QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dealing with Reader Expectations

It doesn’t matter if you’re published and your book is now out for review, or if you’re sending your first book to a beta reader, you have to deal with reader expectations. Most of the time it isn’t an issue. The reader has no expectations, other than they hope your story will entertain or emotionally move them.

Other times they have specific expectations that you may or may not meet. The reader might read your blurb and expect ABC to happen in the story instead of XYZ. And because of that, they give it a less than favorable review. There’s nothing you can do about it. You didn’t write the book they would have written, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Be proud of the story you did write. It’s the one that called to you and the one that you needed to bring to life. If the comments are from a beta reader, give the book and comments some distance then look at it through the individual’s eyes. It could be that you decide she was right, and you can edit the book accordingly. Or you might realize she didn’t share your vision for the book and ignore her suggestions. That’s okay, too.

It also could be that you wrote a story that went outside the box when it comes to your genre. Some readers will love this. Others will cry foul. Now obviously if you kill off the love interest, you won’t get too far calling the book a romance. There is an expectation from readers of the genre that the story will end with a happily-ever-after. When you kill off the hero, it’s hard to achieve that goal. The solution in this case is easy. Don’t call your story a romance. It isn’t. If you call it women’s fiction (for example), you have a better chance of finding the readers who will better appreciate it. But other than this, like before, be proud of your story. One thing you quickly realize is you can’t please everyone. There’s no point trying. You’ll only drive yourself insane if you do.

If you are going to go outside the box, make sure you’re familiar with the expectations of the genre first. It might be you just have to twist the tropes of the genre on the head. For example, in romance, a common trope is where the bad boy meets good girl and he reforms for her–and only for her. Some readers have favorite tropes they love to read and will pick up your book if it contains it. This is great. On the downside, they’ve read the trope so many times, you need to come up with a fresh approach to make your book memorable. There are also readers who hate certain tropes, yet for some strange reason, they still read them, waiting for a chance to tear the story apart in their review. If you’ve done the unexpected with the trope, you’ll surprise the reader and might even possibly delight her. And this could mean a positive review and word of mouth.

And then there’s the individual who reads the blurb and misses the obvious clues that your book is horror, and complains in the review that there is horror in the book. Yes, this happens more often than you realize. There’s nothing you can do about that, and that includes leaving a comment on the review about how the person is an idiot. It’s perfectly fine to think that, but it’s not okay to share that opinion with anyone—unless you want it to come back and haunt you. 

When you write a book, do you write want you want to write, or do you write to meet the readers’ expectations (or a little of both)?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN (Carina Press, HQN) is now available. LET ME KNOW (Carina Press) will be available Sept 1st, 2014.


DRC said...

Great post. Putting your book out to the public means you have to develop a thick skin in order to cope with bad reviews. You can't please everyone and you're going to get them. Fact!

Other than that, I write what I want to write as oppose to what others want. It makes the writing process more enjoyable - which it's all about :)

Suzanne Lilly said...

Absolutely excellent advice, Stina. I also learned that readers have certain expectations based on the cover of a book. If a reader thinks a book is about one thing, because of the art, and your book is about something else, it might be reflected in a review.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Yes, Suzanne. This is so true. If you're book isn't sexy, then don't have a sexy cover. Yes, the book might sell better, but the reviews won't all be favorable because the readers were expecting something else.

Armineh Ohanian said...

What an interesting Blog!
My two novels, The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall, and Nine Years to Freedom, are based on real life stories. And yes, I write for myself. I believe that I have a message to deliver. I get a pleasure out of immersing myself in my stories. And, I believe that the blurb of a book will help the reader decide whether or not she/he would like to read a specific book.