Should you care about what your fans want? Yes and no.
As with so many other questions in life, the answer is somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, it’s important that you stay true to your writing. On the other hand, you don’t want to completely ignore the wishes of your fans. But how can you take their desires into account without changing your story too much? Let’s take a deeper look at some of the particulars of this issue.
Writing as art versus publishing as business
More than ever, authors need to be thinking about their work in this duality: the art of writing versus the business of publishing. In the words of Nicholas Sparks, “Publishing is a business. Writing may be art, but publishing, when all is said and done, comes down to dollars.”
I can hear the collective groan. Some authors completely reject the notion that they should have to think of their writing in such practical terms, but this is the world we’re living in. With the rise of self-publishing and the changing nature of the traditional publishing model, authors can’t afford to ignore the concept of their book as a product. Your book is a product that you are selling, and as a good businessperson, you must take into account the desires of your customers.Like it or not, authors have to consider their writing in practical terms.Click To Tweet
So, yes, to some extent that means caring about what your fans want. But wait! Don’t stop reading. I’m not asking you to sell your soul. I’m not calling for you to abandon your muse. There is another side to this coin.
You can take this too far, and that would be bad for your writing. You don’t want to get so caught up in writing for fans that you lose yourself. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re losing your passion, becoming more susceptible to writer’s block, creating a story that’s inauthentic, or simply burned out. I’ve encountered more than one author who is so concerned about what agents, and fans, and the market expect of their book that they aren’t writing it. At that point, it’s just not helpful.Treat fan desire as great advice, not an unbreakable rule.Click To Tweet
So, no, to that extreme, do not get so caught up in catering to your fans. You have to find a way to be yourself, stay true to your story, and still meet reader’s expectations. Piece of cake, right?
Finding the middle ground
How do you achieve this delicate balancing act? By trial and error, practice, and learning as you go. You listen to your intuition and trust your subconscious mind to guide you.Your intuition is a vital tool – don’t ignore it. Click To Tweet
The very first step, though, is to identify what it is your fans want. Are you hearing from your fans? Don’t make assumptions about what they want. If you are just beginning your writing career, and you don’t yet have a sizable fan base, rely on feedback from fans of other books like yours. Read a lot of reviews, spend time on forums, study market trends, attend author events where you can listen to what fans have to say.
Once you have an idea of what fans want from your genre in general, and your book in particular, weigh it against what you want as a writer. Where do your desires intersect? Where do they diverge? Can you find a meaningful compromise?
Finally, you just have to get back to the drawing board. Go write. You’ve done the work of considering your fans’ desires, now see what comes out as you get back to work. When you come to a crossroads where you have to make a decision about whether to side with your vision for your work or the wishes of your fans, you’ll be better prepared to make that choice.
Learn from the professionals
What do the seasoned professionals have to say on this topic? I want to leave you with the words of authors who have navigated these waters before you. This is just a sample from a collection of twenty tips posted at Write with Warnimont, so be sure to check out that post to read other authors’ excellent advice.
“Writers should always remain true to themselves. Your best works are the ones you care most about, the ones you pour your heart into. As soon as you start writing for any other reason than for this passion and joy, you’ll write an inferior work.”
– Hugh Howey, author of Shift and Beacon 23
“If we’re writing to make money and attract a large audience, our first priority has to be catering to that audience. But if our foremost priority is writing the stories on our hearts and following the subjects that impassion us, then we need to be writing those stories and subjects, even if we fear no one else will read them. The thing is, however, that if we write stories that excite us, we’re almost certain to connect with readers who will be just as excited.”
– K.M. Weiland, author of A Man Called Outlaw and Dreamlander'If we write stories that excite us, we’re almost certain to connect with readers' - K.M. WeilandClick To Tweet
“It’s about balance. Writing solely what you *think* your audience will want can produce a less intriguing book. It’s always a goal to write a book that will sell, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your gut. Be smart, listen to yourself… Audiences are open to unique. So break rules and push boundaries. That’s what they’re there for.”
– Jessica Park, author of Restless Waters and Flat-Out Love
“For me, no good answer exists to this question – the goal is to find the shared Venn diagram space between the sphere of WHAT I WANT TO WRITE and WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ. Thread that needle and that way lies success.”
– Chuck Wendig, author of Atlanta Burns and Invasive
Connecting with fans
I hope you’ve found some useful advice here to help you answer the question of how much to care about what your fans want. At the heart of this question is an opportunity to connect more deeply with your readers, and that’s something from which every author can benefit.
How do you find the balance of writing for yourself and writing to please your fans? What are your fears about ignoring the wishes of your fan base? If you can share a story of how catering to fans brought you success, we’d love to hear about it! Or, to read more on this topic, try How To Make A Living As A Self-Published Writer, The Four Questions You Need To Deal With Criticism, and Your Complete Guide To Getting Useful Criticism.
6 thoughts on “Should You Care About What Your Fans Want?”
Excellent advice. Now to start looking for fans.
Haha! Thanks, Jim. I’m glad you liked the article.
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you try to please everybody, you please nobody.” I always add, “especially yourself.”
Years ago, I was trying to break into the category romantic suspense market. Through a weird set of circumstances involving a lost manuscript which was found after I sent a second one to replace it, two Harlequin Suspense editors looked at the same book. Harlequin has a very strong opinion of what it does and doesn’t want so most of the editors are on the same page.
I received two rejections. One said, “Not enough romance, too much suspense.” The other said, “Too much romance, not enough suspense.”
In other words, you can never guess how others will read your work so don’t try pleasing very specific people.
The book, by the way, was sold to another publisher and did very well.
What a perfect illustration. You’re so right–you can’t know for sure how your work will be received. Thanks for sharing your story!
Excellent tips as always, Paige. I think Wayne Campbell said it best when he said, “Good call. It’s like he wants us to be liked by everyone. I mean Led Zeppelin didn’t write tunes everybody liked. They left that to the Bee Gees.” -Wayne’s World
I’m glad you liked the article. Thanks for sharing Wayne’s wise words. 🙂