Why Won’t (Insert Name Here) Read My Book?

December 26, 2016 | By | 28 Replies More

blue-barn-by-kara-horizontal220So you wrote the book, which is an amazing accomplishment. You published the book, which is another accomplishment. You also dug in and did your marketing homework and set up a great plan to connect with those readers, and began to get some good reviews, and began to get some sales.

Now comes the part you didn’t really see coming. Because the book you’ve worked so hard on for so long is finally out.

And lots of people you know aren’t reading it.

I mean, you can forgive the people who don’t know you who aren’t reading it. But those other people? Your family? Your friends? Your writing pals?

How can they not immediately leap to pay the pittance of $4 or $14 or $24 and come to your reading and buy your book and read it and think it’s amazing and crow about it to all their friends?

This reality surprises many of us. The first time out we may think we’ve got 200 sales in the bag just from people we know.

Except that it’s more like 50. And that’s if you’re popular and your mom buys extras.

My first book did very well for an indie debut, thanks to some dumb luck in landing a BookBub spot. It had over 50,000 free downloads and then continued to sell well for some time. I made a little money. I got some fans.

And yes, some of them were people I knew. My former next-door neighbor, who told me she’d hardly ever read any novels before, reported a sore neck from reading my first one on her computer because she couldn’t walk away. When it came out in paper she eagerly bought two copies, one for her and one for her daughter. She did the same with the next one. And this year, right in the middle of us arguing bitterly on Facebook about the election — in a way that I felt was pretty apocalyptic — she stopped to ask when she could buy two signed copies of my next one.

That’s a fan. And I truly can’t complain. Plenty of people I know read my stuff.

But if your experience is anything like mine, often the people you most expected to eagerly read your book won’t so much as pick it up. Or maybe they do pick it up, and never say a word about it. Maybe they tried and couldn’t get into it. For all you know they may quietly despise it.

And you have to let that go.

Of course, most writers I know do not have a happy warrior mentality, ready to move on to the next conquest. No, we tend to brood a little first.

Here is some actual brooding from my own life:

  • I’ve spent the last two years writing this thing and he won’t even take a few days to read it?
  • I bought her hardcover book I’m not even that interested in at her reading and she didn’t even buy my paperback?
  • She and I have been talking about books for thirty years, but she won’t say a word about mine?
  • I’ve been paying this person over $70 an hour for months and she just suggested she might borrow my $15 book from the library?
  • I’m your sister, damn it. I just took you out to lunch. Why can’t you just show up for my reading and BUY A DAMNED BOOK?

No matter how well-adjusted you are, these things niggle.

But you have to let them go.

bardwellsfolly380pixelsBecause that’s still your husband or your colleague or your best friend or a gifted service provider or your brother. That’s still your fellow parishioner or your neighbor or your sister-in-law or your exercise buddy. That’s who they were before you published the book, and hopefully that’s who they’ll be years after you publish the book.

I remember my other brother looking at the cover of my first novel and saying, “I don’t read books like that.” And he doesn’t. It’s women’s fiction with a strong romantic thread. He reads snarky science fiction.

And be honest. How interested would you be in their book? Or his sports team or her decorated duck eggs or his BMW fetish or her aromatherapy blog? And if your oldest friend thinks Harry Potter is Satanic, why the heck would you expect her to appreciate your gay-rights-themed novel with the occasional bout of adultery and fornication in it?

Let your family be your family. Let your friends be your friends. This applies even to your writing friends. You need them and they need you. But it’s entirely possible that what you write is your passion, not theirs. (Also, if you’re like me, you could pick up writing friends’ books to read for two years straight and still not get to the end of all of them – and meanwhile they’ve published more!)

Forget about strong-arming the people you know into becoming your readers. You have to go out and find your own readers.

And yes, of course we want any readers we can get. Feedback from a reader who “gets it” is intoxicating.

But that pleasure is fleeting. Readers aren’t going to cook you dinner or come to your kid’s birthday party or commiserate over a beer or visit you in the hospital. Readers don’t take you dancing. Mostly they just want the next book.

So treasure your friends and family and buddies and neighbors, whether they pony up for your novel or not. You may need them to hold your hand someday. And many of them would leave a hole in your life if they left it – a hole much bigger than any book could ever fill.

Sandra Hutchison is the Florida-born author of Bardwell’s Folly: A Love Story (released November 29) about the daughter of a famous white Southern novelist who gets herself into trouble with a racially-insensitive joke, which prompts a journey into her parents’ secret past that might just lead her right back to where she started. Sandra is also the author of The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire and The Awful Mess: A Love Story. After years working in professional and educational publishing, she operates her own Sheer Hubris Press and also teaches writing at Hudson Valley Community College in upstate New York.

Find out more about Sandra on her website http://sheerhubris.com/

About Bardwell’s Folly:

Sometimes the only way to find home is to leave it. Dori Bardwell’s father was the white Southern author of THE novel about slavery, a man who settled his large family up north in a replica of a plantation house and never spoke of his past. A tragic accident pulled Dori from college to care for her only remaining brother, but now the money is running out, her ex-boyfriend appears intent on revenge, a media baron has designs on her father’s last, unfinished manuscript, and her own thoughtless blackface joke is about to go viral and turn her life upside down.
With a new, media-savvy African American friend, Dori embarks on a voyage into her family’s secret history that might just lead her right back to where she started.
If you like humorous, heartfelt book club fiction with a strong romantic thread, a love of literature, and a sharp eye for race and class in America, you’ll love BARDWELL’S FOLLY.

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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, How To and Tips

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  1. Happy New Year! | Sandra Hutchison | January 3, 2017
  1. Tammy Tolbert says:

    I have two online publications and my short story was published in a quarterly anthology in January. I was over the moon, to see the art that accompanied my work. To see my story, 20 pages with my name, my words. Not one of my friends or family read my work. Writing two books, juggling work,caring for my family,with a ton of shorts and poems, all available to them. I started writing last year after some health issues kept me off work, it was something I dreamed of doing. I would love to know what they think. It is frustrating to say the least.

  2. Jade Remeng says:

    This was a good post and you brought up different sides of the issue. My opinion is that it’s not about reading or liking what you read. It’s about supporting your loved one in their life goals. Sharing art is a very unique type of communication. Most people aren’t artists and even fewer do it seriously and put months or years into a piece of writing. Do you really want to skip this opportunity to connect with your loved one in this way? To know more about their ways of expressions, thoughts and skills? If so, then don’t be surprised if they connect more deeply with someone who is open to try their art. You can find interesting and positive sides in almost everything and everyone, and it shouldn’t be that hard if you care about the person. I have some chronic pain and I see most people waste their time and health constantly in something they don’t even care about. So why not put a few hours into supporting someone you love. I think people make too many excuses.

  3. Laura says:

    My sister read my short story but everyone else said “I didn’t know you wrote stories.” Kind of an attitude of oh how sweet and a pat on the hand. No readers though. But since that don’t read anything, it was okay.

  4. Sandra, I love your article! My book is coming out in two months and of course I’m wondering who among my friends will buy, read and otherwise support it. But I keep reminding myself of how I react when my friends publish books: I always buy it to support them, but honestly, quite often I am simply not interested in the subject matter, so my support ends there. It’s even worse when it is a subject matter I’m interested in and I find the book poorly written. What to do then? I bought it, but I won’t finish reading it and I won’t do a review. It’s a difficult situation to be in. I enthusiastically support the books by friends that I do like, so I hope I’ve put enough good karma out there!

    • We’ve all been there, Annette. I think you’re doing what you can! I know myself to be a rather cranky reader — if I don’t believe something in a scene is plausible, I have a really hard time reading any more.

  5. Sandra, You have a valid point.
    Friends and Family can be there when the sky is gray at my end, but to force them to read my writing could be expecting a lot. Thanks for giving this insight of letting go cause until now I was hanging on to this brood that, “Why!”


    Now I have to go and find my readers….

  6. MaryAnn S says:

    I absolutely feel your blog post.

    I’m not even the author of the book I want people to read and I wonder why all my friends don’t buy it because I say it’s wonderful! I love the author I work for, she does a wonderful job and always want everyone to buy her books and just lose themselves in them like I do.

    • Tastes vary so widely. It’s just as tough with fiction as with visual art, I think, to predict what people will like, unless you’ve been already been agreeing about books (or paintings) for a while. Just today I noticed someone dinging one of mine on Goodreads for, she says, insulting librarians! Some people get my humor and some people don’t. It’s all subjective.

  7. Jens Lyon says:

    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. My family and friends ARE reading my book. Some of them even managed to finish all four hundred pages of it, which is a major time investment during the holiday season. (My book came out in late November.)

    I am also fortunate that none of my family members has accused me of basing characters on themselves. Although I warned them, every one of the readers I know personally was surprised that the book is “so DARK!” But Mom liked the ending, and my niece wanted to know what happens to the main character next.

  8. I LOOOVED this and so needed this! Just published my first book-a memoir-one month ago on NOV 29,2016 and I was struggeling with a brother and sister who are now not speaking to me and a few close friends that are “too busy”to read it. The lucky 500 sales and reviews and responses from other family and friends and strangers are intoxicating but only until I sober up and go back to wondering what the heck happened with my other close family and friends. LOL. This really helped. Thank you. in joy, jc

    • Glad to be of help. I suppose the only thing worse than family not reading is family reading and getting offended! For those I know personally who do read my novels, I sometimes wish I could put a giant sticker on their copy that says NO, I DID NOT BASE THIS ON MY OWN LIFE OR YOURS. Which is true. But quite a few people assume I’ve been raped, or had an affair with a priest, or had an affair with a much older man. I’ll take it as a compliment, I guess.

  9. Natalia says:

    Laughing and relating to every word. Love this –> The first time out we may think we’ve got 200 sales in the bag just from people we know. Except that it’s more like 50. And that’s if you’re popular and your mom buys extras.

    Ultimately, I want readers who WANT to read my writing, rather than those who feel obligated to read. I hope to buildi new connections while appreciating those I have.

  10. Ann Norman says:

    One thing to consider: The main investment isn’t time, it’s money. It’s not a matter of $4.00, but a day out of one’s life, literally. Having said that, I’ve bought all of your books AND read them and just bought a hardcopy of the last one for my sister, Susan. However, when I am feeling guilty about not reading someone else’s published book, I then tell myself, it’s not like sending a birthday card (which I also can’t ever manage to do) it’s a DAY OUT OF A LIFE and life is short, so . . .

  11. Sandra’s comment is both funny and true.

  12. Nina says:

    This was SO well said. Goes for blogs and articles around the internet too. We cannot expect our friends and family to read every single thing we put out there. I write a friendship column and have received several questions from people hurt that their friends don’t pay attention to their sites or freelance work. I advise bloggers that all we can expect is for friends to ask how it’s going, but to also expect them all to follow each post we write for our sites and elsewhere . . . well, that’s expecting too much.

    I love everything you wrote here. Shared on Twitter and will share on FB later in the week.

    • Thanks, Nina! And yes, I have the same experience with my blog. Even my parents (who do at least read my books) don’t read it regularly. One of THEIR friends has to comment on it to them for them to go look at any given post.

  13. What a great post! And so true. Thank you for this!

  14. Even more difficult if you write poetry! My friends and relatives have had a very hard time picturing me as a poet, I guess, much less reading what I write. And they don’t realize how important those sales are. But after many years of publishing and gaining recognition, they are slowly beginning to realize it’s not just some weird hobby of mine! Every time I feel bad about it, I remind myself that even the great Billy Collins’ CUNY colleagues knew nothing of his poetry until years later.

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