Tag Archives: readership

Readers Are Like Phone Companies

I recently got a new phone, as my old one wasn’t functioning as well as it should–not to mention, I hated it from the start–but had to stick with it because…well, two-year contract and all.

Anyway, I love my new phone as much as I hated my old one. Sticking with it for the duration of my contract will be a pleasure, whereas my last one was a pain right from the get go.

Kind of reminds me of books…

Back in the day, I read anything and everything–always finishing what I started. Always. I was easily amused and had a lot more down time with which to fill with words.

Alas, my time is shorter now, as is my patience. Books, unlike cell phones, do not have restrictive contracts. If a reader hates the first chapter, first page, first line, he doesn’t have to keep reading. He can discard the old and buy a new one without paying a penalty fee.

As I’ve gotten older and my down time shorter, I have resorted to this method myself. In fact, I recently read–and loved–the first novel in a trilogy that everyone was raving about. Seconds after finishing the first one, I picked up the second. The writing had slipped and the characterization was a mere shell of what it had been in the debut. Yet, the storyline was enough to hold me to the end.

However, by the end, I was so exasperated I wanted to send both books and a crabby note to the author voicing my disappointment that the second book was a bridge book between the first and final in the trilogy–and a poorly done one at that. I didn’t, and I won’t. But, I didn’t purchase the last book.

My time is short, and I certainly didn’t sign a trilogy contract with the publisher. I didn’t have to stick with the story just because I had started it.

And this is what terrifies me about being an author. It’s what should terrify us all. Our readers do not have to stick with our writing. Rather than them having a contract with our book, we have a contract with them. As authors, it is our job to deliver a good story, page after page. It is our duty to fulfill the promise that engaged our readers in the first place.

Our readers are Verizon and T-Mobile and AT&T. They hold the contract. We, the writers, are bound by their expectations for the duration of our books. If we break this contract, the penalty fee we pay is in lost readership.

So, dear readers, what types of things make you break your contract with an author?

Curious minds want to know.

Blogability

When I spilled the secret of my blog to close family and friends, my sister-in-law responded with a very tongue in cheek “post” of her own.  In essence stating she had absolutely nothing to say, no reason to say it and nobody to listen even if she did.

Yet billions of blogs litter cyber space, chatting away about things like potty training and purchasing tractors to pithy takes on the publishing industry.  Blogs cover every topic that could potentially be interesting, as well as many others that undoubtedly are not.  However each and every one serves a purpose to the author as well as to the readers, no matter how numerous or few they may be.

So how many blogs are there?  I couldn’t find a current answer, though I think they are squeezed into the bright new world as often as babies are delivered to excited and expectant parents.  I can’t help but wonder if the death rate is similar.

Blogs are certainly hard to maintain.  They take time to set up, time and energy to post and the inclination to return comments on comments.  They take creativity–even for hard non-fiction sites.  Each post needs to be well thought out and executed in language that keeps readers coming back for more.  I can only assume they are as easily negelected as my New Year’s resolutions.

A quick Google search turns up more blogs than imaginable and begs the question of whether the authors are “qualified” to write them.  I could feasibly write a blog on anything if I did enough research to sound like I knew what I was talking about.  Or is that even important?  Opinion is passed from person to person faster than headlice between bedmates and with blogs as the medium, readers could find themselves quickly mired in a world of untruths and not even know it.

“But I heard it from my best friend’s father’s uncle’s cousin’s friend who knows the step-granddaughter of the uncle of the president’s neice so it must be true.”

But even if it’s true, does anyone want to read about it?  My new blog has a nifty little feature that tracks the number of visits to my site each day.  My last one did not.  It amazes me to watch the fluctuation of hits.  It also makes me a little paranoid and I find myself wanting to check it–obsessively and compulsively–to figure out my Blogability.

Why do people read it?  Why do I read other blogs?  What makes a blog good enough to enjoy a long life for anyone but the writer?  Or is it enough for the writer to simply write?  If no one reads it, does it really exist?

My Blogability criteria is this: do I feel a connection to the writer, do I find the writing interesting and informative and do I feel compelled to check it out the next day?  If the answer is yes, a blog has Blogability.  To me.

For example, I love the warmth and sincerity I find in some blogs, while others inspire me or stretch my way of thinking.  Some amuse me and others are rock solid information centers.  Some motivate me by the sheer energy of the author and others are like curling up with a cup of hot cocoa in front of the fire place.   

I’d like to learn more about the blogosphere.  For example, why do bloggers blog and why do readers read?  What keeps them coming back for more?

Perhaps your comments can help unravel a little of the mystery.  How many blogs do you follow (or maintain)?  What gives them Blogability?  Have you ever dropped a blog?  If so, why?  Are the number of hits on your blog important to you? 

My blog is a journey and I think I would write it even if nobody read it.  Though I must admit I really enjoy connecting with all of you.  It’s an unanticipated pleasure and one I hope to maintain for a long time.

~cat

Writing Is Exactly Like Selling Tractors

Huh? 

Tractors are my bread and butter.  Not mine, specifically, as I have no experience selling them.  I could barely tell you the difference between a tractor and a combine.  Yet, after seventeen years of marriage to an Ag Manager, I know a thing or two about DH’s expectations for his sale’s force. 

Basing  my marketing plan off his successful sale’s model makes perfect sense to me.  And once I’m done, you should walk around thinking tractors and books aren’t really all that different.

  1. Writing is a product.  Books, like tractors, must provide the buyer with their heart’s desire.  Each novel, picture book or how-to has a purpose.  It may be sheer entertainment, or it may have educational value.  Regardless of how it is written, the end product is useful.  Just like a tractor is to a farmer.
  2. Writers must know their genres.  Fieldmarketers must know their tractors.  Not that I want to buy a tractor, but if I did, I would find myself a reputable dealer knowledgable about their products.  I would never buy a tractor from a business that only sold lawnmowers and garden weasles.  Likewise, I would never write a Sci-Fi on time travel using quantum physics as a basis for reality.  Though I graduated in the top 10% of my class, I can honestly admit that I am physic-ally illiterate. 
  3. Writers must have a brand or a platform to successfully sell their books.  Tractors have Case IH and John Deere (and others).  Some farmers buy on color (red vs. green) regardless of the product–simply because of branding.  Many book-buyers purchase books based on name recognition.  In a side by side throw down, the familiar name almost always beats out the competion. 
  4. Authors must be approachable.  I would never buy my hypothetical tractor from a curmudgeon.  If I walked into a dealership (and I have walked into many) and the fieldmarketer glowered at me, ignored me or was otherwise unapproachable, I would find myself another dealership.  A writer must like (or appear to like) her readership.  Bashing kids as a nasty breed is not likely to endear me to my potential buyers.
  5. Writers must deliver.  A cool cover blurb might entice me to shell out my hard earned cash on the first book, but if the writing doesn’t equal the promise, I guarantee I will never buy from Author Anita Cell again.  Ever!  I’ve been married to DH long enough to know that farmers are equally demanding.  Bad performance = negative repeat business.  Good service = customers for life.

To become successful writers, we must know what we write, care about our readership and deliver the goods.  Failing this, don’t bother heading to the nearest Ag Dealership and asking for a job.  Their fieldmarketers are held to the same high standards. 

If we are lucky, our books will grow wheels and drive themselves right off the shelves!

~cat