After my debut novel came out in May, I had the interesting experience of discovering who read my novel and who didn't, among my circle of friends, acquaintances, and family.
Now, in my view, no one is required to read my novel, either for blood or friendship, but I did want to share the observations I've made, because other writers may go through the same thing sooner or later.
Some wonderful older women at my church made a point of buying my book immediately and then recommending it to their friends. One of our male elders did the same thing.
But there were also a few strange silences mixed in--a couple of close relatives who have not read it or even said a word about it, a few acquaintances who would be *exactly* the people I would expect to read it, but did not.
Who did I expect NOT to read my novel, even among my close friends and family?
Those who don't like reading, have trouble reading, or have a strong antipathy to romance.
Even though my novel includes a lot of action and suspense, readers don't know that before they begin the novel. It's only natural for a lot of men to assume that because it's a romance, it will not be to their taste. The men who have read it have enjoyed it, but it takes a strong man to make it past the beautiful, feminine cover. :-)
I have a very dear friend who is dyslexic and struggles to read. I know that if my novels ever come out on audiobook, she will be first in line, but reading a 400-page printed novel would be torture for her.
Who did I expect would read it, among my circle of friends?
Those who like to read--women who were English majors in college, people I've known for years who like ideas and books.
Three things to remember when your book comes out and you encounter the surprises of readership among your friends and family:
1) Non-writers do not understand the effort an author puts into writing, or how personal the publication of a book can be. To me, this novel may be a dream, but to a non-writer, it's just another book. Make an effort to see from that perspective--most friends honestly don't know how much it means to have someone you know read your novel.
2) Some of your acquaintances already may have had the experience of reading a friend's book, whether fiction or nonfiction, traditionally-published or self-published. If they did not care for that book, they may feel awkward and reluctant to read another one they may not like. This may become even more common as self-publishing soars to new heights. Though there are some excellent self-published books, many of them suffer from a lack of professional editing. Your circle of friends may get book fatigue from feeling they are expected to read the books of every author they know.
3) Resist the temptation to speculate. For the most part, friends and family who don't read your novel simply aren't interested, for reasons usually unrelated to you. It is much better to focus on all the friends who read it and support you, the unexpected moments of affirmation when a telephone call comes out of the blue.
Here's one of those moments. This weekend, a friend of mine left a message on my answering machine after finishing the novel--a long, heartfelt message. The phrase I will treasure: "Your novel is full of God's love."
When I have such uplifting and positive things to keep in mind, it helps me avoid the trap of taking it personally if a friend doesn't show interest.
Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a friend's reaction to your writing?