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It’s Not Personal…It’s Just Demographics

by F. J. Dagg on June 23rd, 2011

Rejection. It’s always been an occupational hazard of writers. Agents reject you. Publishers reject you. If you enter your book in contests, judges reject everyone but the handful of winners. If you survive all of this rejection and get published, some reviewers reject you. And then, perhaps, the Bad Thing happens: you begin to reject yourself. It’s enough to make you want to get a day job. Or slit your wrists.

Wait! Put down the razor! Think for a moment of those M.C. Escher pictures. Remember how they seem to be one thing one moment, but then morph into another thing even as you peer at them? Let me suggest that you view rejection as you would view one of those images, and allow yourself to see a different thing in it. To do so will lead you to a much more comfortable place–a place I stumbled on about the time I finished writing The Lowlands of Heaven and which recently has been mentioned by no less an authority than John Locke (How I Sold One Million eBooks in Five Months!), the eighth author to sell a million e-books on Amazon and the first independent author to do so.

If you feel you’re dying of rejection, you’re simply looking at things from the wrong perspective. You’re laboring under an illusion, an unstated premise. Without really thinking about it, you have defined success as the state in which everyone in the world loves your book. You can begin to dispel that delusion right now: Go to Amazon.com and browse the Bestsellers list. How many one- and two-star reviews do you see? Right. Clearly, many of the most popular books have inspired not only love but hate, too–some of them a good bit of it.

The point? You must reject as unattainable your unspoken goal of being universally loved. Assuming your book isn’t a seething dunghill of purple adverbs, non-sequiturs, grammatical felonies, crimes against orthography, insupportable demands on the readers’ willingness to suspend disbelief, cringe-worthy dialogue, a plot so absurd it would make your goldfish hurl the book from her bowl, is not bloated with overly long sentences (well…maybe a few long sentences won’t hurt) in other words, if your book is of publishable quality, your need is not universal adulation. Your need is to identify your target audience.

How many people have read your book? (Do not count your mother.) I’m not a statistician, but it seems reasonable to conclude that if 20 people you can trust to give you honest feedback have read it, and 12 to 15 looked you dead in the eye and said they liked it, there is likely a demographic out there who will be happy to pay a reasonable price for it. What about the few who didn’t care for your book? Doesn’t matter–that only means that they’re not a part of your target audience. To paraphrase Michael Corleone, “It’s not personal…it’s just demographics.” John Locke says something quite similar in How I Sold One Million eBooks in Five Months at location 1382, Kindle edition.

So, now that you’ve crushed your self-destructive delusion regarding universal acclaim, what’s next? Consider publishing independently. My opinion, from what I can make out of current trends, is that if you pursue the traditional publishing model you will likely experience a high level of rejection, but which reveals more about the declining state of the industry than about the quality of your writing or the existence of your target demographic. Who needs that?

As an Indie, you’ll need to figure out some details: cover design, print, ebook or both, etc. But most important, you’ll need to become a social media expert, if you aren’t already, and you’ll need to develop a large circle of acquaintances in the book blogosphere, which is where you’ll find…drum roll…your demographic. Grow your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Then Google “book blogs” and get busy networking. See you out there.

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