Writing, Editing, and Reaching Your Target Readers

Recently I saw a comment online by an author who wondered why her book wasn’t selling. I got the impression that this wasn’t her first book and that her previous books had better track records for sales. Some fellow responded, telling her that maybe she had written a bad book, and he advised her to find a good editor. That comment rankled me.

First, it is possible to write a “bad” book. A poorly written story has structural problems, flat characters, wooden dialogue, an unbelievable plot, and/or a number of other issues. If the story falls short in any of these areas, the author doesn’t need an editor–he or she needs a writing class.

The second way a book can be “bad”–and this definition was implied by the fellow who left the comment–is if the readers don’t like it. To me, this suggests that the author is not reaching her target audience, so she may need to tweak the description and keywords in order to hone in on her niche market.

Assuming your book is at least competently written, there is an audience for it. You just have to find that audience. Sometimes that’s fairly easy, and sometimes it’s hard, but there are readers for every well-written book. There are even readers, sometimes an obscenely huge number of readers, for books written by authors who are so unskilled that they shouldn’t be trusted to write labels for condiment bottles.

Don’t expect an editor to save a poorly written book. Good editors can help you punch up your manuscript, but their purpose isn’t to write the story for you (that would be crossing over into ghost writing territory). It is the writer’s responsibility to provide the editor with a good, well written story. Not even the best editor can save a badly written manuscript.

Before seeking out an editor, you must first know how to write. If you don’t know how to write, a good start would be to enroll in a writing class. It may seem too obvious to say, but you must also read the type of stories you want to write, and this reading should continue for a lifetime–I’ve actually heard some aspiring writers proclaim that they don’t have time to read because they’re too busy writing. Only after you’ve achieved a good grasp of your craft will an editor be able to help you.

Also remember that editors don’t have a secret sense about what readers want to read or what will sell. Don’t blindly accept their suggestions for drastic changes to your story–it’s just one person’s opinion, and you should get a second opinion or more before you make any changes. I don’t mean you should hire a pack of editors to pick over your story. I’m talking beta readers, and you should have several beta readers read your story before you send it to an editor.

If you need some encouragement, read my post about the rejections several authors received before they became famous and sold millions of books. Remember, fifteen publishers rejected Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the USA), which was the first of a seven-book series and spawned eight major motion pictures, not to mention other book and movie spinoffs from the Harry Potter world.


Categories: fiction, Novels, Uncategorized, Writing Fiction

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