A Poor Sell

You’re talking to someone about books, they mention something that you haven’t read, and when you say as such their eyes suddenly light up and the next fifteen minutes are filled with them gushing about what a magnificent must-read this is. By the time they’re done this book sounds like an amazing life changing experience.

You go home, get your hands on a copy ASAP, settle in to read and…everything is incredibly flat. The main character, the setting, the prose, nothing clicks. It can make you wonder if this is even the same book they were telling you about.

There might be a strong enough urge that you tough it out to see if it gets better, and maybe it does, but most people put the book down and write it off. That’s fine, that’s normal. You’re not wrong for not wanting to read a book you’re not enjoying and they weren’t wrong for enjoying a book you don’t. Odds are you just overestimated how much overlap there was in that person’s taste and yours.

However, if you’re a writer, then by and large you are wanting to write books that you and people like you would like to read. So the jarring dissonance of a recommended book falling flat presents a gilded opportunity to pin down why and how the book failed to hook you, what the book was missing for you, to raise your awareness of what your own book needs to become a book you would love to read yourself. When you recognize a technique or element you’re sick of seeing, that informs you that you, as a reader, would like your book more if you, as an author, made sure to avoid or even oppose that.

I’ve mentioned the importance of beginnings before, but this has more to do with identifying and appealing to your target audience. What, by your design, are the selling points of your book, and are they presented in such a way that people looking for that kind of content are able to identify your book as ‘for them’ from the get go? Beyond such broad labels as ‘genre’, at the core of your book there is a certain niche craving you want it to satisfy. What that craving is deserves the spotlight, even if its not for everyone.

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