I’ve run into this as a writer and a reader a few times. No, not an actual brick wall, though as someone who used to read and walk at the same time I’ve come close. Preconceived notions have stopped readers from trying my work and has stopped me from reading others.
In the first case, I have two good examples. There are people who didn’t listen to Archangel because they were afraid I would preach at them. I also recently had a reader who said that they didn’t typically read any stories featuring gay/lesbian/trans characters because they tended to bash conservatives. This could have stopped them from reading “Compass Rose”. Thankfully, there are people that climb over the brick wall of preconceived notions and find the garden inside.
I’m not above this, myself. These days I tend to stay away from anything that looks like traditional/epic fantasy. Too often, the author is rehashing the same old tropes and I get bored. I’m sure that as a result I’m missing out. I could very well have missed out on Ravenwood if I had stuck to my guns. I’m glad I didn’t.
So I have two questions, which I think is really just one question. How do we avoid this? As writers, how can we encourage readers to check out our takes on stories they may be disinclined to look at? As readers, how do we open our minds to the possibility that we’ll find a gem in an unexpected place? Is it a matter of the right cover or book jacket blurb? Is it possible at all?
To answer that I guess the real question is, what made you pick up that book that you would have ordinarily avoided?