For Readers: A selection of posts from past years

To herald the reveal of my new website (do you like it?) I thought I'd bring back my favourite posts for readers from the past few years. Grab a beverage of your choice and browse. The last one is just for fun, so don't miss it.



Readers: What authors really want from you

Photo courtesy Angela Brown, friend and author

Photo courtesy Angela Brown, friend and author

Readers, what do authors want from you? Ha, that’s an open-ended question isn’t it?

I bet you answered “to buy all your books.” Yes, that’s true. Most of us desire to make a living from our writing, not so much to be stinking rich but enough that we can make writing our full-time career. That’s a win for readers too, since we can write more books.

You may also have said “to write awesome 5-star reviews.” Yes, please. I’ve spoken about reviews before, and we all know that lots of good reviews sell more books.

By now,  you’re thinking more like an author and might offer “to promote your books and tell all our friends.” Ding. Ten points! Word of mouth is much more powerful than even reviews. Reviews are the opinion of strangers. When you recommend a book in person, that endorsement carries significant weight because you (presumably) know what your friends like to read. How often do you not read a book when your BFF tells you “OMG, you just have to read this. I stayed up all night to finish it!” Authors dream of readers becoming such passionate advocates of our books.

Taking these three points as a given, what authors really want from readers is feedback and comments. Note that this doesn’t mean flattery and singing our praises because our latest book is “a complete masterpiece”. It means honest, down-to-earth and personal contact. You see, most writers don’t write to be rich or famous, we write because we want people to enjoy our stories. Hearing from readers is the high point of our days. A good review is nice, as is a post on Facebook or a tweet about liking one of our books. Even better is a personal message, a comment on our web sites or an email. Obviously I can’t speak for all authors here, since some don’t like to approached in such an intimate form as an email, but many of us love it. Even just a few words means a lot to us. That you went out of your way to comment or email is not something we take for granted.

Maybe you just want to say you enjoyed our book. Maybe it resonated with you in some way, reminded you of someone or that you found the theme or symbology meaningful. Perhaps there was something you didn’t like. Personally, I like to hear that too. Perhaps you wanted more mystery, more romance, or you just want to hear more about a particular character. All feedback is great. As authors we spend months or years creating something and then we throw it into the world for others to enjoy. The worst thing for us is to hear crickets. Did we move you, make you laugh, make you cry? Did you fall in love with a character, or hate a villain so much that you cheered when he got defeated?

Historically, authors have cultivated an aloofness I think; someone we readers fawned over at conventions or book signings. Or maybe it was just too difficult to engage with an author in the days before the internet or social media. Most authors I know today, love chatting with readers. Remember that all authors are readers too, and we love talking about books, yes, even – shock – other people’s books!

You have a chance to shape our future books too. Writing is fast becoming a collaborative effort in that if we know what types of books, settings, characters, or situations you prefer, we can tailor our future work. Tell us which of our books you liked best, and why. I’d like to know if more readers are interested in a sequel to Ocean of Dust than Necromancer, or vice versa. I like to think that’s a win for readers too. Many authors are collaborative in this way. It’s fun.

So, dear reader, there is a solid reason that we display our email address (or a contact form) on our web sites, and have social media profiles – to make it easy for you to contact us. Please do! Don’t be shy.



Should Readers say which Book you Write next?

Your book is published and it’s time to think about the next one. You have lots of great ideas, but wait… is it your place to choose your new book, or your readers?

“What’re you talking about, Graeme?” I hear you cry. “I’ll write what I want to.”

Agreed, it is usually the case that the author decides what comes next. It’s probably been planned and outlined even while the last book was being edited. Sometimes your contract may dictate this for you, if you have signed with a publisher for a multi-book deal.

If you are writing a series, then it ‘s a “no-brainer”: You write the next book.

But what, if you are like me, you don’t want to be tied down to one setting or set of characters for the next few years? You want to try something different. Can you veer off course, write a book or two, and then come back to continue the series?

Yes, you can, but this is where you need to think about your readers. If you were to give them the choice of the sequel or something else, if they truly enjoyed your previous book then I bet they’d vote for the sequel. Oh dear, now you’re no longer in control. :)

You might get away with jumping ship if you haven’t declared a series. Even though you’ve left your book open for a sequel, the readers don’t know if there’ll be one or not. Often, authors come back years later to write a sequel, a prequel, or other books in the same world or featuring the same characters.

The advantage of this is that you could write several standalone books, and see which one(s) your readers prefer before delivering a sequel. Not only are you capitalizing on your best-received book, but you can make it look like you listened to your fans and wrote a sequel for them. Manipulative? I don’t think so – you’re not harming anyone.

The disadvantage is that if you wait too long between books in a series, you’ll upset your readers. A well-known example is when Stephen King took 5 or 6 years between each volume of the Dark Tower. Fans got upset that it forced them to re-read the entire series each time, to remind themselves. Not everyone likes to re-read books.

In summary, I would say if you have declared a series, write them back to back. If not, readers are usually fine if you return later and write a sequel.

It has been suggested by some that authors poll their readers with several book ideas, and let their fans pick the one they want to read. This idea hasn’t gone down well, I suspect because writers perform best when their passion is high. Sometimes you just know what book you want/need to write – a particular story has to be told. But if you really can’t select between two of your greatest ideas, why not ask your readers. They’ll love you for it.

How much would you be swayed by your readers? Would you trust them to tell you which book to write next?


Powered by WordPress | Theme: Aeros 2.0 by TheBuckmaker.com