you want to attract? Who is your book for?
Why, it's for everyone! you exclaim.
After all, who wouldn't want to read your fabulous plot, compelling characters, and engaging writing voice? Perhaps a few doltish persons on the fringe, but anyone with good sense and a love of good story would like your book.
Sorry, but nope.
Some people won't want to read your book. In fact, some people might hate your book. And that's a worthwhile reality to consider when we writers send our manuscripts into contests, open ourselves to outside critique, and read through reviews. Sometimes you'll get feedback that you can simply shrug off with, "My book wasn't for them."
It isn't personal (even though the comment might sting), but rather a mismatch between author and reader. We simply can't write a story that every single person will adore. Your book, and my book, is not for everyone.
Yet that simply puts us in good company. I like to turn to the world of authors and see what wisdom they can offer. Check out these reviews, followed by the book that sparked them.
"...no more than a glorified anecdote, and not too probable at that..." - The Chicago Tribune
"...an absurd story, whether considered as romance, melodrama, or plain record of New York high life.” - The Saturday Review
THE GREAT GATSBY, F. Scott Fitzgerald
"...no better in tone than the dime novels which flood the blood-and-thunder reading population… his literary skill is, of course, superior, but their moral level is low, and their perusal cannot be anything less than harmful.” -- in The New York Times
THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Mark Twain
"The book as a whole is disappointing, and not merely because it is a reworking of a theme that one begins to suspect must obsess the author. [The main character] who tells his own story, is an extraordinary portrait, but there is too much of him." - The New Republic
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, J.D. Salinger
"These are one-dimensional children's books, Disney cartoons written in words, no more." - The Guardian
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, J.K. Rowling
"How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery." - Graham's Lady's Magazine
WUTHERING HEIGHTS, Emily Bronte
"the plan and technique of the illustrations are superb. … But they may well prove frightening, accompanied as they are by a pointless and confusing story." -- Publisher's Weekly
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, Maurice Sendak
But you know what? Just take that last one. Sendak didn't write this book for everyone. It found its way into the hearts of children, of all ages, over the years.
Here's how the Library Journal described it: "This is the kind of story that many adults will question and for many reasons, but the child will accept it wisely and without inhibition, as he knows it is written for him."
Knowing who your book is for can help you figure out how to distribute and market it to the right audience, as well as how to handle the negative reviews that inevitably come in. When that happens, remind yourself that you're in the same circle with the likes of Twain, Rowling, and Bronte. Not such a bad place to find yourself.
Have you received negative comments or reviews that feel simply like a mismatch between author and reader? Have you read a book others loved that you didn't, or vice versa?