Your Audience Should Not Be “Everyone”

I have spent a good many years since – too many, I think – being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.

– Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Even 200 years ago authors knew that a book cannot – and should not – please everybody. Here’s Jane Austen (in her usual tongue-in-cheek style) writing a letter to her sister the year that Pride and Prejudice was published:

I had had some fits of disgust [with Pride and Prejudice] . . . The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade, it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story; an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparte or anything that would form a contrast, and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of the general style. I doubt you’re quite agreeing with me here. I know your starched notions.

Ironically, it’s when a writer writes with a narrow scope and only a small target audience in mind that her work has the greatest chance of pleasing the masses. So hunker down in your literary niche and let the world find you.

*Photo by Richard Kardhordo @ 500px / CC BY

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