With great fear of being sued by Robert Palmer for messing with his song lyrics:
You like to think that you’re immune to the stuff…oh yeah
It’s closer to the truth to say you can’t get enough
You know you’re gonna have to face it
You’re addicted to love INPUT.
Publishing is such a subjective field of endeavor that at one point or another an author, editor or publisher dreams about the possibility they’ve had it all wrong from the beginning and it is actually a “scientific” venture.
Maybe we could study it enough and a computer program could make decisions for us or we could figure out the magic formula that would guarantee 100% success. Computers are pretty good at chess these days you know.
Then we suddenly awake up from our slumber and spiral back to the reality book publishing is primarily an art form involving an ever-changing mix of wisdom, insight, personal-preference, gut-feeling and inspiration. And because this strange brew completely creeps us out, blowing our logical Vulcan-minds, we resort to an endless cycle of asking for input from others.
At multiple times in the past, every author, editor and publisher asked twenty people their opinion on a particular subject related to their work and at best received nine people feeling one way, eight the other and three who couldn’t decide but would go along with whatever others say.
It is never unanimous and rarely even close to anything resembling a consensus.
So you do what any expert researcher would do, you ask more people for their opinion.
The results? The same ratios of uncertainty and subjectivity whether you ask twenty or 200 or 2,000 people. It never truly helps.
You realize flipping a coin is quicker and throwing darts to make decisions is more accurate and fun.
What cover do you prefer for the book?
Should we place a picture of monkeys or squirrels on the cover?
Do you like this title or this title?
Should the protagonist to be short or tall?
So, putting on my “freelance psychologist” hat in an attempt to figure this out, why do we constantly ask for other’s opinions of our work?
Failure. We are so afraid of it we are paralyzed without asking first. We want affirmation that our ideas are not completely wrong.
To be fair, social media has given us a fun way to ask for input and we often feel like it is a good way to involve others in our work. But does it really change things and make someone less prone to failure?
Writing is art and true artists create things they feel deeply about. If you don’t feel deeply about something, you shouldn’t be writing. In fact, if you don’t feel deeply about something, I have no advice what you should be doing.
I was fired as agent by an author who wanted me to tell them what to write.
Something to ponder: The best-selling books (and for that matter any art form) of all time were not the result of a survey. They come from the heart of an artist.
The most creative, groundbreaking companies are originated by the creativity of one inspired person.
The most successful, paradigm-shifting movements are begun by the vision of one person who felt deeply the status quo should not be accepted.
The best books are inspired, not researched.
Sure, you need to get input from others who are qualified to give input (not friends or family), but you will never research your way to success as an author. Understand the limits of input. There’s no mobile app for enhancing creativity, and if there is one, they are taking your $9.99 under false pretenses.
To determine the value of art, the opinions of three qualified people are far more accurate than 1,000 randomly surveyed.
At some point, someone will need to make a decision or choose a direction and live with the consequences.
Break the habit of input and instead pursue wisdom and inspiration. Those are the fuel for success anyway.
Oh yes, and write a really great story people will want to read.