I was reading some of the advice you’ve been giving out. I wanted to know what you think is the absolute worst thing a writer can do (besides giving up), when they go to get published? What is your #1 no-no?
I’m certain I’ve been asked this one before, and I’m also certain that I don’t remember what that advice was at this point. Given that everyone grows and changes in their writing, beliefs, etc. so too will opinions. So if you find this contradictory to a previous post about what’s most important, I apologize and this is not meant to invalidate that piece of advice.
Here we go… I think one of the worst things a person can do is create exclusionary works. Now, what do I mean by that? Well… on twitter, I see all the time writers listing in their profile ‘Mysteries FOR WOMEN’ or ‘Fiction for Guys’ or some other dumb move like ‘Writer of Women’s literature’. Perhaps worst of all ‘Sorry (ladies/guys) this is for (insert group here) only.’ It get’s even worse when you start drawing towards racial or cultural lines. This is a trend that I’ve seen taking off recently. Even in book stores. Go into Barnes and Noble and look at the ‘African American Literature section’. That’s catering to a niche audience. However, say you’ve got someone who’s looking for something in classic literature or perhaps bypassed that section all together because it’s a small one off to the side whereas the main literature section further back is significantly larger and more diverse. Why would you NOT want your book in that section? Think about it. Someone goes in, looking for something, they stand a better chance of randomly coming across your book, the book that they didn’t even know that they were looking for, in a section that doesn’t come off as exclusionary.
Look, there is certainly nothing wrong with writing on a certain subject matter, about a certain group, or making a story centric to a specific population or culture, that’s perfectly fine and should be encouraged. Some of the best fantasy stories I’ve ever read came from different parts of the world. It’s actually fun comparing and contrasting European, African, and Asian views on dragons. There are some really cool similarities with them that make for a compelling case that perhaps some creature existed that may account for such stories.
However, when you start trying to completely tailor your writing to a niche audience, you are almost guaranteeing yourself a lower readership. It gets even worse when you go on social media and straight up tell these people, “I’m writing for a specific audience. I don’t want or need the rest of you reading my book.”
That’s not only going to drive away a significant audience, it’s also going to drive away some of your desired audience, because guess what? A lot of your audience don’t like the idea of standing out in that way either. That is one way to really hurt your sales.
In the end, write however you want. Write what your heart desires and what you like to read. If you want to write a story about African Tribes successfully repelled slavers, go for it! You want to write about justifying Japan’s attack on Pearl? Hell, I’d actually like to read that one, I’ve always seen a lot of the stories surrounding that to be very skewed in one direction. You want to write alt-history? I’m all for it, just don’t intentionally push readers away. Most of us are already in niche markets, further pushing things is just going to make for a much harder sell for your book and that is the worst thing you can do.
Anyway, I hope this helps answer your question. Readers, what do you think? What’s the worst thing a writer can do in your opinion?
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.
I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.
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Catch you on the flip side!