Love the Reader

The publishing business can be an overwhelming one. We hear so much advice from so many different sources. And to make things even more overwhelming, that advice often conflicts.

So what’s an author to do?

When we have a million voices shouting at us from a million different directions, who do we listen to? What do we listen to?

I won’t pretend to have it figured out. But this past weekend, I attended a workshop at the ACFW conference that helped quiet the noise and simplify the chaos. Ami McConnell, an editor for Thomas Nelson, shared a piece of advice that left me feeling lighter.

The piece of advice was this:

Love your reader.

So very simple. Yet so very profound.

In an industry where the could-do’s on an author’s list multiplies with ridiculous speed, this is the one thing I think we can all agree upon. The one thing that would benefit us all. Developing a genuine love for our readers and letting that love be the foundation upon which we build our careers.

So the question is this: How do we love our readers? There are all kinds of ways, but for today’s post, I just want to share three.

We love our readers when we take the time to know them.

You can’t love who you don’t know. As writers, it’s important to figure out who our readers are or will be. It’s important to be available to them. To listen to them. To respond to them. And when we take the time to know them, to see them as real people with real problems, hopes, and fears, something about the way we write and the way we interact on social media shifts. This journey and our stories become less about us and more about them.

We love our readers when we respect them.

This includes respecting their time. And reading a book takes time. We want to craft stories that make the time our readers spend on our words worthwhile. So are we constantly learning and improving and striving to create stories that will leave our readers entertained? Changed? Edified?

We love our readers when we share a piece of ourselves.

The best writing comes from a place of vulnerability. And being vulnerable means exploring and revealing parts of ourselves that aren’t pretty, parts of ourselves that might be painful. But when we do that, when we risk vulnerability, we’re reaching for a greater purpose. Our words are no longer about book sales and the market, they’re about touching something deep inside our readers. They’re about speaking truth, offering hope, and leaving people inspired.

Do you feel overwhelmed as you travel this journey? What overwhelms you the most? What are other ways we can love our reader?

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25 thoughts on “Love the Reader

  1. Do I feel overwhelmed as I travel the writing road? Um, yes. But I’m not looking for a detour. I’m not moving over to the slow lane.
    What overwhelms me the most: my silly vaulting ambitions, i.e. trying to do it all, when that’s not the point. Because, really, I can’t do it all.
    I can only do the next thing. And then the next.
    And repeat.
    Loving my reader means realizing I’m building a relationship with my reader. And so often building a relationship means being willing to go first … to start the conversation. Offer the hidden thought rather than the typical “I’m fine” meaningless bit of conversation. And today conversation happens via blogs. And tweets. And FB pages. And vlogs. And, I hope, face to face.

    Thanks for an thought-provoking post, Katie!

  2. Katie, what wonderful words you’ve shared here. As a non-fiction writer, sometimes I believe loving the readers comes naturally because I’m constantly trying to grasp and convey the limitless, incredible love God has for them. In that process, I see them through His eyes. But sometimes picking just the right words when treading carefully over delicate topics can become debilitating in the effort to ensure our words heal and not tear down. Keeping love at the forefront makes all the difference. Thanks so much for this great post.

    • Donne, I love this: In that process, I see them through His eyes.

      Another thing Ami talked about was praying for our readers. I think these two go hand-in-hand.

      • I agree with what Donna said, totally. And Katie’s right, praying for our readers is critical. I have one day a week I pray for our blog readers, our FB readers, our Yahoo loop members, and we pray for those God wants to read our book. Love the potential of bringing that to my future fiction readers. I wrote my first novel for this very same group. Just love this train of thought!

  3. “Our words are no longer about book sales and the market, they’re about touching something deep inside our readers. They’re about speaking truth, offering hope, and leaving people inspired.”

    I love this line! I just got feedback from a contest that I entered and got some mixed messages from that. I have a lot of work to do on my story, but remembering why I want to do this will help – I hope – me to see the editing/polishing process in a different light. It’s all about making it great for my readers. Great post. Thank you. I hope to go to the conference next year, I’ve been reading such great things about it.

    • I’m so glad that line encouraged you, Sherri! And what a great attitude – to look at our edits/revisions as a way to strengthen our stories for our reader. It’s all about respecting them and loving them and when that’s our heart, then all that stuff that can sometimes feel tedious is given new life.

      The ACFW conference is just…..it’s an unbelievable experience. Not only because you’re in a room filled with 600+ writer who understand you, but because those writers love the Lord and we worship together.

  4. Katie, I love this. So simple and so helpful. Sometimes I waiver and doubt my book, but then I think of all the individuals I know who would be helped by it. Sometimes I even picture one specific person as I write. At times it’s scary to be vulnerable but I know the books which have the greatest impact on me are the ones where the author took a risk to show her personal pain. Authors who keep things non-specific bore me. I appreciate you and this post.

  5. What a great post, Katie.

    Rather than reading a craft book at the moment, I’m reviewing stacks of novels I read in the past, before I started writing. I’m paging through them, remembering why I loved them. What has it that hooked me? A character, setting, theme? Since I adore love stories, what about that particular love story made my heart go pitter-pat?

    It helps that, years ago, I bought most of my books straight from the bestseller’s list. So these were the books that touched not only me, but MANY people–literally into the millions. So obviously those novelists loved their readers.

    It’s important to keep readers in mind, and traveling back to my former years as a reader only has been a good way for me to remember this.

  6. I loved this workshop. Ami’s heart for this topic was so obvious. She must be a great editor. It’s something as a new author, I’ve been trying to figure out. I had a bunch of questions I wish I could have asked all those seasoned authors in the room, but I didn’t. I think the hardest point for me is how to love your reader when they don’t love you. I’ve had to deal with this recently and it’s not easy. But I think that’s where perspective comes in, realizing that not everybody is going to love your book for their own reasons. I try to find out what those reasons are, and open a dialogue if they are willing. Chances are they may not read anything else I write, but at least they will remember that I didn’t just brush off their comments. I hope that as I grow as an author, I will have a better idea of who my readers are. With only one book out right now, I’m still not totally sure. 🙂

    • Hey girl – I love what Liz Curtis Higgs said. That there’s a difference between our readers and a person who just happened to read our books. We need to be mindful of our readers – that audience who are books are meant for. And of course we need to listen to anyone who just happened to read our book, but that’s not who we write for. We can’t please everyone and the minute we try, is the minute our writing doesn’t please anyone.

  7. lol It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed as a travel this road, and that makes it easy to tell myself I can just do it for myself and not worry about publication. I’m a reader first. A voracious reader. So I write what I love, hoping that will appeal to the people who like to read the same kinds of things I do.

  8. As the release of my debut novel draws nearer, I’ve been thinking more and more about the women (and handful of men) who will read my historical romance. I want the time they spend with my characters to be enjoyable and uplifting, of course. Even more important, though, I want to interact with my readers. To meet them face-to-face as well as online. To know what’s happening in their lives, what challenges and victories they’ve experienced, what dreams they harbor. Only then will I be able to write stories that resonate with them. As you said so well, Katie, I want to love my readers.

  9. This is great advice… and for me, it makes negative/mixed reviews more tolerable because I know I wrote my book for a specific audience and they are the ones I want to love it. Thanks Katie!

  10. I needed this today, Katie — thank you. I do get overwhelmed, always thinking I should be doing more, more, more. But I love the simple advice you share here: love your reader. And while that doesn’t meant that I can connect personally with every single reader, it does mean that I should make the effort to connect with someone every day. It doesn’t feel so overwhelming when I think of the process as loving one person at a time.

  11. Wise words.
    My new novel is coming out next month and to me that’s what matters most.
    I can only hope whoever reads my book will be entertained, perhaps moved.
    Books have long provided an escape, how wonderful to hear a reader say the same about my own books.

  12. This came at a great time for me as I’m focusing on my marketing plan. There’s often a siple truth in the most complex things and this should be at the center of everything we do. Thanks.

    Wish I could have talked to you more at the conference.

  13. Couldn’t agree more. When I first started blogging, it wasn’t about building a platform. Heck, I didn’t even know what a platform was as it related to writing. I simply put my words out there as a way of connecting with the world. Over the years, I’ve developed many strong friendships with my readers, giving them… penning for them the authentic moments of my life. In turn, I’ve enjoyed getting to know them as they’ve written pieces of their own journeys.

    Loving the reader. It doesn’t get more authentic than this!

    peace~elaine

  14. Thank you for your post. I have been writing for several years but up until three months ago I knew nothing about publishing. I am taking a crash course it would seem. All the information has been very much overwhelming. I was at a place where I didn’t know which way to go. I wasn’t able to attend the conference so I really appreciate what you have shared. Thank you again.

    Glenda Parker

  15. Geat advise for God is love.
    Have you asked back the same question to the editors, agents, and publishers. Do they love and respect aspired writers who knock on their doors?

    My name is not Ishmael.

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