Having immediate feedback from your audience in the internet era is both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, you don’t want to spend your life thinking your work sucks and that your talents are unappreciated like Van Gogh did.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t be subject to the whims of the masses and the social media algorithms.
Those are two big subjects, but I’m gonna try to voice my opinions on them both.
First of all, fans don’t know shit. No, really, they don’t. Some, very few indeed, can articulate what they liked about your work in well-thought reviews. Others just say ‘I didn’t like this character, he was too one-dimensional’ and they’ll just mean that his accent was too thick. It’s not their fault, they literally don’t have the terminology and the concepts to articulate their opinion about something. So, does that mean you should ignore reviews and comments?
No, of course not. If someone paid for your work, you should take a second and read that review. But don’t put too much weight on it, except if you start to see patterns. If nobody understood that mystery you were building up for so long, then you might have botched the reveal. It’s easy to read between the lines and see patterns emerge. If they claim something is too short, then it’s the perfect size and has a great flow and you should leave it the fuck alone (Seriously, don’t touch it). If something is too boring, then you meandered with descriptions and side-quests. If something is not relatable, you need to work on your characters, ignoring the specific things readers point out, because as I said, they simply don’t know.
And don’t get me started on the whole beta-reader fallacy. For some reason, writers have decided that they should listen to the crowd and make changes on their work based on feedback.
Unless that beta reader is a veteran writer with 20 books out and 20 more years of experience than me, I don’t give a shit about their opinion, sorry. I see it all the time, they try to sway the story to what they wanted it to be. During our short story workshops in ALEF, the Athens Science Fiction Club, I read the stories and I take great care of working with what I have infront of me when I give out fixes and ideas. I pull on story threads that are there, and try to improve that particular piece of work, not turn it into what I’d want to make in its place.
But even those opinions are worth more than the silly like-metric.
I see creators get dissuaded when something didn’t go viral, or because they posted it and it didn’t get many likes.
And they change up their workflow and try to go viral on Tik Tok, or make content specific for Instagram and other stupid shit like that. Those are toys, people. Sure, they’re fun to play with. By all means, make a square panel series of pics that are fit to swipe on a multi-pic Instagram page. Sure, fool around with what you can do with a neat vertical-crop story. But that’s it, when you’re done, enjoy the endorphins of the like notifications for as little as they last, leave it alone and go back to what you wanna make. Ignore the metrics, the likes, the comments (unless they’re helpful, they usually aren’t). And don’t waste your time making popular stuff like fan art. Sure, we all get excited about something, and it does really well on social media. But you’re not making an IP, Intellectual Property, for you. You’re only making fanart for an established IP that will shut you down in an instant with a cease and desist if you try to monetise it.
I like Star Wars. Heck, I like a lot of things, I have a big list of my inspiration right here. And I made a Star Wars fanart this May the 4th. But that’s it. It did well on social media, it got comments. So fucking what? I can’t use it commercially, I can’t put it on a print and sell it, it’s someone else’s IP. It was fun, I fooled around, and that’s it, I’m done. I’m going back to my own characters and my own IPs.
There are exceptions to this, of course. There was that artist who drew realistic Pokemon and got hired or something similar. And there was that fan who made an intro to Capaldi’s Doctor Who and it got picked up by the show, because it was something fresh and worthwhile.
But those are rare occurrences. I believe that I should focus on my IP.
If I didn’t have this ideology, I’d fall into the trap of, ‘Oh, my Star Wars fanart got a lot of likes, I should make more because my fans love it.’
Spend your time on your own projects and ignore all like metrics.
People on social media probably wouldn’t recognize a masterpiece if it hit them in the face. They have no clue about colours, flow, composition, or any of the other crap we creators care about. They might like something, and that’s valid, we should respect that. And we should thank them for taking the time to comment something nice on our posts (no really, you should take the fucking time to respond to comments, don’t be a diva.)
But that’s it. Something that got 1000 likes means nothing. Of course, if something does happen to go viral, you should capitalize on that, by all means. It’s an opportunity and you shouldn’t waste it.
But chasing after virality?
We are at the whims of the algorithms. You might make something amazing and it’ll get no views at all, and you might crap out something in 5 mins and it’ll go bonkers. You never know. And it doesn’t matter. You should keep making what you want to make and the audience will slowly build up. Oh, wait, here’s a nice metric for you, if you see people going back through your entire catalogue and liking everything, that’s a good like metric right there. It means you hit the jackpot, that’s a new fan right there. But other than those wonderful occurrences, likes are unimportant.
So, don’t take feedback from random people on the internet, don’t chase after the shiny new thing, keep making what you wanna make.
To finish this, I only have to say one thing. There’s only one metric that should matter to you, and that’s cold, hard cash. Did that widget you posted make you money? More importantly, did people think it was good enough to pay their hard-earned euros to enjoy it?
It did? Then yes, it was good. Likes don’t matter. They aren’t edible.