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.