What Readers Wish Authors Knew

 

1. Constant, shameless self promotion is tired and loathsome. We (readers) know you want us to know about your book, but there’s a time and a place for that. Show us that you’re an interesting person by your opinions on other books, and your views on the world outside of publishing.

2. Readers are arm-length consumers of your work. We don’t need or want to know that you rewrote this five times while your aunt was sick, your dog died, and your mortgage got behind. Write the best book you can, market it appropriately, and you’ll find an audience. Eliciting sympathy to gain sales is a disgusting (and useless) technique.

3. Arguing with your reviewers makes you look small and petty and ungrateful. We didn’t write our review for you. By even commenting on it, you become a hovering author others will be afraid to try out. By arguing, you’ve lost many potential fans.

4. Hiring professionals is not optional. It’s a requirement. Readers can spot a homemade cover from a mile away. We’ll discover your lack of professional editing before we get to the end of the Look Inside sample. If you don’t have the money to pay for these services, save up until you do. We are all quite tired of paying money to read a book you refused to invest your own money in.

5. We hate when you ask for our opinions, then either completely disregard them, or argue with us about how you were right all along.

6. We wish you wouldn’t use betas as editors. An actual editor has experience and knowledge the average reader doesn’t. They won’t necessarily catch inappropriate punctuation, wordiness, clichés, or every plot hole. Editors are trained to do this, which is why they get paid.

7. For high fantasy authors:  please dial back the absurd names. A blurb that identifies a main character with a name I can’t pronounce, living in a land I can’t decipher, struggling to achieve goals I can’t hope to comprehend is not selling your book for you. Example: “A’hama-uran of Chybrecht Kingdom in the hills of Zhuyrx’er’il must find the treasure of Phredrianakist in order to save his shi’tahai.” Just…stop. Please.

8. All YA does not need to be told in first person.

9. All characters in Romance do not need to be drop dead gorgeous.

10. Not everyone is going to love your book. If all your reviews are five stars – and I don’t care if you have a hundred of them – I’m going to be REALLY leery of your book. Not fair, perhaps, but true. Readers want to see some low ratings. They legitimize your work, telling the world that someone other than your friends and family have read it.

11. A low rating without an accompanying review is not the equivalent of a drive-by shooting. What it means is that someone didn’t like your book, and didn’t care enough to spend an hour drafting a review in order to educate you on whatever issues they had. Get over it.

12. If a reader wants to have a long, deep, meaningful conversation about your work, they’ll get in touch. Don’t initiate contact with your readers, ever. Make sure you’re easily reached, and let your audience find you.

13. In the same way that a purchase of your book is not a personal favor to you from a reader, a review is not a personal attack against you.

14. Trading likes, reviews, and ratings cheats the system, cheapens your work, and makes readers not want to participate in what has become a popularity contest among friends.

15. The writing is just as important as the story because, fact of the matter is, if your writing sucks then I can’t even find the story.

16. We (readers) have a brain. Unless you are writing a story for children, cut back on those adverbs…and infodumps…and expository dialogue. I don’t need the entire backstory of your character in the first five pages.

17. TSTL (too stupid to live) characters are painful to read. There’s a difference between naivety and stupidity. One can be charming, the other annoys readers.

18. We understand that you want us to know exactly how a line of dialogue should read, but passages like this:

“Stop!” Jamie shouted.

“Never!” Monica screamed.

“Guys, please,” Bertha pleaded.

Wendell muttered, “This is insane.”

are obnoxious and unnecessary. Once again, TRUST YOUR READERS!

19. Cliffhangers are acceptable only if the next installment is immediately available. Don’t string me along for a year – I’ll lose interest.

20. Physical descriptions of characters should be given serious consideration. I have a decent imagination. If you tell me Betty Lou has dark hair and eyes, I already have a picture in my head. If, however, you want to detail the very print on her lips, think about what adjectives you use. A “sensual” nose, for example… let’s just not go there. “Luscious” ear lobes? Um. NO!

21. Your blog should be entertaining. This does not mean excerpts of your work, reviews of your work, your own interpretation of your work, and lists of sites where I can buy your work. You can sprinkle that stuff in, but readers need more. Entertain us, for crying out loud. If you can’t, you’ll never sell us.

22. We’re tired of vampires. And witches. And elves. Not because there aren’t good stories that could still be done, but because what keeps getting pushed out in no way compels us to read. We’ve experienced vicious vampires, and sparkly vampires, and vampires in training. I’ve personally had about all I can take of any variation on “magic school” (which was already exhausted for me when Charmed jumped on the Harry Potter wagon 10 years ago). If you want to redo something that’s already been done, make it new. Make it exciting. Make it YOURS. Otherwise, why (oh, why!) should I care?

23. And yet…if you want to claim your book is a “different” kind of horror, romance, or mystery, you should figure out how to convey that in the pitch – and without slamming anyone else’s work. Example:  “My book is nowhere near as lame as Stephen King’s Carrie. It’s DIFFERENT and BETTER than all other horror.” The writer who posts these kinds of threads has done nothing more than turn me off. What if I really LIKE all other horror? And, what if Stephen King is my favorite author? Unwise, my friend.

24. Rating and reviewing your book makes you look bad. Don’t do it.

25. Adding a little slang and/or foreign words and/or dialect to your dialogue can provide authenticity to a character’s speech. HOWEVER, too much and my eyes glaze over. I don’t want to work to decipher words or meanings. I’m lazy and I lose interest fast.

26. Beta reading is not a gift bestowed upon readers by generous authors. It’s work, appealing only in the potential enjoyment of a new story. If you want betas, you should advertise with this in mind. Give the blurb and ask if anyone would be interested in taking a look.

27. When your friends “vote down” negative reviews and/or argue with your reviewers, it makes YOU look unprofessional. I mean that. Every person seeing the argument assumes the author is behind it. This is fact.

28. People don’t fall in love in three days. They don’t fall in love in three weeks. Lust can happen in this length of time. Or infatuation. But love? NO. If your characters believe they’re head over heels after two brief meetings, or a few long, stolen glances, I’ve lost all respect for them and have chucked your book at the wall in disgust.

29. You have a public image to protect. I’ve stated this in many different ways, in many different places, but it bears repeating. Any public comment you make can alienate a reader. Most of us aren’t that easily offended, but choosing your words and considering the tone of any remark on any forum/site/group/etc. is important. Readers can get away with being jerks – we aren’t selling anything. Authors, on the other hand, are businessmen and women, marketing a product for profit. You shouldn’t be afraid to state an opinion, but you should pause before doing so to reflect on how your words might be taken.

30. Fantasy & Sci-Fi authors – Don’t get carried away with world building. Yes, your futuristic Chicago or secret kingdom of Nu’hrdurf is, no doubt,  different and fascinating…but no reader wants a wiki-dump on it. Show us your world through the eyes of your character, explaining only what’s necessary when it’s absolutely necessary.

31. Don’t offer excuses for substandard work. “This is the best I could do,” does not give me back the time and money I spent on your book. Apologize, and find a way to fix the problems.

32. Not everyone wants to write a book. Honest. Criticism is not always based on jealousy.

33. We want to enjoy your work. Time is precious and we read because we love the experience of finding a wonderful story. Though some of us are pickier than others (and I might be the pickiest of them all) we never pick up a book so we can trash it. Something about your novel spoke to us – either the cover, blurb, sample, or a combination thereof. We want to love it, and we’re disappointed when we don’t.

More will be added as feedback is generated from readers…

16 thoughts on “What Readers Wish Authors Knew

  1. Pingback: What Readers Wish Authors Knew | Elle Todd

  2. The following are my comments made when I shared this on Facebook:

    This is wonderful, and deadly accurate.
    I especially liked the way she worded her advice regarding hiring professionals for your editing and covers, “We are all quite tired of paying money to read a book you refused to invest your own money in.”
    Whoever wrote this should be a writer herself, judging by this well worded and entertaining piece. At the end, it says that there is more to come. I look forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Grace! I’m afraid, however, that I’d be a terrible author. I could throw the words together, but I haven’t the imagination nor the discipline…nor the temperament to maintain a public persona! LOL
      Glad you stopped by, and thanks for sharing!

      Like

  3. One other thing to mention, especially in fantasy and scifi, is not get lost in your own world-building. I recognize they’re on another planet, or plane that has differences and interesting things about it, but I don’t want an wikipedia data dump on it. I want to experience it directly through the eyes of your characters, bits at a time, and when it seems integral to the story. When you visit Paris, you might want a tour bus that hits every street corner and talks about all the events that happened on every one. But that’s because you’re a tourist and your whole point of being there is do that. Unless your characters are also tourists, don’t do that to them or us readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the insights. Writers often forget that their readers are just that, readers. Most people don’t give reviews or feedback of any kind. I do like your thoughts as a reader. As a writer I need to know the things that you mentioned. Unfortunately, new writers see old writers doing the things that you describe and perpetuate all of these bad habits because of bad advice or simply because they can’t think of anything else to try. I am personally terrible at advertising. I wish there were a better way to get the word out with spending a fortune. Most writers never see much return of their work. I have talked with people who have spent a lot of money on editors and cover designers and still don’t get any sales. I agree they are necessary but can be a very bad business decision. Do you have any ideas on this? I would love to be able to invest some real money into my books but unfortunately that hasn’t been an option. Thanks again for the insights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill,
      I’ve considered investing some time in consulting knowledgeable experts in order to write an article with tips on how to publish a quality novel without going broke. For now, my advice is this:
      Regarding Covers – there are a thousand artists and photographers on Deviant Art looking to make a name for themselves. Do a Google search for the type of images you are interested in, and get in touch with the artist. I know two separate authors who commissioned covers this way – one who paid nothing (the artist was happy just to be given credit, and promoted), the other who paid ten bucks.
      Regarding editors – I know there are hacks out there. I’ve re-edited the work of companies who charged over two thousand dollars without correcting even simple they’re/their/there issues. Get references, get samples, and check the acknowledgement page of your favorite books. Editors are often thanked by name. Note: If you don’t have the money for an editor, you can still get an editor. Again, it’s a matter of finding talented people looking to make names for themselves. Every artist, editor, and writer starts out as an unknown.
      Regarding publicity – this is tricky, especially for a self-pubber. The key is to find your audience without being obnoxious. There are many ways to do this (see my article: “How Readers Want Authors to Promote Their Books” under the For Writers section). Nothing is foolproof, of course, but patience is necessary. Overnight success is a rarity, accept that. Build your reputation slowly, letting the work speak for itself, while interacting in a social media environment NOT as a salesman, but as a reader – a human being with similar interests.
      Thanks for reading, and stop back soon. I try to update topics and posts at least once a week.

      Like

      • as a graphic artist, I cringe at advice to get graphic artists to do covers for nothing or next to nothing. I find this attitude frequently. Yes, you can get an artist to work for cheap, but SHOULD you?

        Next time you have the flu, ask if your doctor will treat you for nothing.
        Artists have bills, believe it not. We don’t get to walk up to our landlords and say “Hey, I’m an artist, let me stay here for free!” Or to the grocery store: hey give me some food, I’m an ARTIST. At the absolute very least you should reimburse the artist for materials, if not he’s donating his or her time and materials to your cause and you alone get to profit from his labor.

        That’s pretty much slavery.

        Like

      • I meant no offense. My point was that, like SPA who give away their work for the purpose of gaining an audience, there are others willing to trade services for word-of-mouth promotion.
        Many, many businesses use this tactic short-term. Though there is a fine line between strategic pricing and inviting abuse, this can work well for some. Last I heard, the artist who charged ten bucks now earns five hundred dollars per cover. In a couple more years, that figure may well be doubled.

        Like

  5. Jen – I loved this because it emphasizes the value of the readers. indieBRAG is based on the idea that the best judges of a book are the readers. Not all readers have to be literary scholars to know what they enjoy and what makes a good book. Authors need to be confident, considerate and thoughtful in their promoting of their book. If you write a good book, find your audience and then let the readers do the word of mouth that will get your book the attention it deserves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! Readers are the buyers of the work. We’re the customers, the fan base, and the most effective method of promotion. No writer can go wrong by considering the input of their audience.

      Like

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