Your Commitment to Your Reader

When you’re working to get your book published, you feel you have lots of people to please. First, you have to be satisfied with your book. Then, you need to find an agent to partner with you to present your work to editors, who are her customers. Then the editor must sell your work to the editorial committee. Then it goes to the publishing committee. So along the way, you’ve had lots of people to please. Now you’re ready for the ultimate test: making readers happy. For if you can convince readers your book is worth purchasing, then you’ll have good sales figures to start your successful career.

So what are your obligations to your reader?

Present Them with Your Best

 Have you ever read a book and wondered if the author turned in a first draft? This is not how you want your reader to feel, no matter how long you’ve been writing or how rushed you feel during the process. Perhaps you turned in your book, feeling it rocked, only to find your editor disagreed and you’ve got to spend considerable time rewriting. That’s the time to see if your agent can get you an extension. Better to turn in thoughtful revisions than to rush to meet an unrealistic deadline.

Know How Long You Need to Write

Some writers can churn out books faster than Superman can fly. Others need much more time. Realize what works for you and work to write your best. Take the time you need. You can do this by realizing that you now have a career. Make the time to do your work properly.

Value Your Readers’ Time

Your readers are paying for helpful advice, encouragement, a riveting story, or some combination of the three. Cut out all unnecessary words and anything that makes the book drag. You are not writing for yourself. You are writing for your reader.

Be Positive

As an author, you are now required to have an online presence. Make sure it’s uplifting, confident, and in keeping with your brand. Make your readers feel you are friendly and care about them. Because you do.

Your turn

What author meets these goals for you as a reader?

What other obligations do you think an author has to readers?

 

25 Responses to Your Commitment to Your Reader

  1. Shirlee Abbott May 10, 2018 at 3:49 am #

    For some people, reading is hard work. I include them in my reading audience (I write Bible studies and Christian life non-fiction)., I value their effort. I do that by using short words and simple sentences, and explaining any hard words that are absolutely necessary. But most of all, I must respect them and not treat them like little children. They are mature adults who read at a child’s level. I invite them to the Bible study table, I include them in the conversation.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray May 10, 2018 at 8:42 am #

      That’s a great idea, Shirlee! May your Bible studies reach too many people to count!

  2. Julie Christian May 10, 2018 at 6:22 am #

    Thanks for an insightful blog post as always, Tamela. As an author, I try to be responsible for giving my reader the gift of sitting in someone elses shoes- of seeing the world through another person’s eyes. I appreciate it when an author can do that for me…transport me so perfectly that I forget myself for the time that I am reading. I particularly like to see the sameness in the journey of life from different perspectives. I truly appreciate when an author can completely illuminate a different corner of the world for me, yet I still see how as humans, we all have similar struggles. I LOVE that. My goal (responsibility) as a writer would be to illuminate that for a reader.

    I love Edith Wharton for doing that in House of Mirth for me. I also love Tolstoy for making me see that over 200 years ago, women were still struggling with their love/hate relationship with motherhood. Tolstoy blows my mind with how he can walk into different peoples brains and truly “get” how they think. I would love to know how he was able to do that. His writing is truly a gift to me.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray May 10, 2018 at 8:43 am #

      Thanks for the encouragement, Julie! Great points, and I like your book recommendations, too.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser May 10, 2018 at 6:34 am #

    The first name that comes to mind as an example of meeting obligations to the reader is Carol Ashby. Her historical Christian fiction, set in the Roman empire, is cleanly written and presents both good story and good message; her blogs are excellent adjunct to the books, and show her engaging enthusiasm for both history and ministry.

    Two other obligations that I think might be added are intellectual and spiritual rigour.

    In the first, plot should be carefully examined and any ‘holes’ or nagging questions eliminated. The reader should never be forced to say, “Well, OK, I don’t believe it but I’ll have to accept it.”

    And character should be likewise consistent, but not cliche’d. Both the flawless hero and the ‘villain you love to hate’ are straw-men on the lazy road. Real people are creatures of the Fall that retain a Divine spark.

    Spiritual rigour’s vital in presenting the Christian message; it need not be doctrinaire to a specific congregational body, but it’s got to be consistent with Scripture, and the reader should be able to move through the book without having the feeling she’s being led astray…or, far worse, be led astray without realizing it.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray May 10, 2018 at 8:45 am #

      Well said, Andrew. An editor told me recently that the villain has to be someone worth outsmarting. I agree. There’s not much reward in winning over a dumb villain.

      And yes, if we pray over our books before pressing SEND, surely the Lord will guide us in our work.

      • Tamela Hancock Murray May 10, 2018 at 8:46 am #

        P.S. — I hope Carol sees your comment!

        • Carol Ashby May 10, 2018 at 9:54 am #

          I did. Andrew is the best Barnabas I know, even if his literary judgement may be a bit off. But I do take giving my readers my absolute best very seriously, backed by research and written with prayer.

  4. Rebekah Love Dorris May 10, 2018 at 7:21 am #

    Hmm. This may be silly, but I think the most important obligation a writer has to loyal readers is to write.

    Not everyone can write powerful truths wrapped in compelling story. Those who can, should. I heard Jerry Jenkins quote James Scott Bell the other day that 90% of our work should be writing, and only 10% should be platform building.

    Few things make me hate social media like seeing powerful authors lose themselves in Facebook and quit writing. It makes me want to throw platform to the wind and just write. If only I can quit scrolling!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray May 10, 2018 at 8:47 am #

      Well, you’ve just made me feel much less guilty for letting my social media presence slide lately. I’ve been happily swamped with my work as an agent!

  5. Norma Brumbaugh May 10, 2018 at 8:33 am #

    Sincerity, truthfulness, non-condensending in tone, are important in nonfiction. It’s interesting, we all have our preferences. I’ve selected books, mostly nonfiction spiritual, for my book dinner ladies group for fourteen years. I know what kind of books each person likes, and it has a lot to do with tone and message. While I read the selected book, I am forming in my mind what I think each lady will say, and if they will like the book (my predictions are fairly accurate). I stay away from picking preachy books that tell you how to think. And I stay away from books with a ‘poor me’ or negative whine to them…even if the content has richness in it. Even in nonfiction a story is being told. The way it’s being told can make all the difference. I think the author is selling something–an idea, a consideration, a realization, a desire, a truism about life, a conclusion–whether they realize it or not. I particularly like one liners that speak to my soul. These end up in my journal.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray May 10, 2018 at 8:48 am #

      How wonderful that you’ve consistently been able to find excellent nonfiction spiritual books for so long for a small group. Kudos and blessings to you!

  6. Sy Garte May 10, 2018 at 9:22 am #

    Thanks for the good advice. As an expert writing non fiction, I need to take it seriously.

  7. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D May 10, 2018 at 1:12 pm #

    Thanks for the great posting, Tamela. Some of my favorite authors who I see as fulfilling their responsibilities to their readers are the agents at the Steve Laube Agency who share their insights on a daily basis with those of us just starting out, as well as long-term authors.

  8. Diana Derringer May 10, 2018 at 2:02 pm #

    Thank you for the reminders.

  9. Tamela Hancock Murray May 10, 2018 at 2:03 pm #

    🙂

  10. Bev Varnado May 10, 2018 at 2:17 pm #

    Tamela,

    I read an article this week about writers who churn out books in order to make algorithms work for them. Really?

    That’s not the writer I want to be. Ever.

    I strive to be a thoughtful writer and for me, that takes time. I have been most influenced by Jan Karon whose lovely work often leaves me with something to ponder. I want my readers to have the same response to my work.

    Thank you for a timely post.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray May 10, 2018 at 3:28 pm #

      Wow, I think it would be very stressful to write to suit ever-changing algorithms! Keep to your path!

  11. Angela Carlisle May 10, 2018 at 4:00 pm #

    There are several authors that consistently meet these goals for me. Lynette Eason, Terri Blackstock, and Sarah Sundin are the top three that come to mind – I usually order whatever they have coming out well before the release date because I know I won’t be disappointed.

    As far as other obligations – the main thing I’d emphasize is the importance of proper research, no matter the genre. I’m one of the perhaps odd (lol) people that will notice things like improper gun terminology for a character that should know better, etc. (Sorry for the example, I read and write suspense so that’s the first thing that came to mind). Unless the error is totally off the wall, I don’t let it bug me, but it does pull me out of the story for a moment.

  12. Kathleen Denly May 10, 2018 at 4:13 pm #

    This is a great post. You make several good points. I think knowing how long you need to write is a key issue for new authors. Until we get a contract, it can be easy to neglect the self-discipline of keeping to a schedule. Without enforcing our own deadlines it can be difficult to answer the question of how long it takes us to write a book or to know whether we can write one in a given period of time. Setting my own deadline and attempting to meet it is a piece of advice I received a few years ago that made a big difference in the way I write.

    Valuing a reader’s time has always been a guiding principle in my work and the reason I seek out so many critiques of my manuscripts. I think it is important that authors put themselves after their readers when it comes to ego vs editing and revising. I don’t know any reader who hasn’t picked up a book they regretted purchasing or reading. Particularly in the self-publishing world. Some of my favorite authors are independently published, but they have a bigger uphill battle due to those who continue to just type up a story and send it out into the world without bothering to do the hard work of studying their craft and slogging through edits and revisions. The number one question I ask myself when I write book reviews on my blog is, “Is this book worth a reader’s time?” and that is what I ask myself when I work on my own stories. I’m humble enough to know, however, that I can’t judge my own work objectively. It’s my baby and I’m undeniably biased. That’s one reason God didn’t put writers on this earth alone. It’s why we need to seek out those with more experience and the willingness to guide us with honest, educated feedback.
    Okay. Getting off my soapbox now. 😉

    Just a sprinkling of the authors which I think do an excellent job of meeting reader expectations include, Roseanna White, Jody Hedlund, Elizabeth Camden, Sondra Kraak, Angela K Couch, … I could go on for pages. Actually, I do in a way – on my blog. LOL

  13. Sharon K. Connell May 11, 2018 at 7:06 am #

    I’m an Indie author, new to this site, and very grateful that you put out information important to writers, both new and experienced. Thank you. I’m always in learning mode.

  14. Bob May 11, 2018 at 8:54 am #

    Very good words. Thanks for the insight.

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