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Readers, Readers, Readers!

October 10, 2010


Photo by moriza


I recently read an article by Johanna Harness about how readers are the key to publishing.  And truthfully, I don’t think anyone who thinks about the issue for a few minutes would disagree.  Even for pre-published writers, she says, readers are the key.

How does that make sense?  I asked the same question as I read her words, but the further I read on her post, the more I understood what she was trying to say.  Readers, even for unpublished/pre-published writers, are the key to getting your words out there. Take blogs, for example.  A blog is nothing but space on the Interwebs filled with self-absorbed content until someone else starts to read it.  Then it becomes a tool for spreading thoughts, opinions, articles, and yes, writing.  But until someone starts to read the blog, it’s just a blog.  Nothing more.

But how to get readers without being published?  It sounds so backwards.  It sounds like a catch-22.  And I think a lot of writers would have some trouble with Johanna’s final point: you have to give away writing, quality writing, for free to the public.  Ah, hear the great gasps of shock and denial.

Truthfully, though, she has a point.  What better way to gain readership than by giving the readers exactly what they want?  Free stories, good stories, that allow them an introduction to whatever world you have created while also (with any luck) building a readership base for you.  Then, when whatever book or novel it is that the writer wants to get published is presented to a publisher or agent, the writer can say, “Here, look at the numbers on my website, look at the number of people who already read my work and know who I am.”  Part of the work in marketing the novel and building a readership base is already done.

But wouldn’t that mean someone could steal the work you’ve written and given away?  Yeah, they could try.  That’s what copyright and courts are for.  Even in a paper book there is no guarantee of safety if someone tries to steal the work.  It’s just much more difficult.  As long as copyright is in place for the stories given away, or for the characters, or for the universe, whatever, then there is protection.  And if someone had the gall to try to publish your work under their name, sue their butts for all they’ve got.  Besides, most publishers, I believe, do check to see if the work is online or otherwise copyrighted before they agree to publish it.

Nothing is sure-fire, and there certainly is no given formula to getting published.  I think I’m going to seriously consider Johanna’s path.  After all, it makes sense, yes?  Readers really are everything.  Otherwise a book is just a dusty bit of paper ignored by everyone.

Johanna’s article.

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