Self Publishing - Captivating Your Readers

We’ve covered the broad topics of the self-publishing world. There are important reasons why you should give yourself deadlines and find some way to adhere to them, seek out help in editing your work, properly format your work for ebook publishing, and consider all your possible sources in a publishing platform. But these are all fairly broad topics. Beneath each of them are countless possibilities, debates, and arguments. And if I only focused on the broad topics, I’d be repeating myself. . .a lot. So I’ve decided to break down several of these ideas into focused blog topics. I would like to call these discussions. . .but since I’m the only one talking, it’s still really more of  a rambling on my account.

I’d like to look at one specific piece of the writing puzzle today. It’s one that’s been on my mind recently as I not only have been reading some self-published works, but also am currently writing the first draft of one of my own. There are many aspects that can make a book good or bad. But ultimately what helps create your fan base is your ability to hold your readers’ attention.

A good writer creates:

  • In depth characters that people feel strongly about – either positively or negatively
  • An enticing plot that contains various levels of happiness, sadness, conflict, and resolution
  • Filler paragraphs that add to the plot rather than detract from it or are simply there to increase the word count
  • A plot that resides somewhere between intricate and challenging, but that is still fairly easy for readers to understand and follow

Some authors focus their attention on their characters to draw in their readers. Their hope is that even if the plot fails in some aspect – be it too simple, not enough conflict, or too confusing to follow – that the characters will be so loveable and relateable that readers will still want to read and reread their stories. Some authors trade out in depth characters for a brilliant plot knowing that the resolution will be worth dealing with the boring characters. Some authors use more bizarre methods to interest readers.

While he’s not an indie author, Mark Z. Danielewski has created a type of puzzle novel that includes not only an out of this world plot, intriguing characters, and dark suspense, but he also uses formatting to play tricks on his readers. Some pages have words typed in circles and squares, while others have words typed backwards, and still others have only one word written on them. With each page turn, the reader has absolutely no idea what Danielewski is going to throw at them.

Some authors, like Stephen King, hint at an underlying theme to all works, including identical or eerily similar character names throughout their vast collection of works, enticing readers to read all stories in the hopes of unlocking some deeper mystery.

Whatever method you choose to use, it’s important to understand it yourself before you try to force it upon your readers. Make sure you hold the key to whatever puzzle you look to incorporate. Don’t wing it or merely pretend that there’s an ultimate resolution or answer. Not only is that frustrating to your readers who will end up feeling just as betrayed as many people felt at the end of Lost or Fringe or any other hugely popular television show that inevitably had to end.

Then there’s the rising debate of where the line is between being challenging and catering to more simple minded readers. We are living in a society with an ever increasing number of people who never go any deeper than reality tv. If you write a plot that is too deep, too complicated, or requires too much brain power, many people won’t get it. Very few people (and I realize that number is still probably in the thousands or hundreds of thousands) read to force themselves to think these days. Most people want to escape difficult and tedious work by being hand fed a plot from their favorite author. That’s neither right nor wrong. It is what it is. Everyone is entitled to their favorite form of mental release. When I want to read without thinking, I pick up a Jonathan Kellerman. I love flowing along to his words as he leads me to his ultimate conclusion. I don’t try to guess whodunit or figure out the resolution before I read it. I let him lead me to it. It’s my way of relaxing. When I want to think or work hard at a resolution, I read Tolkien or Shakespeare or some other classic that requires concentration to follow – not skimming.

I have no ultimate resolution to this blog. It’s still just a rambling. There is some happy medium to drawing in readers and keeping them happy all the while keeping yourself happy by writing what you want to write, but I’m not sure where it is. Regardless of what you write, there is a group of people who would want to read it and who would greatly enjoy it. Sometimes the difficulty comes in finding those people or in drawing their attention to you work. It can come from great marketing, from getting your name and titles into the right hands of people who spread the word for you, or sometimes it’s mere luck. (My husband would probably say that he doesn’t believe in pure luck when it comes to marketing)

Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts. I’m now going to go enjoy this beautiful day outside with my family. Some yard work, some hot tea, and finally, a trip to the pumpkin patch. 

photo credit: ChaoticMind75 via photopin cc