Follow the Reader

Do you know your readers well enough to write the books they’ll love?

For many authors, the answer is a resounding “no.” Most of us know what we like to read. Some of us know our genres’ tropes. But few could say with certainty that every page of their manuscript has something on it their readers will love—and nothing on it their readers will hate.

Common knowledge says you can learn simply by looking at what’s selling in your genre today. But there’s two problems with this approach. First, it biases your attention toward the current trends, most of which lack staying power. Second, it confuses what your readers really want with what they’ll settle for. Perhaps the top books today only offer 10% of what readers want. Just think of what success you could have if you unlocked the other 90%.

You need a reader’s-eye-view of the book world. To do so, go where your readers go, and spend time with them chit-chatting about the genre. Subscribe to all the blogs they put out. Read the articles, and read the comments. Join forums on Goodreads, Reddit, and the broader internet. Follow them on social media, and follow the people they follow.

Don’t promote yourself—not yet. Simply communicate. Read a lot. Ask questions. Find ways to help. Be a pal. And in the meantime, do your research. Your goal is to discover what really makes your readers tick. What emotions do they like to feel? Which characters resonate the most? Where do the bestselling books miss the mark? Which classics are consistently recommended?

Use what you discover to craft a novel just for these readers. If you’ve done your work well, they’ll rave about your book just as much as any other. This is the kind of word-of-mouth that makes or breaks careers, and this is the hands-down best way to get it.