How Writers Write · Musings

Fearing Your Readers, Part 2

Scared of your readers?

Since I’m just about to start an official book review blog over at Novelblogs, I’ve decided to forego posting my book review of Steve Hely’s How I Became A Famous Novelist and continue on with my other topic: fearing our readers.

from Wordstream.com

Fearing How Much We’re Worth – or Not Worth!

When we are afraid of our readers, it’s a sign that we’re lacking in self-worth. We don’t believe in ourselves as writers; we don’t believe that what we’ve produced is good work, and therefore, there is no possible way that readers could like it.

As Claire de Boer points out in her article on writer’s fear, if we doubt our writing worth, then perhaps we are comparing ourselves too much to other writers. We get so caught up on how good they are, how nuanced their language, how popular their book is on Amazon, that the idea of our own success is shadowed over. We start to think, well only so many writers can be popular, and I can’t write like this person, so no one will like my book! waahh!

But this way of thinking is very limited and unrealistic. It’s limited because the idea that only so many writers can be popular, or there are only so many readers in the world, or even, “There’s only these few ways to get a reader’s attention/devotion”, well…that’s just silly, when you really think about it, isn’t it? There are so many people in this world. Every day, so many people are reading, and no matter how big the Internet gets, right now, lots of people are still reading books.

Property of The Atlantic

Yes, the amount may have decreased in recent times, but look! That’s half of Americans, have the people in this big country, still reading books for pleasure. That could be your book!

More on limited thinking. When writing is all about being creative and letting what’s true and real to you flow through the page and affect people (which it will because your truth is also other people’s truth)…then what are you doing walking around thinking limiting thoughts? How will that help you to be nourished in your creativity? How is that even practical and smart? Perhaps you think it is, but it isn’t.

(And trust me, when I say “you”, I also mean me! My biggest foe in writing is my own self).

If you really research this topic, you will see that many writers with many different styles, writing in various genres, are having a good amount of readership. Their books are being picked up and enjoyed all over.

This is why this type of thinking is unrealistic. See? The chart above shows people are reading Paranormal and Fantasy genres the most. People these days like the escape from reality! They like detail! They like description! They like weird stuff!

So take a breather. Your book has a chance. YOU have a chance. Readers want to TAKE a chance on YOUR book!

Fearing What Readers Will Think of You

This topic is explored in a very original and intelligent way in this article. It talks about the business of writing and how “business” is often seen as opposite, or the bane of, “creativity”. What I’d like to say that this article touches on though, is different.

Writers are people. We know this. But sometimes we don’t want our readers to know this. But when our book or article is published, there’s our picture on the back of the jacket or bottom of the page, along with some information about us.

It’s our hope in this world that people will enjoy our work enough to visit our website, read more of our books, and be interested in who we are. How did we write this book that they liked so much? What more do we have to say about it? If our readers are also writers, they may want to know the details of how we practice our craft. If they love the world we’ve created, or characters, they might want to know background stories, see more maps, etc. Think J.K. Rowling and the Question and Answer section of her website. Think George R.R. Martin and writing his encyclopedia on the Game of Thrones series, and then having his readers love his creation so much that they pointed out canonical mistakes in his encyclopedia to him.

We all want that. We want recognition, we want attention, we want readers to like us as people too, maybe, sometimes, or maybe not. But then we think about the piles of laundry, the crazy times we wake up at night to write, the way we sit in front of blank pages FOREVER and groan. How will we share who we are, and make ourselves look good?

I feel embarrassed even posting about this, because it goes to show that I care about this stupid, petty stuff. But I do. And maybe you do, too. And just in case you do, to connect with you…here I am, writing about it.

But it is a shameful topic, a topic we may get shamed for and make ourselves feel guilty about…this wanting to be liked, not just as an author, but as a person. Steve Hely writes about it to comic effect in his comical fiction, How I Became A Famous Novelist: he’s at a reading for his wildly popular book and a reader comes up to get their book signed, and bursts into tears and waxes on about how his book changed their life. We all want to know that our book can affect people like that, don’t we? Perhaps we don’t wish for such a high level of popularity (J.K. Rowling having people accost her while she purchases toilet paper comes to mind), but something, some little bit.

But why is that so bad? Isn’t it just the human desire for love and affection? Is it so bad that we want others to connect emotionally to our books? After all, we’ve put our hearts into them, hopefully. We’ve spent thousands of hours mashing away on our keyboard or typewriters, sweating and crying and shouting perhaps, to get it all out. We want our book to not just be some art that’s observed from a distance, with a cool eye. We want our readers to feel a little bit of what we feel when they read our book.

07035-stop-being-afraid-of-what-could-go-wrong-motivational-quotes-sayings-pictures

Is that so bad? No, not really. If we wanted readers to inspect our book with a distant perspective, like a formal art show where the piece gets judged in a formal, professional manner…we wouldn’t write the book, would we? We write because we feel something and need it to be voiced. We write because we feel, so it’s only natural to want some feeling back, some reciprocation. We’re not perfect, after all.

In conclusion of this segment, I just want to say that it’s okay to be human. Readers love finding out about the humanity of their beloved authors. Here: proof. That’s a drastic example, but there are also many other examples out there in the world.

Fearing the Practical Matters – Book Signings, Marketing, Etc.

Another part that we fear is how we will present ourselves at formal events like book signings. Not just how will we present ourselves, but how do we do all this practical business? It seems so different from writing, I hear a lot of writers say.

Tasha Golden, who wrote this article that I previously mentioned, also has a lot to say on this topic.

Golden says that a lot of teachers these days have been teaching these topics as part of their high school or college Creative Writing class curriculum. More and more resources have sprouted up that shed light on this topic, too.

Another point Golden makes that I really like is to just remember that your readers are people. They have faults and fears and pimples and the whole nine yards. They don’t want to see you in a shiny suit being all pro; the fact that a regular human person like themselves wrote such a fantastic book will make them even more happy and amazed. They might even make art that you, the author, can see and respond to: point in case.

So, don’t be afraid of going up there on stage and talking about your book. You love it and so do your readers, so considering it a conversation between two friends will make it more relaxing. There isn’t anything very challenging or scary that could happen; I think George R.R. Martin’s experience of having his readers point out mistakes in his encyclopedia is one of the more embarrassing things I’ve heard about, and that’s already happened to not-you, so how bad could it get?

To Be Continued…

I have more to say about this topic, but for now, I’m going to stop here. Keep an eye out for Fearing Your Readers, Part 3!

I’m surprised at how much I had to say on this topic. I would love to know what others thoughts are on this. Do you feel fear of your readers? Do you disagree with anything I said? Perhaps you have some resources to share about book reviewing, learning about publication and marketing…if so, please share.

Until next time,

Chaitanya

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2 thoughts on “Fearing Your Readers, Part 2

  1. Great inspiring piece. A gentleman recently won a £50,000 prestigious writer’s prize for a book he had written, but which was rejected 78 times by publishers. He had thought everyone would hate his work and ended up destroying almost every copy he had, until he managed to find a copy in his deleted files. After he won, his sales rocketed overnight, when viewers say him on TV. It just goes to show, that somehow we have to step on this head of self-doubt and proceed with that little drop of faith in what we believe in or set out to do. 🙂 And never let anyone dictate on how we should write or for what genre. We write about what we feel compelled to write about.

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  2. Thank you so much for your comment! I like the story you shared about the gentleman who doubted his work so much that he deleted almost all copies of his book. It’s sad that self-doubt ate away at him so much, of course, but I like that it shows us all the we are all human and we all doubt; we are not alone in our struggles. And in a way, that in itself is encouragement for us to keep going. I guess that’s cheesy to say, haha 😉 but I really feel it! Solidarity in unity, right? A stick alone can break, but a bundle of sticks is more difficult to break! =) Thanks again for your comment.

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