At the moment, I’m selling a house. We have replaced a sewer line and then put in new landscaping (to cover for our yard being dug up), put in a new dishwasher, new shower (due to a pipe leaking from behind the old tub), fixed the electrical problems, replaced rotting wood under the floor in the dining room, got new tile to replace the old carpet that used to be there, and did other things as they popped up around here. That was for this year alone. So when we put our house up for sale, I thought we had a good product (the house) to sell. Except, none of the prospective buyers cared that we had dropped $30K (not exaggerating) into the house. They were concerned about the color of the paint and thought the place needed new carpet. So we just spent the past month repainting and putting new carpet down. Then a little over a week ago, another prospective buyer came in and complained that the floor in the kitchen didn’t match the floor in the dining room.
And that’s when I thought back to something a college friend told me years ago: You give someone a bed, they want a pillow, too. In other words, no matter what you do, you just can’t please some people.
Then I got to thinking about writing books. The sad reality is that you will never, ever be able to please every single person who reads your book. There will always be something wrong with it. And I’m not talking about big, glaring errors. I’m talking about the small insignificant things. Maybe you use a certain word that bothers someone. It’s a matter of word choice. For example, maybe you write, “He strode down the street” but someone hates the word “strode” and wants to see “hurried” instead. “Strode” is acceptable, but because that person doesn’t like the word, they contact Amazon KDP and complain and the author gets an email in their inbox and has to explain to Amazon that “strode” is not a typo.
Then there are people who don’t like a certain character. It can be as simple as how the character looks. I once got a complaint because one of my families in a series has blond hair. The reader accused me of being narrow-minded since there are people “with different hair colors out there.” I explained that they are in the same family and share the same genes, and that’s why I chose to make them all blond. An author I know got a bad review because her villain had red hair and the reader happened to have red hair, too. The author doesn’t know this reader, and yet the reader took it personally. As for the personality of a character, I’ve found that characters take on a personality of their own, and there’s no use in trying to make them into someone they don’t want to be. (I assume other authors have found this to be true as well.) So when the characters do or say certain things in a book, it’s pretty much the characters’ choice, not the authors’. There will always be a reader out there who doesn’t like one of your character’s words or actions. Well, that really says more about the reader and his/her preference on how to handle a situation than it does the quality of a story.
For the life of me, I’ll never understand why someone who hates a certain type of book will bother reading it. For example, there is a reader of an author I know who hates sex in romances. The author is known for putting sex in her romances, and this particular reader continues to read (and give negative reviews) on the author’s books because of the sexual content. Or someone other author who got complaints because of violent content in their horror novel. That’s like me going to an R-rated movie and then complaining to the people who made the film that it had R-rated material in it. I’ve also seen readers give negative reviews on books for being “too short,” and right there in the description is a disclaimer saying the story is either a short story or a novella (and the author usually gives the word count). I know what happens there. The reader never read the complete description. They probably skimmed it. Even so, that’s not the author’s fault, and it has no bearing on the quality of book they read. Or maybe the reader didn’t like the plot or the way the story went. The fact of the matter is that it wasn’t their book to write. It was the author’s. I hated the ending to Gone With the Wind, The Giver, and Of Mice and Men, but I still thought they were good stories. A story that wasn’t written as the reader would have written it doesn’t make it a bad story for everyone else.
My point to all of this is that taste is so subjective that it’s impossible to tailor your book to suit everyone. That’s why it’s pointless to even try it. I made the attempt last year, and when I published the new version, I discovered that there were a lot of people who liked it better the first way I wrote it. And you know what? Those are the people I focus on these days. I don’t worry about what others think. They can find another author to read. Our concern, as writers, is to write for the people who enjoy the books as they were intended to be. Unless there’s a glaring factual issue (ex. a car in 1789), a typo, a formatting issue that makes the ebook hard to read, or something else that’s blatantly wrong, I see no reason to chance anything in a book once it’s published. Now, if you decide you want to rewrite the book, that’s a good reason, but you want to change the book (instead of someone telling you to change it to suit them).
I know it’s hard to get over the urge to try to please everyone. The “I hate your book because…” and 1 and 2-star reviews aren’t fun (and often are given for the most ridiculous of reasons), but it does get easier to shrug that stuff off the more you go through them. Then they’ll come a point where you think, “Well, my book wasn’t the right fit for that person.” My philosophy is that even if no one else likes your book, you should. 😀