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What do readers really want?

A fun thing around Twitter #thingsnottosaytoawriter recently had some wry and clever responses from writers, some tinged with irony, even bitterness. Some were made up, but some were things that had been said to them in true life:
Does this sort of thing sell, then?
Where can I download your book for free?
Since you aren’t working, can you look over my thesis?
I’d write one but I’m too busy pursuing my career.
Why don’t you try writing the way bestsellers write?
Have you written anything I could read?

This made me wonder what readers thought of the writing world, our little self-contained universe. You know what? I don’t think many know or care. And why should they? They just want a good book and maybe, possibly, would like to know a little bit about the writer and their personality. If they belong to a reading group, then they’ll want to know about your motivation, how you researched it, what made you create certain characters, why you chose that ending.

They don’t want to know how many times you went through the editing cycle, how many late-nighters you pulled to meet a publishing deadline or your angst about self versus traditional publishing.

The reason they picked up that book in the first place or listened to a friend’s recommendation was that they were looking for a good read. Period.

7 comments to What do readers really want?

  • I think most readers are pretty clueless, unless they visit their favorite authors’ blogs!

  • Alison

    Hi Becky. As writers, we sometimes forget our readers. They are the ones parting with their hard-earned cash, sometimes on a whim or a few words from a friend.

    If you put yourself in the position of a reader (and most writers do read voraciously), while as a writer you appreciate the hard work that’s gone into it, what you’re after is something that will entertain/move/provoke you/make you think – in other words, a cracking good read.

  • “They don’t want to know how many times you went through the editing cycle, how many late-nighters you pulled to meet a publishing deadline or your angst about self versus traditional publishing.”

    Alson – I think you’re right! So should we all get off Facebook, Twitter and our blogs and shut up, then? Are all ‘craft’ posts (I hate that word) pointless? I do wonder how many blog posts, tweets etc are purely for a small circle of writer acquaintances…and yes, I’m sometimes guilty of it too but my pet hate are word counters on blogs or the ‘I’ve got up early and written 20,000′ words. Or “Anyone for the 1000 words in 5 mins’ challenge. I fnd it soul destroying to see the joy of writing reduced to a quasi-competitive process.

  • That should have been Alison. 🙂

  • I’m a reader as well as a writer and actually I don’t want to know anything much about writers I enjoy. I just want to read their stories.

    I’m always glad to know when the next one is coming, of course.

  • Alison

    Phillipa – I think that FB and Twitter are fine for saying a little bit about your book and blogs are our way of letting off steam or perhaps rabbiting on about research. You may have noticed, I’m into Roman stuff but then my books have a Roman connection. 😉

    We must always remember that everybody, including potential/actual/returning readers may be reading our posts and tweets and we really don’t want to bore them with “woe is me” posts. I try to be entertaining and informative about my writing life, but I’ve come to the conclusion that any reader who has made the effort to visit should be able to gain some additional value.

  • Alison

    Jenny – Sometimes I’m content to read a book and that’s it, but sometimes I’m intrigued enough to want to visit the author’s web/blog site, probably about 5-10% of the time.

    When I find a favourite author’s newbook in the bookshop, I’m delighted, but like you, I’d wish I’d known it was coming out.

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