Answer: How do we get non-writers to read?

I’m writing this post in response to the one that I re-blogged yesterday from Eric Wyatt. Eric noticed that the majority of the readers and commentators on his blog were other writers who were hoping to be published. He asked how we can attract the readers who we hope will (when we are published) buy our books.

These are a few of the things that I came up with that contribute to the writers-reading-writers phenomena.

Content dictates readership. If we are writers hoping to be published, there is a good chance that we are writing about being writers hoping to be published. We are probably writing things like tips for writers, the writer’s experience, how to be a better writer, how to revise manuscripts, and so on. Who cares most about these things? Writers.

We are trying to build our platform, but we are misguided in our approach. We are told (often by other blogging writers) that it is important to have a platform in order to get published. This is true. Nowadays, it is a key selling point to a publisher if we have thousands of followers on our blog. We are trying our hardest to show to publishers that we know what we are doing when it comes to writing, that we can put content out there and that we are experts in our field. But as a writing hoping to publish fiction, is it really going to do me a lot of good writing about writing when I am hoping to write books of imaginative fantasy?

We are hoping to attract hungry readers with cookbooks instead of a tasty meal.

It is the nature of the blogging beast. We are writing on a medium designed for writers. If the readers we want to attract were on WordPress, they are most likely writers as well. Writers read blogs. Readers read published books. There is a disconnect for most writers between the two.

So what do we do about that?

Maybe we should take a look at what our favorite authors are blogging about. What is it that their fans want from them? Maybe we should write more of that. I looked up a few popular authors, and of the ones who blog, they blog about their books, they blog snippets and samples to whet our appetites, they blog about how they came up with certain characters and about how inspires them.

Show, don’t tell. We are often told this advice about becoming a better writer, but the same can be true about the content of our blogs. If we want to attract people to our writing, we should be showing more of our writing.

I know, I know. If we publish it on our blogs, publishers won’t pay for it.

Good point. So lets show our writing abilities by other means, without giving away the whole thing. Can you publish a synopsis, a character profile, a setting, a sample chapter or scene? Ask any marketing person today and they will tell you that giving things away sells products. It may be counterintuitive, but it is true.

Perhaps you can show your writing talent without even mentioning your current work in progress. There are a number of good blogs that offer writing prompts for you to hone your skill and show your writing prowess. One of my favorites is Julia’s Place and the Weekly 100 Word Challenge, but there are others out there as well. Just look on Duotrope for opportunities and prompts for publication.

Review books. If you write within a specific genre, read and publish reviews of books in the same genre. If you want readers to find your things, they are going to be searching for reviews of these books. If you write a good review, they are going to click around your blog to find out what else you have reviewed/written. Maybe they’ll stumble across a sample of your writing and bookmark your blog.

Write with a buffer. I find that when I am writing last-minute, I tend to write less polished posts that are about whatever is on my mind at the time. Often, this means that I write about writing, which only other writers tend to care about. I am not intentional about what I want readers to see. It just goes straight from my head to the computer screen and then on to the world at large.

By writing ahead and giving myself some time to ask myself if my post is something that a reader (not just writers) would want to see. This is also helpful in giving myself a chance to be sick or lazy if I need a day or two away from the blog (or if I need a day or two to work solely on my novel).

Publish where the readers are. If you aren’t publishing your blog to your Facebook account or your twitter feed or your [insert whatever the next popular social media fad is here], then you are missing out on putting content in front of people who may be interested. Of course, this presupposes that you have content that they want to see.

Maybe you are already publishing to these places, but you are only being read by family and friends. If you want to use a gimmick to get readers to your blog, try a giveaway. Provide an incentive for your family and friends to share your posts with their family and friends. If your incentive is good enough (or if your writing is good enough), this could just start that perfect word-of-mouth campaign that we are all after.

Those are my thoughts.

I may even start using them to help the content of my blog become something that readers will want to read. We’ll have to see.

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10 responses to “Answer: How do we get non-writers to read?

  1. Nice post. And, I agree with what you’ve written. Well done.
    As an additional component, though, I’m broadening your scope (for myself, at least) and thinking beyond the blog, and connecting with non-writers in other realms of social media. It happens, though slowly. I think there is–as I see it–a sort of chicken and egg problem: readers want something to read, and yet writers are supposed to have a platform of readers when they launch/release a book…as with most social media ventures, it seems to come down to slow, deep, steady, real growth, not just inflated numbers.
    Thanks for this post though. Kudos!

    • I’m always happy to read and comment on other writers’ blogs. Thanks for the prompt. I agree with you about the slow, steady growth. I just wish it didn’t take so long. I would like to be popular now.

  2. I’ll second what Eric said.

    I’ll also add another thought. When a budding writers go online, they are likely looking to do several things. First, they are probably looking to find resources such as:
    other writers to learn from
    information about publishing trends, opportunities, and processes
    friends to collaborate with and/or swap pieces for critiquing
    to build a “brand”
    to find potential readers

    Looking at that list, most of it has to do with the actual writing. Of course, we could all create TWO blogs/twitter accounts/etc, but then we have to get followers TWICE. Given that writers tend to read a lot, this sounds like a lot of extra time and effort… that is NOT going into our WIPs.

    So, all that being said, there is a published author who blogs regularly. Most of it is about her books, signings, similar books she’s read, etc. I asked her if she was willing to put some stuff up about writing. She posed it to her readers and the overwhelming response was they were interested. She’s doing a weekly post on writing/publishing. (see Writing Wednesdays at laurenwillig.com – http://www.laurenwillig.com/news/category/writing-wednesdays/).

    So, there is definitely room for overlap.

    Now a question. Does anybody really expect that somebody will buy a book from us just because they follow our blog? No. They are two different things.

    Blogging is, in my mind, one part “platform building” and another part networking. Given that writing is not exactly known for being lucrative if your name isn’t Rowling or King, it makes a lot more sense to do it this way than by attending lots of conventions.

    I would gather that having a pre-existing online presence of some variety is probably more important than exactly WHO follows you in terms of a publisher/marketing angle. You have SOME audience. You have things set up. That’s easier than starting from scratch. Moreover, you have potential reviewers and people linking to your stuff. You’re going to come up in the first page of a Google search on your name (with a name like mine, that took a lot of work).

    … and here I thought I’d already said a blog-full at Eric’s πŸ™‚

    • Well said. Blog post length comments are always welcome when they include such insight. I appreciate the conversation.

      I agree that it is important to have an online presence (obviously, I’m here) in order to get published. My thought was more that we should be thoughtful and intentional about what we post.

      The phrase “Don’t dress for the job you have; dress for the job you want” comes to mind.

      I follow a number of other writers in order to learn tips on writing and to feel part of the community. By becoming a better writer in general, I can be a more publishable commodity in specific when I am sending out my manuscripts.

      Great thoughts Shannon!

  3. Goodreads give aways are starting to become quite popular as well where people give out their book in return for reviews on good reads and usually if they enjoy it many will post to amazon aswell I have only experienced this as a reader not an author yet so cannot say what is involved that end

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