((This is a note to myself I wrote as a reader while at Rainbow Con this past weekend.))
1) Readers don’t have to finish a book.Just because I started reading a book doesn’t mean I’ll finish it. If I don’t: there’s less of a chance I’ll buy a title from that author in the future, I won’t review it and I won’t recommend their work. As a reader authors please make me NEED to finish your book.
2) Give readers pay offsDon’t expect me to wait around… I (and many readers I’ve spoken to) won’t wait until halfway through for the book to “get interesting”, “understand the main character’s not a dick”, ‘for the action”… for the good stuff in general to happen. I’m not suggesting you feed the reader everything on page one but as a reader I should be compelled to read about the characters or the story… if not see number one.
3) Know your audience and feed themWho are your readers? That’s your audience. Those are the expectations you should care about meeting (if your agenda is to sell books) A book is a contract between the author and reader: Give the reader what they love and they’ll love the author for it. If I go to a restaurant and ordered steak and the waiter returned with fish since it’s better for me… chances are you’re not pleased.
Yes it can feel very appealing to blur lines and break troupes… but if your audience has purchased a book for love and sex and you give them a documentary (even if they learn something) the audience walks away hungry.
Now there are authors who have reader trust. They will read what you write because they love you. However for some that love will only go so far. If I’m not being satisfied as a reader (as much as I ADORE some authors) I go elsewhere.
4) Buying book is investing in an authorAs a reader I vote with my dollars. If I see an author espousing views truly contrary to my own I might not (who am I kidding I won’t)… I won’t buy an author’s book if they’re prone to transphobia, homophobia, sexist or racism remarks… I simply can’t.
On the same note I’ve purchased books of authors whom I’d never read before simply because they stood up for what was right.
5) Don’t bury important stuffI have a life. It’s crazy and nightmarish at times. Books are a refuge. Unless I’m reading a mystery I don’t want to hunt for clues as to what’s happening. (Mind you some readers do but not me) When a tiny but pivotal fact is hidden in a long paragraph it might be lost to me as a reader. If I needed that information to successfully understanding the book I’m out of luck… even though the detail was there… I as a reader will never know it and possibly walk away unsatisfied.
>>>> Now I’ve pissed myself off… so a little more reality<<<<<
6) What is your agenda?Why am I writing? Do I want to be sell books or do I want to tell a specific story? Sometimes I can do both Hooray for me! Sometimes I can’t.
When I can’t: I need to make conscious decision about the book. I MUST tell the story in my soul even if it doesn’t make me (or my publisher) money… If I chose this path I MUST be ready to accept the consequences and use different criteria to judge success: I told my story my way, I’ve touched people, I worked out a personal demon, whatever the reason I did. I can’t look at Amazon and bemoan the fact I didn’t break the Top 100/10, I didn’t make huge sums of $ or maybe the publisher isn’t ready to jump on my boat. Consequences…
If your goal is to sell books… there are ways to do that. Find those steps, write that book and go down that path… but if you deviant do so consciously.
7) Listen to your betas, critique partners & editorsThe issues they point out are the same your readers will have. Give information to the reader so everyone is on the same page with the character. It doesn’t matter if you’ve researched the subject or did the activity yourself. If the readers confused or skeptical you’re not helping yourself by not addressing it.
A character loves to sky dive naked. Most readers have never done this activity so they need information. Educate with details (safety, procedures, checklists) so they can enjoy the experience with the characters. Even if the author is a skilled naked skydiver, the reader still needs the training.