What Readers Want

readers want

If you’re a writer, the most effective way to attract readers is to carefully consider what readers want. It really is that simple.

But don’t fall into the common trap of thinking things like, “Most people won’t mind if there are typos,” “I know someone who paid $25 for an e-book, so I can sell mine for $9.99,” or “The content is more important than the cover.”

Don’t think, “What will the reader settle for?” Think, “What does the reader want?”

Fewer customers will settle for it. Many more customers will buy what they want.

I don’t mean that you have to write in the most popular genre. I don’t mean that you have to sell out, compromising your beliefs. I don’t mean that you have to study the bestsellers and copy their techniques.

You do need to think long and hard about what your specific target audience wants if you wish to maximize your sales. Following are specific examples of what I mean:

  • Readers want stories that they will enjoy and nonfiction books that will be useful. The storyline or content should be complete, thought out well, engaging throughout, pleasing to the specific target audience, better than average, and within reasonable scope of their expectations (based on the cover, blurb, and category). Readers want to love or despise the main characters, and they want to relate to characters or enjoy a new experience.
  • Genre readers want their expectations for the genre to be met. For example, romance readers want to fall in love, cry over broken hearts, see broken hearts mended, enjoy a happy ending, etc.; in a given romance subgenre, they want just the right amount of explicitness. They don’t want the protagonist to have certain behavior flaws. It pays to research and understand the specific target audience. Readers don’t want stories that violate important rules for the genre.
  • Readers want a clear indication of what they’re getting at a glance. This means that the cover must visually show what your book is about. The precise fiction subgenre or nonfiction subcategory should be obvious from a quick glance at your cover. The cover should also indicate the nature of the content. Why? Because the reader wants to find books quickly. Books that don’t send a clear signal, or which send mixed messages or the wrong signal, won’t get the limited attention that shoppers have to offer.
  • Readers want the blurb to be honest, clear, concise (so they can decide quickly), and pique their interest. If 100 words don’t interest the reader, it wouldn’t be wise to read 100,000 words by the same author.
  • Readers want books to be easy to find. They want to find it in the relevant subcategory (and not find it where it doesn’t belong). They want to find it with relevant keywords (but not find books that shouldn’t show up in the search). They want the cover to depict the content and genre clearly to help them find the book. They want a title that’s easy to remember and spell. They want to see book reviews that help them find good books. They want the author or publisher to go to the trouble of helping them find books they are likely to enjoy. But they don’t want intrusive advertising.
  • Readers want books that are well-written, nicely formatted, and free of spelling, grammar, and other mistakes. They are paying money for a book and they are investing time in the book, so why shouldn’t they expect to receive a professional book in return?
  • Readers want a great value. They don’t just want a low price. They want a great book at a fair price. Some readers shop a higher price range thinking that you get what you pay for. But no matter what the reader pays, the reader expects to receive a great book. Even if the book is free. It’s not worth investing several hours on a book for it not to be professional and good, even if it’s free.
  • Readers want a great story, great characterization, great editing, great writing, great formatting, a great cover, a great blurb, and a great price. Why not? When there are books out there that are great all around, why should any reader settle for less?

Give readers what they really, really want, and your book is apt to find many more readers. Give them something they must settle for, and only some (if any) will choose to settle.

Remember to ask yourself what readers want. Ask yourself this when you’re writing your book, when you’re formatting your book, when you’re pricing your book, when you’re writing your blurb, when you’re deciding on your cover, when you’re marketing, and in your public relations.

For example, there are customers who absolutely do not want you to invade their space in the review section and comment on a review. Since some customers feel very strongly about this, it may be best to give them what they want.

If you were an entrepreneur running a small business, it would serve you well to think about what the customers want.

As an author-preneur, it serves you well to think about what your specific target audience wants.

About My Blog

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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6 comments on “What Readers Want

  1. Reblogged this on Forget the Viagra, Pass Me a Carrot and commented:
    This is an excellent post if you are thinking about writing a book. You also have to remember that your audience that gasped delightedly over your first book will evolve as a reader over time and that you need to evolve too. For example I have the complete collection of Wilbur Smith books. I bought my first at 11 and having lived in South Africa I related to the wonderful stories of the early settlers. The Egyptian Trilogy was wonderful too and so were those set in the 70’s and 80’s. I was disappointed with Those in Peril because I felt that the writing was still set in the 80’s whilst trying to incorporate new technology. My husband bought me the sequel and I am afraid that despite the fact that I will read to the last page through loyalty, the writing is old fashioned and seems caught in a time warp. I love him and treasure the stories that I have re-read time and again but I am afraid he has lost sight of who is readers are now. The old stalwarts will continue to buy but he will not attract a new and younger audience. Has the book sold well, of course it has because like me there are millions of his fans around the world who have and will buy his book. Sorry Wilbur and thanks Chris for reminding us about why and for whom we write. It is not just ourselves.

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