I keep telling creative people that you are not making a widget. What I mean when I say this is that you can’t just go market test it to see if it’s doing what people want it to do. You don’t go read reviews or send your book out to agents and then read everything they say without taking it with a grain of salt.
(This is not me saying not to take criticism. That is NOT what I’m talking about.)
The marketability of your work has almost nothing to do with its quality. And as creative people, since we are often rejected because of the lack of marketability of our work, it can be confusing to see the difference. When an agent says that they don’t see a market for your work, that doesn’t mean “give up, you’re not a good enough writer.” It means literally, they don’t see a market for your work. Move on to another agent.
You’re not making a widget here. This isn’t about you writing to market. Or at least, that’s not what I’m interested in as a writing mentor. I’m not going to steer you to the more marketable book. I may talk to you about market realities. But mostly, I care about you writing the best book you can write, and letting that best book make you a better writer and a better person. I don’t ultimately care about your sales. You may think that’s because I’m in a privileged position, but it isn’t. I used to be financially supported by my partner, but I’m not anymore. And my opinion on this issue hasn’t changed at all.
I don’t make widgets. My books are not widgets. They are not replacable with books that are similar by other people that fit the same market. My books are unique and irreplaceable and they are the very best that I can do, the most truth I can offer, the most vulnerability I can manage. They are art.