The Demographic Condition: A Critique Of Mainstream Literature

Writing A BookWhat comes first to a professional master of the art of writing: ethics or money?

One of the biggest problems with mainstream literature in any age is that it’s too often produced for the sake of profit, rather than to have a positive meaningful effect on society. One of the biggest mistakes that those new to the art of writing make is to complete a work first, before or without determining their demographic audience, even if whomever they’re writing for is only themselves, because they don’t understand that there is actually a science to the way works are chosen by publishers to be produced. There is an algorithmic method that professional masters of the art of writing can use for the planning of whom their work appeals to; because of that, it’s my personal belief that every writer should genuinely care about who reads their work, because their work has the ability to affect the way its audience thinks—which is the power to change the world, for better or worse.

I believe that many articles of mainstream literature, regardless of whether they are independently or traditionally published, are actually beautifully packaged trashwritten compositions intentionally orchestrated to serenade the mass market with watered down content, lowered vocabulary levels, unrealistic or overly predictable story-lines, and weak grammatical structures wherein imagery, dialogue, and ideas within are cheapened to suit the market demand of the vox populi for a fast buck by either the writer, the publisher, or both.

Making Mainstream Is About Selling Before Actually Bettering Mankind

Writing A BookI believe that everyone has a story worth telling; however, many popular works of literature flare up like a vibrant candle at first, becoming all the moment’s craze, but ultimately die out with a flicker, dissipating evanescently into nothingness like smoke into the winds of history—without contributing much of anything to the betterment of mankind. Understanding the power of the art of writing, to me, it’s a moral crime that the majority of conventional written publications make for fruitless reading materials that innovate little to nothing in the way of inspiring new ways of thought, or the shattering of unhealthy societal views. I define quality literature as that which provides something other than merely entertainment, but also encourages logic, moral questioning, expanded worldly views by multiple perspectives, and philosophical debate that pushes mankind intellectually forward.

Writing A BookSome may think that this image is offensive to women, stereotyping them.

If you’re looking at it from a purely subjective perspective with limited evidence but the opinions of others not actually trained in the industry, sure…yeah, it’s stereotyping. But if you’re looking at it from a purely analytical marketing perspective: no…it’s dead accurate.

Admittedly by Akira Toriyama [the creator of Dragonball Z, depicted above] himself in an interview taken six years ago at a sponsored Otacon event in California: DBZ’s target audience is men; inadvertently admitted by Meyer in social media responses to the public’s perceived rivalry between her and Anne Rice (taken two years ago): Twilight‘s target audience is women.

Many girls were obsessed, during their teens, with Twilight for a very planned, deliberate, pre-meditated, marketing, hormonal, and psychological reason, and the same is generally true with boys and Dragonball Z, which can be attributed to why they were so successful in sales and conventional popularity.

I know from my experience with writing for Yahoo.com as a freelancer that one of the first things a publisher or website asks of a writer is for them to define their target audience, or the categories that they’ll write for. The understanding of the specifications of a writer’s intended readership directly correlates to and shows in the choice of narrative voice used in their work’s constitution.

The Science To Being Published

For mainstream publications in any format of media, there is a specific and highly intentional sociological algorithm that each piece is churned through before being accepted as a manuscript or released to the public, even if not actually designed as a legit computer programbut by the eye and experience of whomever may be doing the rejecting of book proposals, for assessing the probability of whether or not a book will sell or not, based on many variables including (but not limited to): current events. This is how writers are chosen by traditional publishers.

Writing A BookThis occurs by the profiling of a work’s demographic audience, because few writers look at the industry from the publisher’s perspective: the publisher has bills to pay just like the writer does; therefore, every book is an investment of time and money that they need to make sure will return with interest, else they’ll go out of business. Ergo, the larger a publisher wishes to grow, or the willingness of a publisher to stay in business, is directly proportional to the probability of whether or not they’ll accept a specific work—not because of the individual talent of the author, but because of what they think will legitimately meet  current market demands, which will generate them the most tangible profit.

This has nothing to do with the art of writing; the art of writing in itself isn’t so much of a concern when it comes to the cold numbers of keeping a business afloat. A master writer could theoretically write something that’s truly genius and generations ahead of his time, but that may actually work against the author in that the publisher wants what will sell now—not 200 years from now.

If you would like to investigate further with your own eyes, I recommended this cited material on the psychological aspects of marketing and story construction, read: “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” [Joseph Campbell (Mar 1, 1972)], “Story Structure Architect: A Writer’s Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters” [Schmidt, Victoria Lynn (Jul 12, 2005)], and The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers [by Vogler, Christopher (November 1, 2007)].

Two of these are the leading (sometimes mandatory, depending on the professor) books recommended to anyone taking this major in college who would choose to pursue careers in any and all forms of literature, film, and even psychology.  They are invaluable tools to those seeking to gain experience in the art of writing

All that being said, professional masters of the art of writing who want to make money now don’t write and wish; they select and construct according to their target audience, like an archer would aim an arrow, then fire their work to that target within the market accordingly (or at least, the writer who writes and wishes is chosen by their publisher in that way). Even if their target audience is merely themselves.

Some would say that the biggest mistake a practitioner of the art of writing can make is to write for any demographic at all, but that comes down to personal belief and philosophy: what each individual writer’s goal is, to begin with, which varies for everyone.

Dealing With Criticism

Writing A BookTherein, the only criticisms a writer should ever listen to are the informed ones that are voiced by his or her target audience; they’re the only ones the writer is trying to please, even if it’s only themselves. This would mean that there is a certain level of esotericism in every piece of literature; it’s up to the writer to determine how much exactly by their choice of narrative voice, by being aware of what audience(s) they’re writing for.

From personal experience, the main female love-interest in the first edition of Fighting for Redemption was the only ideal reader for it; it was tailor written specifically for her eyes, and hers only, carefully engineered to spitefully evoke certain emotional responses from her that played back exactly as I wanted them to.

I wasn’t consciously aware of it at the time, but because Leena (from the story) was the only true target, my foolish mistake, being devoid of the wisdom and experience that I retain now, was in publishing it for any other eyes to read but her own.

If written at all, it should have been kept in a single PDF file, sent in a single email, and left at that. Then, it should have been tailored for an open audience. Needless to say, the nature of the public embarrassment that resulted from the hubris and naiveté of my younger self makes perfect sense to me now.

At that time, I was only a layman in the art of writing and marketing, but now…I have grown.

A veteran writer who controls what money he or she makes from the industry in any way understands that, before they even put their pen to the paper, or their finger to the key: they should have a clear and complete psychological profile of their readership, and then construct their work according to what they believe would bring the most value and be the most beneficial to that audience’s life, because writers have the power to shape the behavioral hard-wiring of the masses through published work. The question is: is that writer’s goal financial gain first and foremost, or is it the betterment of mankind?

Writing A BookA single book can change the world. Think of how powerful The Bible has been in shaping the minds of so many people who’ve read it; regardless of whether or not one believes in it, there’s no denying that countless wars have been started…simply because of a book.

Therefore, we, as practitioners of the martial art of writing, have a moral duty to produce high quality, thoughtful content that is meant to challenge the status quo, and push humanity to the next level of existence.

What popular mainstream literature comes to your mind that you think does humanity a disservice, why, and what is its target audience?

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Michael Norton
Michael is the bestselling author of Fighting For Redemption, as well as an award-winning essayist, Internet marketing strategist, and mechanical engineer.

Visit his personal blog at NortonsMind.com.
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