Expectations influence perceptions; So what are you setting your readers up for?

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As you may or may not know, I love Star Trek. Huge fan. So, I was psyched beyond belief to see Star Trek: Into Darkness when it came out a few weeks ago. Before attending, I knew it would be a completely awesome movie whose villain was not Kahn. I knew this, because I’d read multiple stories with the cast and director denying Kahn was the villain.

So, when I watched the movie and Kahn turned out to be the villain, I was disappointed, irritated and even soured on the film.  I went from a person being super excited and telling everyone to go, to a person going, “Meh, check it out if you want.”

I say this not to illustrate that I’m a big baby (because, hey, I’ll admit, sometimes I can be), but to segue into the point of this post: expectations.

Expectations can greatly influence how people perceive things.  If people are expecting Greek food and you give them Thai, it could be great Thai food,  but it’s likely to be a disappointing experience. The same holds true for books.  If your readers are expecting a thriller and get a Western, well they might not like it.

I think expectations are one of the reasons 99 cents books can do so well. When you pay 99 cents for a book, you’re not expecting greatness. So, when you get an above average book at that price, you may rave about it.  If you’d paid $9.99 for the same book, you may or may not have the same feelings.

I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations this week, as I’m trying to figure out where to categorize my book on Amazon. I’d like to get deeper than just the general Thriller category, but the only place it even remotely comes close to falling beyond that is “medical thriller.” Only, it’s not a medical thriller. Yes, there is a kidney operation at stake. Beyond that, though, there is little medical stuff happening.  I was briefly considering trying it in that category and seeing how it does. The thing driving me away from that is expectations. What will happen when the reader expecting a medical thriller picks up my very minimally medical thriller? Will they be so disappointed they leave a bad review? Or will they love it anyway?

Ah, such a dilemma.

So, what’s the last book that didn’t coincide with your expectations (either met, fell short, or exceeded your expectations)?  I’ll go first (with a book): The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst.  I don’t even remember downloading it for my Kindle, but I was going through books on the device one day and decided to read it. I had low expectations because I didn’t know what it was. And I was simply charmed from the first page onward. So, that definitely exceeded expectations.

What about you?

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at http://rjcrayton.com/subscribe.
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2 Responses to Expectations influence perceptions; So what are you setting your readers up for?

  1. RJ, very good point. Even though we have no control over expectations our readers bring to our books, we have to do our best to represent them as honestly as possible. I had one reader give a bad review to one of my books, and it was obvious from her comments that she was expecting something entirely different. After that, I did tweak the blurb in an effort to stave off similar issues, but still–we just never know what the reader is bringing to the book. Good post!

    • RJ Crayton says:

      Melissa, you’re right. We never do know what the reader expects, but we’ve got to try hard to represent the work in a way that people have an idea what to expect. It’s too bad about the bad review. It’s the one thing I worry about, trying to get expectations in line with what people are going to get.

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