Will the Real Reader Please Stand Up
Authors receive mail from readers all the time, and we love hearing from them. They are our validation and one of the reasons we as writers continue to tell our stories. This article isn't about mistakes in grammar, punctuation or even research and plot. Readers let us know that they liked or didn’t like something we wrote. We appreciate their feedback, even though it may hit a nerve. However, it isn’t a one way street. Authors learn some surprising things that readers discover in their books. It's not from one book or even ten. With every book something interesting develops.
- Readers really suspend belief when entering a world the author has created for the story about to be told. To the real reader, the characters they meet are real people. They have lives, hopes, dreams, and concerns. The reader sometimes argues or laughs with them. They will remember a scene and discuss it with fellow readers. Or replay it to a friend in an effort to convey the emotional experience evoked during their time in that fictional world. Thank you, readers. Authors love you. You’re the word-of-mouth we want working for us.
- Real readers are touched by the author’s story. They want to laugh and cry and connect with the characters. Letters sent to the author usually has her in tears before she finishes reading. The reader’s emotions have been touched so deeply that she has to write the author, and let her know how much she has been helped in solving a problem or inspired her to make a positive change in her own life. In some cases, readers try to emulate the heroine’s characteristics, going for a job, enrolling in a class or standing up for themselves.
- Real readers want more of the story. They have bought into a family and want the stories of entire generational lines, including babies, brothers, sisters, cousins, adopted children and grandchildren. Once a reader buys into a family or a series, she wants to know more and more about them. Each new character introduced to the novel has a story and the reader wants to know that story, too. To the reader it’s a “just one more” world. This gives the writer a wealth of characters to write about, and a readership to expand and satisfy.
- A real reader wants a book a month, if not more frequently. They want the author to write as fast as they can read. Unfortunately, this is impossible for most authors. There are some who can do it, but they cannot sustain that kind of creative ability for the long run. They will burn out. And readers can’t read that many books if all writers could put out that many. Authors understand that you want the next book in a series as soon as the current one ends. We work hard to fulfill your needs.
- Readers not only have imaginations, but they want that imagination turned into the visual. They want the book made into a movie. Authors receive letters from readers who cast the book with actors to play the roles. The reader is so much into the story that they want to see it on the big screen. Authors love this. We’d also like to see our stories come to life they way we wrote them. Sometimes, readers and writers are disappointed at the way Hollywood changes their story. However, seeing it vs not seeing it, which would you choose?
- Readers tell authors they should make a movie of one of their books. Oh, if only we could. The making of movies is a whole other industry and few authors have the means to take a chance on developing their book into a feature film. One of the greatest things an author could wish for is to have their story come alive as a movie starring all the best stars. However, to make a movie you need a small fortune, one that is disposable since there is no guarantee that there will be a return on that investment. But to make a movie, what the reader is really saying is sell your book to Hollywood and let them make a movie of it. Again, this is something an author would love to have done. There are contract issues at hand, but they would be the easiest to get around. The possibility of selling a book to Hollywood is like throwing a lighted match in the ocean and having it continue to burn for the next year. Yes, it happens. But of all the books written, the number that actually make it to the silver screen is less than one percent.
- Real readers are out on the streets, maybe virtual streets. Street Teams is a concept that’s come up in the last few years. Street teams are readers acting as human advertisers. They get a first read on an author’s book. They get the opportunity to give feedback to the author and they are the people creating the buzz, starting the positive word-of-mouth to get other readers to buy the book. We love these readers. We want more of them.
- Real readers want to know the author. Many readers believe an author’s life is like that of the heroine she writes. Some of us wish it was. Authors draw on what they know and what they research, what emotions they have experienced and what highs and lows have touched their lives or the lives of someone close to them. This comes across in their writing and readers pick up on it. It’s usually the indefinable subtext that readers feel, where the words are not in your face. With the advent of the Internet and the explosion of e-mail, it’s easier than ever to converse with an author one on one or though her website.
In the mail that readers send, these are the things they mention most often. Writers wish they could produce a book on demand. They would be delighted to be the Hollywood favorite and see their characters come to life with the same storyline they wrote. They’d love to meet all their readers and to get to know them as well as they want to know the author. Authors would like to write each reader as a character (the heroine, of course). While all these things aren't possible, the stories readers love will keep coming. And the real readers will continue to find them.
For all authors, we thank you for being in our corner and cheering her us on. As always, keep reading.
Shirley Hailstock is the author of over thirty award-winning novels. She is a past president of Romance Writers of America. She resides in New Jersey with her family, where she is busy working on her next release.
I love the many truths in this post, Shirley! And here's hoping Old Man Winter hasn't left a mess in your town!)ReplyDelete
He has, but we're friends and we overcome him.Delete
Wow, I felt like I was reading a magazine article. You need to send this somewhere.ReplyDelete
As a reader I truly appreciate your post. It's nice knowing that authors appreciate their readers, and that they are truly interested when we give feedback or commendation.ReplyDelete
Laurie, we take readers extremely seriously. We want to keep you happy and consequently coming back for more. Thank you for commenting.Delete
Hearing back from a reader is a definite perk. In my book, “Just Like Em,” the hero’s dead wife was named Karen. When Em and the hero are married and have a child, they call her Kay after Karen. After reading the book, one of my neighbors came over and told me that really made a connection with her because her name is Karen and one of her aunts always called her Kay. This gave me a new bond with my neighbor and made my day.ReplyDelete
Marion, it works both ways. I saw a History Channel story about a female serial killer. One of the people she killed was her 16 year old stepdaughter. I was so moved by the girl that I decided to give her a happily ever after. I'm writing a novellas where that girl is the heroine.Delete
I agree with Pamela, this should be in a magazine. I love it when readers send me an email and tell me something I wrote connects with them.ReplyDelete
After all the nervousness and strife over writing the book and thinking the readers will hate it, it's great to get that one letter from someone who understands what you were going for. It's reflects on you like a warm light coming from within you.Delete
I love reader notes. I've even changed books/plots/characters based on real reader feedback.ReplyDelete
I've added to my book also because of reader feedback. I also have those touching letters where someone tells me how the book or story helped them over a major hurdle in their lives. Often it's something so personal I'm in tears before getting to the end.Delete
Melinda and Shirley,Delete
I agree! I've done the same and SOME reader's criticism has stayed with me for decades.
I love contact with readers. They're smart and savvy, and if anything can remind us to stay on our toes, it's an observation a reader makes about a scene or a line of dialog that's right on with what you intended. Even a few things you did that were invisible even to you! They're right, Shirley. Send it to The Writer.ReplyDelete
Muriel, that is so true about the invisible things. I've had those letters too, where someone points out something I never saw, but it's there. I'll look THE WRITER up and see what kinds of articles they accept. I've thought of sending to a newsletter, but never to a magazine.Delete
I loved this, Shirley, as both a writer and a reader.ReplyDelete
What a great post. Every bit is true. Thanks for reminding us all why we love to connect with our readers.ReplyDelete
You're very welcome, but you knew it all the time. It's why you sit in your chair and work.Delete
This is fantastic!!!!! Thank you!!ReplyDelete
Kristine, You're welcome, too.ReplyDelete
Shirley, I just finished Summer at Kendall Farm a couple weeks ago and LOVED IT! Five stars, no question. Your blog here was terrific. Thank you for sharing all these insights, especially about the films. Readers do think that once an author writes a book, they can snap their fingers and that movie will just be made. It takes decades, not just a few years to get a book to film.ReplyDelete
Catherine, you made my day. It's snowing here, really bad on the roads, and your words on liking SUMMER ON KENDALL FARM, makes the sun shine.ReplyDelete
Your blog is filled with unique good articles! I was impressed how well you express your thoughts.ReplyDelete
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