Read or Not Read

Did my title confuse you, dear reader? Don’t worry, I’ll explain. After my publisher launched my debut book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, in 2011, I gave a number of talks and signings for various organizations to familiarize people with me and my work. In addition, I was on several panels at writers’ conventions in which the subject of the panel had something to do with the panelists’ books, and a signing followed so attendees could purchase said books. For me, there were talks with signings at libraries, art galleries, and civic groups, but there was one thing in common with all these talks. No one had read my book yet. Of course, I’m referring to the public, not people who were associated with the publication of the book itself.

I had been attending writers’ conventions and conferences for a number of years before my first publication, so there were lots of writers whom I had met and also lots of aspiring authors like me with whom to share experiences. In fact, an author friend introduced me to her agent. Although my author friend’s agent wasn’t looking for my particular book, it was a good experience for me to have contact with her. I also did several pitches to agents and editors at these conventions and finally I acquired my agent at a convention. It was all so frightening, exhilarating, exhausting, energizing, deterring and inspiring, and produced both insecurity and later a bit of confidence and I loved most every moment!

In all of these instances people had not yet read my book, so in delivering my talk, I was always aware not to give away any important clue, or say too much about any character. My subject matter covered my motives for writing this particular book and what went into doing so. I talked about how I accomplished the research needed. Everything was general and somewhat vague, so as to not spoil the book for a new reader. I only realized this recently when I was scheduled to give a talk for a book club in which everyone had read my book.

The first part of my talk with this group was like previous ones since most of my audience didn’t know me, but I started seeing smiles of recognition as I went on. I was able to talk more freely, specifically about placement of red herrings, or why a certain character acted a certain way. During my question and answer period, I received some interesting questions that I was able to answer fully without having to be concerned that someone’s reading experience would be ruined by a spoiler. This was the first time since my book came out that I had specific feedback on it.

As an author, this experience was more helpful to me from a writer’s perspective. I guess one could call it a critique session from readers. I really enjoyed this. In this case, my audience was too kind to give me any negative feedback, but I would have welcomed that as well, because one learns from all criticism.

Reviews and comments on Amazon and Goodreads are good too, but in the case of the book club, I was able to interact with my questioners. That isn’t possible, of course, in a review.

The only drawback to doing a talk for a book club is that the author probably won’t sell many books, if any, because book clubs usually read lots of books over time and book stores and libraries usually don’t have enough copies for all the members to share. Since costs of books would get prohibitive, often the prospective readers will buy used books or ones from another vender than one that would provide a royalty to the author. I certainly understand that, but I have to say that’s not a reason for an author to not do book club talks, because I certainly learned a great deal from my experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Yes, we do want to get paid for our work, but sometimes the lessons we learn along the way can be much more valuable than the cost of a few books.

I’d love to hear what you writers feel about this subject.


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under marketing, musings, writing

15 responses to “Read or Not Read

  1. I love talking to people or groups who have read my books! It’s like going to a reunion and seeing relatives or old friends or mutual acquaintances you all love and care about. It absolutely thrills me. I’m so glad you got to experience it!

  2. I have never pitched my books to an agent at a conference, but I am about to do that this April. Anyone have any thoughts on this process?

    • Chuck, I don’t know how much you already know about this, but it’s important to pitch to an agent that is interested in your genre. Then be able to tell the agent what the book is about in one sentence if you can. Be prepared to explain your hook, what audience you are interested in, how you are plan to market your book,what is interesting about your characters. You might search online for tips for an agent interview and see what comes up. I’d be glad to answer any questions you have if you want to contact me. I learned quite well what to do and not to do! Contact me at: CocoIhle@gmail(dot)com.

  3. Bob wagner

    It says a lot about you that you enjoyed talking about your work even though there was to be no obvious connection to monetary gain. The passion that drives you has more to do with your creativity and exploring it with others who recognize and appreciate you and your writing – as oppose to any financial gain. Well done!

    • Bob, thank you, that’s very sweet of you to say and it does hold some truth. However, I may be like so many other writers whose life is very much a solitary one. We often will jump at the chance for feedback on our ideas, monetary reward or no. 🙂
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  4. I’d love to have the opportunity to speak somewhere. Read or not Read both sound fun and I really enjoyed your post.

    • Thank you, Sheila. You’re such an interesting person, I would imagine there are many organizations who would love to have you speak. Have you tried your local library, or women’s club, or school, or even an art gallery?

  5. Pat Gordon

    Great Blog, as always, Coco.

  6. Rosa St.Claire

    Read or not Read was fun to read. I found it close to home, because I have spoken to groups on many occasions. I’m a shy person in general, but this has helped me with my shyness. Your writing is very refreshing, and kept my attention. Thank you for your interesting blogs. Keep them coming, Coco!

    • Thank you so much, Rosa. Yes, just doing something that scares one is a good way to overcome that fear. I’ve often volunteered myself to do something frightening, only to later think, “What have I done?!” But, although I still get nervous, I’m no longer terrified of audiences. In fact, I am interested in learning from them, so it’s often fun!
      Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read and comment on my blog. I really appreciate it.

  7. Valarie Freeman

    Thanks for any other fantastic post. The place else could anybody get that kind of information in such an ideal approach of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am at the search for such information.

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