All The People, None Of The Time Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013-04-25 14:00:00 No comments

From a discussion about software: You don’t need every customer –

When evaluating complaints, we need to consider whether the complainer is credible, whether they have reasonable expectations, and whether a significant number of others have made similar complaints or are likely to have experienced similar problems. For many complaints, a reasonable outcome isn’t possible or pragmatic, and the best solution is to ignore them.

For "complaints", substitute "criticism"; for "software", subtitute "literature" (or "entertainment" or "fiction").

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There is nothing more subjective, or difficult to quantify, than someone's tastes. If you ask someone why they liked Skyfall but didn't like The Dark Knight Rises (to pull two wholly arbitrary examples out of my hat), you are almost never going to get an answer that has its roots in anything objective. Nor do I think you ever could. You're going to get an expression of taste, which is the distillation of an entire personality at work.

The hardest part about creating anything is finding an audience for it -- a mirror that is bigger than the one that reflects just you. So we think about what's popular, what sells -- and why not, when everyone who's buying is also looking to such things to see what to sell. The more popular something is, the more we think of it as being the desired model to emulate -- but only because it's popular, and not because of what that popularity signifies. Is something popular because it satisfies a widespread unspoken thirst for the new, or because it just flatters people en masse and tells them what they want to hear? The latter happens orders of magnitude more often than the former, but it's the former that brings on real sea changes.

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There is no sense in trying to please everyone, but this should not be the same as thinking that attempting to please is mere prostitution. It is far easier to find an existing audience than it is to attract a new one, but which of those you should choose lies entirely with you. Sometimes, very occasionally, you can do both. To wit: David Cronenberg once lamented that he'd never created anything as popular as E.T., but that was a mere couple of years before he made The Flywhich entered the cultural vocabulary on a level all its own. He hasn't been as popular, but he's left his mark in the right ways.

Tags: audiences self-publishing