What do I do when someone doesn’t like my book…
Only joking! My, how we laughed…
When I was little, my sister taught me a fun song. This is it:
Nobody loves me, everybody hates me,
Think I’ll go and eat some worms.
Big ones, fat ones, slimy ones, squidgy ones,
Watch how they squiggle and squirm.
Bite them, crunch them. Yum! They’re lovely!
Throw their tails away.
Nobody knows how much I grow,
Eating worms three times a day.
So now you know. When I find out someone doesn’t like my books, I go and eat some worms.
Metaphorically, of course.
The first time I realised that someone had read The Sin Eater’s Daughter and hadn’t enjoyed it, I was, of course, crushed (the special kind of Goodreads-rubbernecking-review crushed). Whilst I knew it wasn’t a jolly romp, or a break-neck-paced thriller, it was the kind of book I knew I’d love to read.
And therein, dear reader, lies both problem and salvation.
I wrote the kind of book I wanted to read when I was a teen. Because I’d never found myself in a book – never found that one character I could relate to, or be inspired by. I hadn’t found that person who could be my WWTD? model (What Would They Do?). The girls in the books I read were so feisty, and super-smart, and brave, and had brilliant loyal friends, and they could fight, and protect themselves. They were never unsure, rarely afraid. They were everything I was not.
So I wrote it. I wrote about a young woman who was frightened, and powerless, and trapped. And alone. I wrote about how much she had to work to overcome that. And how hard it was. And I did it in a fantasy world because they were the worlds I loved best of all.
When I first read back over the final version of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, I wished so much I could take it and put in the hands of myself at fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. Young Adult Me needed to read that book as badly as Adult Me needed to write it.
So I guess if people don’t like it, or don’t ‘get’ it, it’s probably because they’re not the target audience for it. They’re not the people I wrote the book for. Slipknot make music for people that love metal – I doubt they sit at home brainstorming how to convince a bunch of jazz fans that they have a genuine message. Marvel Studios make films for people that love superheroes, I suspect they’re not overly concerned with converting World Cinema fans to the joys of Antman. So I think there’s no point in doing anything when someone doesn’t like it. It wasn’t for them, that much is clear, and now we know it, we can all move on.
I’m lucky, because since the book has come out, not one single day has passed without me getting a tweet, or an email, a Tumblr ask, or even a comment here, from someone that loved it, and wants to know what happens next. So I know that it is getting to the right people. That the people I did write it for are reading it, and connecting with it. You can’t ask for more.
It’s ok if not everyone likes it, because I didn’t write it for everyone. I’m writing for a very specific audience, so of course there will be people – mostly people over 18, I expect – that won’t get it. But I have to say, I’m a lot more interested in the people that do get it, and it’s them I’m going to keep writing for. My target audience.
So I’m going to eat all the worms – every worm I can get my hands on – and I’m going to grow big and strong on the back of it.
That’s what I do when someone doesn’t like my book; I grow from it.