The Proverbial ‘Harbinger of Doom’ and How To Handle It

Posted by on Jul 6, 2015 in Group News

About a week ago during the weekly meeting of Toledo Writers Group, Mary Shipko passed out and hit the floor with a meaty smack a proposed FAQ for her latest release, AVIATRIX: First Woman Pilot for Hughes Airwest. The group took a few minutes to read it over, then our esteemed group leader opened the door to the usual flood of criticism.

To make this mercifully short, I’ll omit the levity.  When my number came up, I offered what I fervently hoped were a couple helpful suggestions and disposed of the whole thing.  But instead of moving on, Mary asked me if I found the questions on the FAQ interesting and stimulating.

“In a word, no.”

When it appeared that Mary’s feathers were a bit ruffled, I hastened to add that my opinion didn’t mean much, mainly because I don’t read bestsellers from the New York Times Best Sellers List. The authors I tend to read might make this list, but not consistently and not this month.  Next month isn’t looking good either.

At this juncture I dimly recall some impulsive pedagogue adding something about target audiences and societal pariahs, but perhaps not.  My point here is that my tastes don’t run to mainstream press or commercial media, which means that I’m not this month’s pick to be a hot new property on the Big Five’s list.  In keeping with that train of thought, if I, personally, like something, be it a book, an electronic gizmo, or a girl, that something is very likely not popular and might easily fail.  It turns out that I have a certain amount of support for my harbinger theory.

The Chicago Tribune published an article stating the same thing. Here’s a link to the story, but you’ll need an account to read the entire article: There’s a Reason All Your Favorite Products Are Always Being Discontinued. The Consumerist published a similar article, If You Buy The Stuff No One Else Likes, You Just May Be A “Harbinger Of Failure”, which is worth reading.

Basically, if you liked Zune, an iPod competitor that failed miserably, you might be one of these harbinger people.  Worse, the more you like the product and the more you buy of it, the more likely the item is to fail.

The obvious way out of this is to find me, or people like me, and pay us not to like something.  If that solution doesn’t appeal to you, I suggest you don’t waste time learning about your target audience; you’ll likely get bored and give up.  What you do is find out what your target audience is buying, then buy-borrow-or-steal three to five of these books, and read them to completion. After that, you can sit down at your keyboard and write something similar.  Better yet, write several similar books and publish them on Amazon.  Once the great unwashed discovers them, you won’t have to worry about paying me and my friends not to like them.  In fact, your only worry will involves taxes and your next best seller.

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