The value I’m offering MY Readers

You’ll never get it back

A blogger’s question made me think:

HOW MUCH TIME do my potential readers spend looking for SOMETHING, ANYTHING interesting to read before finding a few possibles,

and

HOW MUCH MORE TIME do they spend starting and then giving up on books that pass their initial selection process – BEFORE they find one they like and actually enjoy reading to the end?

Readers may have preferences, but the good ones, the educated literate WHALE readers – the ones who read a lot of books, hard books, complex books, and often buy them in hardcover (which I will produce when I have 1) a lot of time, or 2) Amazon lets me into their beta hardcover program), and then RECOMMEND them to their friends – are often happy to just read ‘a good book.’

Because their appetites are not satisfied – no matter how many books are on their To Be Read piles.

They are not looking for ‘more of the same vampire books.’ Or ‘the latest James Patterson book.’ Or another ‘clean Romance.’

They are let down by what they read (have you seen how many NEGATIVE reviews there are on books such as The Goldfinch? They won’t all be people who can’t handle the complexity and bought it primarily as a coffeetable book!).

They want what writers are counseled to produce: a good book

So it got me to thinking about my writing, and what I am trying to produce, a good story, a book that is worth the time invested in reading it, a book which will make the same Reader want the next in the trilogy.

It’s easier for me to vet my potential Readers than for me to try to please everyone (an impossibility).

So I’m going to try to QUANTIFY the ineffable

There’s an example: If you are potentially MY Reader, either you already know what ‘ineffable’ means, or you will figure it out from context and a dictionary – because you like words and enjoy pinning down ones you’ve seen before but don’t remember exactly what they mean. And either way, it will give you PLEASURE just sitting there on your page.

If ‘ineffable’ appearing in your reading material is annoying because you think the writer’s being elitist or you’re done with SAT words, your are NOT my potential Reader.

Because ineffable came to my mind as what I wanted to say (and I did a quick check to make sure I didn’t have it mixed up with something else – fatal to the point I’m trying to make). Something unquantifiable because it is big and complex: how to help Readers know the value of my work – to them, the only people they are really interested in satisfying.

Everything else is miscommunication.

And I’m going to quantify it in a very me way

I’m going to make a list of books which have influenced Pride’s Children by being favorites of mine still years after I’ve read most of them, and why.

I’ve done this on Goodreads when carefully looking for potential reviewers, using the Compare books feature, especially if they’ve reviewed and I can see if our reasons for loving a book are compatible.

All you have to do to find out if you are potentially a Reader of my fiction is to see if several of these hit you in similar ways.

For the actual writing part – because we can love the same books without me being able to produce a coherent sentence in a similar style – I will make my standard recommendation: go to Amazon, to the print version – because my formatting is part of how I want to write. The ebook is available and I love it, too, but ebooks have reflowable text on purpose so you can change fonts and sizes to suit you; great for reading, not so great for seeing if you like everything about the author.

  1. Read – but don’t get hung up on – the description; these are always being tweaked to occupy the very limited real estate on the book’s page. It is an indicator, not the definitive reason for choosing or not choosing a book.
  2. Read some of the reviews. I’d choose several of the top reviews (most of the longer 5* ones from older men) and maybe a couple of the few negative ones (you’ll know what I mean if my writing will appeal to you). Go for the long ones – but not the ones which summarize and ruin the plot: you’re looking for reviewers like you.
  3. Read a few pages of the Look Inside! – by the end of the third scene you will have met all the point of view characters, by the end of the first chapter or two you will have picked up the as-needed style of alternating them, and by the end of the sample, if not much sooner, you will know if – in your opinion – I can write.
  4. Ten or twenty minutes spent will tell you all you need to know. And you should spend that on a potential book; Pride’s Children PURGATORY will take you a good while to read.

That’s it: checkout my list of influencers and read a bit of the actual writing, and then, if you’re one of us, buy in your favorite format and get to reading.

I can guarantee it’s a good story; after all, it has occupied all my usable writing time for the past twenty-one years, I’m almost finished with volume 2 (which ends well but still leaves you wanting more), and volume 3 is completely plotted and exists in rough draft form (so you know I know exactly where we’re going).

What kind of a good story?

Well, here is a partial list of the themes woven in there somewhere:

  • Family matters
  • Love is based on trust
  • Children matter – and must be protected
  • Beliefs are important
  • Beliefs lead to action
  • Right beliefs lead to right action
  • Dignity matters
  • Good will prevail
  • Life throws stuff at you – how you handle it is who you are
  • You can’t stay married to someone who doesn’t want you
  • Some people are objectively better than others
  • Integrity matters
  • Evil exists – and can’t be excused
  • Love transcends age
  • We have a capacity for intense love: of a character. Of an actor. Of a story.
  • Disability themes: how common it is, the intrinsic value of the person who is disabled, and the empathy I want developed in readers and the world.

And the overall theme: How you live your life PROVES what you believe. And believe in.

Now for those influencer books:

(you will want to have read – and liked or have been affected by – at least several):

  • Dune (plus Dune Messiah and Children of Dune)
  • Jane Eyre
  • Wuthering Heights
  • On the Beach, Trustee from the Toolroom
  • The Thorn Birds
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Roccannon’s World, Planet of Exile
  • Leviathan’s Deep
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • Great Expectations
  • Frankenstein
  • Strong Poison, Have his Carcase, Gaudy Night, Busman’s Honeymoon, Talboys
  • Rebecca
  • Exodus
  • Lucifer’s Hammer
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Dr. Zhivago
  • The Exorcist
  • The Dying of the Light (also named After the Festival), A Song for Lya
  • Ender’s Game
  • Huckleberry Finn
  • The Foundation trilogy
  • The Crystal Cave, The Last Enchantment
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes
  • Brave New World
  • The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Black Beauty
  • Silas Marner
  • Snow Falling on Cedars, Our Lady of the Forest
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • The Three Musketeers
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • GWTW
  • Way Station
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz
  • The Name of the Rose

A good serving of these plus a familiarity with Shakespeare and the Bible.

That’s basically it

Spend a bit of time vetting your reading material – you will be spending hours of your life you will never get back – and then settle in to a nice long encounter.

You may also pray for good health for the writer; in this case, she needs to be semi-functional to be able to write at all.

IF you are persuaded, leave a comment saying why – feedback is crucial to writers, especially if you want more work from them.

**********

17 thoughts on “The value I’m offering MY Readers

  1. marianallen

    Ineffable is one of those words that makes me happy to hear or read. Thank you for giving me the gift of it today. I’ve read most (but not all) of your influencing books. I’m definitely one of your readers!

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It’s a retrospective list of what I DID read, much of it a while back. My parents had The Great Books, and a lot of my reading material in English came from big fat high school and college American and English literature anthologies. My grandmother had been an English teacher, one of the few women of her generation to go to college, and had several of these at her house in Mexico City.

      So the little girl from California growing up in Mexico who craved more reading material in English had: Nancy Drew (bless you, Tía Nena, my godmother) at Christmas and birthdays (always read before the day was out), and a lot of good stuff in those textbooks, plus my grandparents’ National Geographics. It biases you!

      Oh, and an English-speaking friend in Lindavista, the suburb where we lived, lent me The Complete Sherlock Holmes – in two volumes. Yup. I had the experience of thinking Holmes had died at the Reichenbach Falls with Moriarty, then had to return that book (a long walk) thinking the other volume would just be more short stories. A heavy experience for a nine-year-old.

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      1. acflory

        -grin- I had an op. when I was eight and wasn’t allowed to watch tv for a while. No one said anything about books so….
        The local library and a couple of convenient second hand bookshops were my sources.
        Did you ever read any of the Fu Manchu series? Great fun.
        I think once a kid discovers the wonder of reading, nothing else ever quite compares.

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I had NO source of books in English except these. There was an American Bookstore in Mexico City, but I was never taken there. That’s where my godmother bought the Nancy Drews. There was enough, somehow, and Daddy didn’t know I read the paperbacks (like Ian Fleming’s) he brought back from business trips.

          I remember a lot of paperbacks and Reader’s Digest Condensed Books volume in the house in Acapulco.

          Mexico has no public libraries. Our school had one – I don’t remember doing it, but I must have taken some volumes out there. I was an omnivorous continuous reading machine, so found stuff for my habits somewhere. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        2. acflory

          You know, we’ve been incredibly lucky because we learned how to write from the very best masters – books. That’s something you can’t teach. 🙂

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        3. acflory

          As you’ve probably gathered, I’m not a fan of creative writing courses. Not too fond of [most of] the stuff that floats around the internet, but I do admit that reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ did resonate, especially the bit about reading, reading, reading.
          I won’t get started on a rant about education, but I do wish kids were taught to love reading instead of hating it. 😦

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        4. acflory

          Sadly yes. I never taught at primary school level but I saw the deficit at secondary level. If I could wave a magic wand and change the system, I’d mandate that kids in primary be /encouraged/ to read comics, fan fic, the dialogue from their favourite video game, in short anything that takes their fancy. The only requirement being that they read something they /enjoy/.
          lol – and instead of forcing them to write achingly awful essays on ‘what I did on the weekend’, I’d get them to co-operatively write plays and act them out. And of course, every actor would have to have a copy of the dialogue and stage directions. 😀
          -sigh- sorry, I was born a Donna Quixote.

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        5. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I’m not the kind to take a ‘creative writing’ course. Maybe I was way back when I was beginning to put words into stories and discovered how far what was on the page was from the vivid version in my head.

          So I buckled down and learned – my way. Slowly. From writing books (this all happened after I became chronically ill, so going the route where you read other people’s garbage work and comment on it wasn’t a good option when I tried it) – dog-eared, hand-indexed, annotated, and underlined so much I will have to buy a new set when I being a new project. Or maybe I will have learned enough not to have to – I consult less and less these days.

          I have beta readers to tell me what the effect of my words is on them. Usually now it’s exactly what I intended, and I feel skills getting slotted into my toolbox in permanent form.

          Everyone needs some kind of feedback at some point, but I can’t see getting it from a course or teacher at this point – too slow.

          Reading is a good way to become the character – you can’t do that as well when you are watching an actor. My kids were readers when I had them at home – good enough.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. acflory

          My apprenticeship as a writer of fiction began in 2000 or 2001. I’d been writing for about ten years before then, but that was technical writing so the first few years of fiction writing involved unlearning much of what I’d learned before. Even now, I find it far easier to write a how-to than a scene in a story.
          It took me about 13 years to publish anything and even longer to feel comfortable calling myself a ‘writer’.
          These days I think of myself as a ‘journeyman’ because the process of learning and refining never ends. 🙂

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  2. naleta

    Reading that list of influencer books explains why I really liked Pride’s Children. I read all but about 5. (Otto Corrupt doesn’t like influencer, lol.)

    Liked by 1 person

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