The “know your reader” advice pops up frequently in books, articles, and talks for writers. While that makes perfect sense, you want that reader (aka hopefully your follower) to be legion.
How do I make my book appeal to as many as possible while I’m writing for a specific reader group? After all, writers want to sell books, many books.
I wrote The Divine Meddler because the story idea grabbed me and would not let go. I first wrote it as a short story, but soon realized the story arc was way too big for even a long short story. As I wrote it, I realized my theme, my core message, was one of redemption. What would set my novel apart? Redemption remains a common trope in hundreds of Christian novels. Do I want to assure Christians who are already believers, but need to be comforted with the assurance that God is merciful? Do I want to write for the choir, the thousands who find uplifting stories of faith a haven from daily troubles? Yes, but what about people who would never read a book by a Christian author because they are not believers, have been hurt by church, or think Christian writing is just too sweet? (There are hard-hitting novels in the Christian market that face taboo issues head on.)
There is a woman in my writers ‘group who is no longer a believer because of painful experiences with “church” that drove her away and left her angry. Still, she is a friend who never failed to critique my chapters from a purely literary point of view. Perhaps her input helped me the most. One day she said, “This is a great story…But you won’t convert me!” That was music to my ears because my target readers are also the thousands like her. I want them to enjoy my book because it’s a page-turner, and while they are turning the pages, they relate to my protagonist and his fury with God. They can understand what drove him to plan and carry out an assassination. Maybe some harbor deep anger at someone who did them wrong and have no interest in forgiving, even if it poisons the rest of their lives.
That is why I think of my book as a “crossover” novel. Christians will find God and His mercy throughout. It will also appeal to secular readers who have no use for religion, who perhaps feel God could never forgive them, so why bother? Even if they would never enter church, I hope they enter my novel because it’s simply a good read. I leave the rest to the Divine Meddler.
How to reach your reader
What makes you pull a book off the library or bookstore shelf and take it home? The title? The cover art? Endorsements? Reviews? Book blurb on inside flap? First few paragraphs? Maybe all the above. I just described my own book hunting practices.
I asked my beta readers if they liked my original title. No one did, and it stumped me too. Many made excellent suggestions, bless them.
I believe people of faith develop a vision to see God’s fingerprints in their life’s events—the divine appointment, the note that arrives from a friend who has no idea what may be going on in your life, but just “happens” to address it. It’s all so personal, so granular—as if God meddles in a good way in people’s lives. Hence the final title, The Divine Meddler. People do not view meddling as a good thing. It has a negative connotation — hopefully one that would intrigue a reader who is not a fan of God.
Endorsements and Reviews
I owe this section of today’s blog to Thomas Umstaddt Jr. He created Author Media, com and that has proven to be the motherload of book publishing advice for me. https://www.authormedia.com/about/
Endorsements are about you, the author. Why should anyone read your stuff? Who is giving your book credence and what are their credentials? If I’m writing a historical novel set in a specific moment of history, a history professor’s endorsement would help. Reviews tell the potential reader about the book, and why he should purchase it. What is it about? Is it an attention grabber? Do the characters jump out at you? Is it worth spending your time and/or money? Are there intriguing subplots that pull everything together in a satisfying way?
Umstaddt does a terrific job describing how to get those endorsements and reviews in his blog.
As a writer, I’m a huge fan. There’s my endorsement.