For most of history reading was a well planned event. Even getting a book to read was a big deal. This was especially true when books were handwritten scrolls. The printing press made books more available but they were still very expensive. The creation of lending libraries made books economically available allowing more people to read more books. Eventually, dime novels brought affordable reading to a larger audience who now read both at home and ‘on-the-go’ in buses and trains. Reading had changed.
Books Came With A Price
However, even with greater availability, books still carried a price. Readers still had an investment in the books they purchased. A dull, slow moving, book would often still be read because of the reader’s investment in it. A physical book was also always present as a reminder to the reader that it still needed to be read. Ebooks are changing all this. Reading may never be the same.
Ebooks Have Changed Reading -- Books as Cable TV
I have over 1,200 eBooks on my Kindle. At least 95% of these books were free downloads. Many were selected only because I knew that they might be offered as free for just a day or two. Since I knew that at some point in the future I might want to read any of these books, I downloaded them when I had the opportunity. While I own these books, I have no investment in them. I probably will never read 90% or more of my Kindle books unless I encounter a good reason to read them beyond simply owning them. Such a good reason might come about if an author or a review makes the book seem like something I would really want to read.
Slow Books Now Get Rejected Quickly
Having no investment in hundreds of books, makes me much less likely to finish a slow moving book than I used to be when I read print books. In fact, of the last twenty eBooks I’ve started to read, (and I paid for most of these) I’ve only finished five of them. The rest did not hold my interest. I’ve become a ‘book surfer’. This is not a good thing from a writer’s POV.
“Five Hundred Channels and Nothing to Watch” – The ‘Channel Surfer’s’ Lament
Ebooks are just ‘there’ in the ether. They are like TV shows available on demand with just a click of a button. My Kindle is the same. I can switch books in seconds with just a simple click of my finger. If a book drags, click! It’s gone. And why not? Isn’t there always the hope of ‘greener grass’ on the other side of the fence? Reading is fast becoming a tug-of-war between the book you are currently reading and the lure of a more interesting book that may be just a click away.
The Real Cost of a Book is the Reader’s ‘Opportunity Time’
Think about this: in the past a book could easily cost the equivalent of two or three hours pay for the average reader. When you paid $15 to 25 for a hardbound book, you felt obligated to read it – or at least give it your best try. But with eBooks there is often little to no monetary investment involved.
Each day on Amazon hundreds of new books, still in copyright, are offered to readers for free. There are also over one million available free books that are out of copyright. Readers today are more likely to regard the cost of reading a book in terms of their lost ‘opportunity time’. This is the time they could have spent reading a better book or of doing something else altogether with their leisure time.
Is Reading this Book the Best Use of My Limited Time to Read?
With an almost unlimited supply of free books. readers are faced with this question: “Is this the best use of my reading time or could I be reading a more enjoyable book?”
The TBR pile takes on a whole new meaning in this world of digital reading. Can it really be said that books are being put aside to be read later? Were these free eBooks obtained with the sincere intention of reading them someday as are books in a TBR pile? Perhaps the books that will be read in the future will be simply those that provide the greatest incentive to be read at the moment. Even when a buyer does buy an ebook this by itself provides little assurance that the reader will even remember that the book is owned.
Reading Anytime, Anywhere – Entertain Me -- Prove You’re Worth My Time
Reading has moved from being a ‘sit-down’ concentrated event – often at home in an easy chair – to being an anytime, anywhere, fleeting experience. With digital books a reader can have any book instantly available in any given situation. This can include traffic tie-ups or long waits on line.
The New Reading Requires Changes In Writing
Writers now face a new reading reality. It’s not just that reading preferences have changed. Reading itself is changing. These changes will continue profoundly as eBooks become the norm.
Changes That Are Coming:
1. Readers will demand more highly entertaining books. These will be books that continually reward the reader, page by page, for their time spent reading. Expect multiple rewards per page.
2. Readers will want books that make it easy to ‘dip into and pop out of’ the narrative without getting lost. This will require short chapters, memorable characters with appropriately unique names. Character names should not look like or sound like the names of other characters in the story. (For example: a Robert and a Richard or a Carol and a Carla will not do in the same story.)
Think back to of the heydays of the soap operas when fans would follow several ‘stories’ each day. Many of the characters in these soap operas had unique names so that it was easy for fans to keep the different soaps apart in their minds. Unique names also made it easier to discuss the various soaps with other fans. You just knew that there was just one ‘Spider’, one “Asa” and one “Erica”. Usually just the character names would let you know which soap opera you were watching or talking about.
3. Readers will seek books the move the story along very quickly and in small bites. This requires giving the reader the impression of rapid story progression. Each chapter should be treated as the start of a new book. Each should be given the same attention that is given to the first pages of a contest entry.
4. Readers will prefer sympathetic characters they care about. Caring about what happens to a character provides the greatest hook. Writers will need to create very sympathetic characters very early in the story. If a reader does not care what happens to the characters, then there is little reason to finish the book.
5. Readers will be reading more books at the same time. First, because they will have those books with them on their eReaders. Second, because some books at better read at different times and under different conditions. If readers are reading more books at the same time, then it becomes more important for writers to make their books easy to follow and remember for those readers coming back to them after reading part of another book.
The “Name of the Game” is Now Getting Your Books Read!
In the past it might have been enough to get a book sold. Most readers would eventually get around to reading it. Today, however, selling a book is just the beginning! Authors need to get readers to actually read their books.
If a reader has an author’s book but does not finish it, then that reader is much less likely to buy another one of that author’s books. If a reader has an author’s book on her eReader, then she is less likely to buy another one of that author’s books until she reads the one she already has.
The Numbers Don’t Favor Many New Writers
Established authors, with a large number of faithful fans, may not need to change very much. However, the numbers do not favor new authors. Ebooks have made it much more likely that a writer will publish. This fact alone has greatly increased the number of books available for sale. With many established authors now publishing their out-of-print backlist books, the supply of well written books is rapidly increasing. Many of these backlist books are updated by their authors and appear exactly like new books in their digital format. All this new supply means there will be many more books available to read but there will be no more time in the day to read them.
Market Segmentation Means Smaller Target Audiences
Since eBooks cost less to produce, they can be profitable even with a much smaller target market. Smaller markets lead to new subgenres. If a reader wants an Amish romantic comedy with a mystery involving vampires, there is a chance that story is out there.
Once in America there were many profitable national magazines. Then TV killed their advertising revenue. Most of the big national magazines have died. Yet magazine still thrive today by serving very small but highly targeted markets. Just visit a Barnes & Noble bookstore and you’ll see hundreds of magazines on sale.
Books are becoming like the magazine market. This segmentation of reading choices makes readers much more picky in what they judge as interesting enough to read. As such readers are more likely to be able to get exactly the kind of story they want. This will make them less patient with books that are not exactly what they were looking for. The future will produce more picky readers, smaller markets and readers who have little tolerance for ‘sagging middles’ -- this even includes the middles of individual chapters.
Reading Time is Finite – While Books Available to Read Keeps Expanding
With many more books available and so many specialized subgenres for a reader to choose from, it is going to become harder for any author to make a living writing books. The key to success in the future will be in writing many books in the new ‘dip-into-and-pop-out-of’ style – while also doing what is necessary to get people to actually finish reading those books.
Shorter Books – More Rewarding Endings
I believe that books will get shorter. Endings will need to be more rewarding and more deliberately written to the author’s next book. The best time to sell the next book is immediately after the satisfied reader has finished the current one. Ebooks should always end with a list of the author’s other books. There is some good news: books that never go out of print will provide authors with added income opportunities that were not available under the old print book system.
The Need to Build Your “Auto-Buy” List of Fans
Having Facebook friends and building a platform of fans is important. But the real prize is in building an author’s ‘auto-buy’ list of fans. These are fans who will buy any of an author’s new books -- once they learn about them.
Giving Readers Reasons to ‘Have Read’ Your Book
If an author wants to sell her books, then she will need to get readers, who already own her books, to read them. It is not enough that a reader has purchased a book. It must be read. This means writers will still need to market their books to those who already own them. This is where social media can be a great help. Even if a blog visit does not sell any books, it still can be successful if it gets people who already own any of the author’s books to read them. Authors should be thinking of ways to provide reasons for readers to read their books. Both the readers who have their books and those that don’t.
One idea would be to set the book in a location where many people visit. Get the message out that “if you are going to go to Mesa Verde Park”, for example, “then you really should read this book first”. Another idea would be to give an insider’s view of a sport or hobby that many people have an interest it. Perhaps you could select ‘ballooning’. You might even have a book about traveling around the country going to Bluegrass Festivals. There are many ways to do this. These might be called books that do more than simply entertain. The new marketing may well center around creating many different reasons for readers to buy and read your book.
The Lessman Lesson & The Necessity of Writing A Page-Turner
By necessity, Julie Lessman has learned to write in a highly rewarding fashion. Her books offer a good example of some of the ways to write for the new reading environment. I covered this subject in my review last year of, “A Hope Undaunted,” which I titled, “How to Write a 500-Page “Page-Turner”!
As I see it, Julie has two main challenges in keeping a reader’s interest. First, her books are long so the job is just harder. Second, her stories are part of a multi-generational family saga. This often means that just when one chapter gets really interesting, the story switches to another storyline at the start of the next chapter. This can be somewhat frustrating for the reader. Just as a reader gets really hooked into a storyline, a different one interrupts the fun. This situation requires that the author always be rewarding the reader and doing so very quickly.
While reading, “A Love Surrendered,” it occurred to me that this book really has eighteen ‘first’ chapters. Each chapter could serve as the start of a new book. Each chapter would also make a good writing contest entry. In a way, there can be no ‘sagging middle’ if there is no perceived middle at all. What,“A Love Surrendered,” seems to do is have a new but interrelated segment at the start of each chapter.
“A Love Surrendered” is a particularly interesting book because it brings together eight story lines with eight individual HEAs. There are the continuing HEAs for five of the O’Connor children, the first HEA for the hero and heroine of this final story, the HEA for the mother and father, Patrick and Marcy, and finally the HEA for the extended family as a whole. Observing how to keep all these threads interesting, as the various storylines switch from chapter to chapter, is like attending a master class on how to reward and keep a reader’s interest.
More ways to reward a reader for reading.
I’ve posted some ways to reward a reader here in past. Below are some more.
How Making Your ‘Reading Experience’ More Rewarding Can Spell Greater Success!
What Mega Selling Authors Know That You Could Use to Boost Your Sales
MORE WAYS TO REWARD READERS
1. Make your dedication count. (A dedication can enhance the reading experience by validating the author’s expertise or sincerity. Remember you are dealing with the total reading experience. What the reader thinks of the writer is like the ambiance in a restaurant.)
Missy Tippens has an exemplar dedication in her "A House Full of Faith". A heartwarming dedication like this one makes the reader feel more disposed to like the author and enjoy the story. A sincere dedication is even more important when writing an inspirational novel.
2. Make your acknowledgements validate your knowledge. Readers will enjoy their reading experience more deeply if they are assured that the author is knowledgeable about the subject matter.
Ruth Logan Herne has an ideal acknowledgement passage in her, “A Family to Cherish.” This is about three hundred words long but then you know Ruth. When a story covers medical problems, acknowledgments made to medical experts add an important element of trust and confidence to the reading experience.
3. Use locations that many readers would like to visit or revisit. A great location is a way to ‘build-in’ strong marketing elements even before you write the first word. Mona Risk has a to-die-for location in her, “Sailing With You,” which takes place mostly outdoors on the Greek island of Mykonos. I bought this book for the cover and was amply rewarded!
4. Have characters with interesting jobs or hobbies. (Be sure to show the character doing that job or hobby or the reader will feel cheated.) Mary Connealy has a hero who is a western painter in, “Wrangler in Petticoats”. Not only are the paintings important to the story, the story is set in the Yellowstone Park area. (This is a marketing ‘two-fer’!) Marketers love authors like Mary who build strong marketing elements into their stories.
Wrangler in Petticoats" -- A Book Mark Twain Would Enjoy"-Philosophy of Romance.
5. Have things happen sooner than the reader anticipates. (A debt paid early is twice paid.) I must admit authors are doing this much more often than they used to. It used to be that a girl would be asked to the prom and it would take two chapters for the prom to happen. Now the next scene will often open at the prom. Readers love, love, love to get to the ‘good stuff’ sooner than they expected.
6. Avoid the use of common or popular writing expressions. Say things in a way only you would say them and in a way the reader has not heard them before. This makes for fresher and more rewarding reading. (I’ve read about smiles that don’t reach up to the eyes at least a dozen times lately.)
7. Use more poetic, fresh, and snappy, language. When I used ordinary language in advertising my boss used to draw a tired person next to the copy. This was a wakeup call. When you are layering, let one layer be a wake up call.
8. Five-sense your copy: use all the senses when possible without being stilted. Tina Radcliffe’s, “Rancher’s Reunion” has many good examples of five-sensing. Here is a good passage:
“Her senses greedily feasted on the American sights and sounds. It was the simple things she’d missed; the twang of an Oklahoma accent, the U.S. Flag hanging high in the terminal, a sign advertising Mazzio’s pizza, the chatter of the crowd in English, and American food. The tantalizing aroma of a bagel kiosk caused a pause in her steps. Onion, chive and garlic. They all called out to her.”
9. Multi-emotionalize your writing. More than most fiction, romances are meant to be felt. Introduce a whole range of different emotions. Keep the reader feeling different things. The vicarious feelings of being loved, admired, desired, and the like act as emotional vitamins for many readers. All of Julie Lessman’s ‘edgy Christian fiction’ stories are very passionate and emotionally fulfilling. Expressing just one emotion is like a meal with only one item. Offer the reader a splendid multi-course gourmet experience.
10. Introduce the reader to new odors, fragrances and other olfactory experiences. Describe them with poetic beauty. Often these scents are expensive and have never been experienced by the reader. See if you can smell a sample of a very expensive perfume. Go and write down your description of the scent.
11. Introduce readers to new tastes: exotic foods, wines, candies, etc. This should include the texture, color, and mouth-feel. Again, give the reader new experiences. Could a wine testing experience fit into your story?
12. Introduce readers to new sights: like the view from a high mountain, a look through a giant telescope, or what a skydiver sees when falling to earth.
13. Introduce readers to new sounds. Like what does it sound like to be diving sixty feet under water? Is there any noise? Can you hear any of the fish? What do the ships above sound like?
14. Write crystal clear copy. This is copy that never has to be reread in order to be understood in the author’s intended context. All of Janet Dean’s books provide good examples of this style of writing.
15. Have anticipatory events that are resolved at various time spans in the story from very short to medium to book length. The reader thus always has something to look forward to happening. Give the reader lots of things to look forward to, as many YA books do, and you won’t have to rely so heavily on increasing tension or forever raising the stakes to maintain reader interest.
16. Don’t have all depressing events. Allow your main characters to enjoy small victories along the way. The reader may well be in a character’s head for hours. Let there be some happy moments. Even if this is just having the heroine win a $50 radio contest. Small victories are like smelling the roses along the way.
17. Add factoids: these are facts that can make the reader feel smarter. Choose facts that seamlessly add credibility to a character’s knowledge. These could be ‘Rules of Thumb’ from the character’s trade.
18. Add historical facts when they fit into the story. Read books on “Things We Know That Ain’t So.”. Readers really feel rewarded when they learn something is not true that they always thought was true. Did you know that Woodrow Wilson’s first name was Thomas? Did you know that Thomas means twin? Historical facts are nice in period pieces but the facts that have the most impact are the ones where readers have to change what they once thought was true. Such facts are more rewarding than ordinary facts.
19. Add some handy ‘how to’ stuff like a good way to clean a coffee stain on a shirt. This should be knowledge that the character would have. Build credibility for your characters by having them say things that have the potential to make the reader smarter.
20. Show how other people do things differently: in Italy they wave goodbye with their palm facing the person waving. If coffee is made differently be sure to point this out.
Most of these rewards make reading more interesting. Most do not have to be in the first draft. Rewards are very amendable to being layered into the copy later. Rewards should not be in the story just to be in the story. They should be supportive of the story in some way. If the hero is just back from a trip to France, he could give the heroine a new experience like an exotic perfume or unique chocolate candy. The reader could then experience the gift along with the heroine. That is if the author writes in a way to bring that experience to life for the reader.
“What Gets Rewarded, Gets Done.”
About Vince Mooney
Vince is a friend of Seekerville. He is a teacher, real estate broker, owner of a real estate school and former marketing executive. He has written nationally and internationally syndicated advertising with over 3,000,000 words in print. He has published in professional journals, wrote a real estate book for the Real Estate Education Company and has written over 100 different real estate seminars approved by Oklahoma for continuing education. He is currently writing fiction and a nonfiction book on ‘Rewarding the Reader’ which is almost finished! Vince blogs regularly at Philosophy of Romance.
Seekerville is giving away a surprise birthday present in honor of Vince's visit today. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
|Comment today! Check out our Birthday Presents!|