I don’t know about all other writers out there but when I get inspired and am in one of my writing spells the last thing on my mind is: ‘am I giving readers what they want?’ I do sometimes wonder what that phrase even means. Do they want a specific genre? Do I need to create a specific type of character? How can I give readers what they want and stay true to myself as a writer? How can I be genuine if I only write what the market dictates and is willing to buy?
When I decided to try to publish my writings (whether articles or stories), by selling them to different publications or submitting them to anthologies for non-paid publication, my job was to produce a piece about a topic or event that inspired me. I never had to think about the audience because that was the publication’s editors’ job. I only had to sell myself and my work to them. It wasn’t until I started promoting my self-published book in 2009 that I had to think about what readers want. I found that understanding that question was actually more difficult than I could have ever imagine. But it finally clicked when I remembered that I am not only a writer, I am actually a reader first! What my audience wants is not different from what I want as a reader. So in reality giving readers what they want has nothing to do with what I write; it has everything to do with what and when I publish. I am a reader, so I asked myself what I want. This is what I came up with:
· Genuine Message: Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, the message, point of the book, and topic or moral of the story needs to feel as though it comes from the author’s truth. If I am reading a sci-fi novel which is all made up, it still needs to make me care about the plot, characters…etc., in order to pull me in. A genuine message from the author intertwined in the story is the only thing that can do that for me. Why did the author write this? I always will look for that. A book without a message, no matter what genre or publishing quality will always be a disappointment to me. So, note to my writer self – my reason to write and publish a book must be other than I want to be a successful author!
· Story or Author Credibility: Again, I have to believe in what I am reading to keep me interested. Even if there is a message that calls my attention, I need to believe the story is possible (if fiction), or the author is credible (if non-fiction). This is where research to create believable settings, characters, and plots in fiction will make a difference between an awesome book and a great story, poorly developed. In the same way, for non-fiction, a credible author (whether through credentials or experience) who publishes a book about what they know firsthand is more likely to be followed than an author who doesn’t have enough background on the book’s topic to be perceived as knowledgeable.
· High Quality Product: Although the story’s message and credibility are very important, what prompts the reader’s first reaction, and thus the one that the reader shares with others immediately after finishing the book, is the overall experience. Was it entertaining, emotional, thrilling, thought provoking…etc. It doesn’t matter what the book is about, how the reader feels about it has everything to do with the quality of the book. Was it professionally edited, was the font too small, was the narration dull, were the characters relatable, was there too much repetition, was the formatting confusing, and so on. These might seem like small details to many new Indie writers who have no background knowledge of writing for publication, and are inexperienced in the publishing process, but is one of the major reasons for bad reviews on amazing stories and life changing messages. Readers are tough, and reviewers are blunt. I know, because I am both, as well as a writer; and when I wear the reader/reviewer hat I expect quality as a return for investing my time and money on the books I purchase.
In the end I discovered that although knowing your audience is critical for sure, when deciding what to publish in order to have a chance to sell books, what readers want doesn’t really have to do with the topic or genre, as there are really many different target markets per writing topic. It has to do with customer satisfaction over the quality of the product they have purchased! For more information on how we can help authors visit us at www.bookbybookpublicity.com.