Are Writers Too Insulated from Their Readers?

Mike Duran - author photoGuest Blogger: Mike Duran (@CerebralGrump)

Each year, Writer’s Digest selects “101 Best Websites for Writers.” Sadly, their list is just the tip of the iceberg. I say sadly not just because I’m one of the plethora of writing blogs out there (although I don’t talk exclusively about writing at my website), but because of the effect that so many “writing sources” have upon authors and aspiring authors.

Writing blogs potentially insulate writers from their real audience: Readers.

To illustrate how this could be possible, read this excerpt from J.A. Konrath in The Value of Publicity:

Here’s the deal: Readers are my customers, not writers. Readers don’t even know who the Big 6 are. They don’t care.

I’m mentioned a lot in the publishing community, which is small, closed, and uninteresting to anyone who isn’t in it. But because we’re in it, and we care about it, we incorrectly assume that because writers know who I am, readers must as well.

(Emphasis mine.)

So while critique groups, writing blogs, writing discussions, and the publishing community often consume much of a writer’s attention, they can potentially mislead us into thinking we’re connecting with our audience. Of course, fellow writers CAN be part of our audience. But we’re mistaken to think that buzz about us inside the writing community equates to buzz outside the writing community, where it really matters.

That’s how the writing community potentially insulates writers.

So while we debate whether an author should blog or how much to “show v. tell,”, our real audience could care less. We get lost in feverish discussions about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, but our potential readers couldn’t give a rip. We argue “the rules,” but the general public has no idea what rules we’re talking about. We strive to make a name for ourselves in the publishing community, but “because we’re in it, and we care about it, we incorrectly assume that because writers know who I am, readers must as well.

Last year I read The Silent Land by Graham Joyce. The reader part of me enjoyed the book. The premise was simple, compelling, and made me want to finish. The writer part of me thought the prose was inconsistent and often clunky. In the end, I felt the book was okay.

Nevertheless, it helped me realize a very important truth: Unlike writers, readers have only “one part” to satisfy. What I mean by that is, Writers must wrestle with the technical details of a story while trying to enjoy it. Readers only want to enjoy it. To lose sight of this dynamic is to lose sight of our ultimate aim.

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably a writer. Like me, you enjoy learning about craft, publishing trends, and marketing tips. You listen intently to the debate about self-publishing and traditional publishing. You also are uniquely warmed by recognition, encouragement, and praise from other writers. But please understand this: Most of your readers probably don’t care about any of that.

Do you agree that the writing community can insulate writers from readers? Do writing “rules” really matter to readers? In what ways do writers read differently than readers? How can a writer balance connecting with readers versus connecting with other authors?

* * *


Mike Duran writes supernatural suspense. His latest release, “The Telling,” is about a disfigured modern-day prophet who must overcome his own despair in time to seal one of nine mythical gates of hell. You can learn more about him and his upcoming projects at

  1. blog says:

    Excellent points altogether, you just won a new reader. What might you recommend about your post that you simply made a few days in the past? Any positive?

  2. Ryan Hunter says:

    My husband and I were talking about this a few days ago! We both agreed that we need to reach out to readers more instead of just focusing on other writers.

    While I still feel it’s important to gain relationships with other writers, it’s as important, or more so, to stay connected with readers and provide them with the experiences they’re craving.

    Thank you for the post!

  3. More people know Tom Fool than Tom Fool knows.

  4. Pat Brown says:

    I’d say definitely. I’ve never been convinced that reader’s give a rat’s patootie about head hoping or rigidly sticking to one POV religiously. If they read and enjoy a story none of that matters. WE (writers) make it important and therefor so do editors and agents.

    Aren’t we always shaking our heads when some piece of majorly flawed writing hits hard and is a runaway best seller. We cry, “How can it be?” The answers simple, that author tells a good story and that’s all the readers want.

  5. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not “expert” enough in writing and/or marketing to gain many writers following my blog. I’ve done many such posts, and some have been quite popular without gaining loyal readers.

    My fiction explores environmental and local food themes, and that’s where my blog is going (almost) in its entirety. I’m hoping this will find me blog subscribers who will be fans of my fiction.

  6. I looked forward to reading the responses to this post. I’ve been having some of these thoughts myself but hated to say them out loud or mention them in a post.

    I’ve been on several writer loops, and it seemed like the blogs mentioned were more for writers than readers, which would naturally be a smaller group than readers in general.

    While I hope to someday be published and recognized by my fellow writers, my goal is to be published and recognized by a much larger and varied group of readers!

    This discussion has helped me see that my thinking is along the right lines. For once anyway! 🙂

  7. I think I was conscious of this issue when started my blog this past May. I do not direct my content towards writers but I can see how this would be tempting. I am interested in writing and publishing and there are so many potential topics and angles to write about on this topic.

    If a topic is peripherally related to writing I try to ensure I make a tie in to general interest. For example, I recently wrote about how I choose character names but I gave a link to a site that would be interesting to expecting parents trying to decide on a name.

  8. Jo Murphey says:

    While I do talk about the craft of writing on my blogs, I also promote my books and others, tell personal background tales (like writing a humorous, faith based book on stroke recovery) I had a stroke back in May… the trials and tribulations as a published author, minister, and person.

    My blogs talk about my family (terminally ill husband, aging parents, death, births, children and grandchildren because everything impacts my writing ability and life is what you make it. Sometimes you, cry, tell jokes, and laugh all at the same time. Followers are’s split evenly between writers and readers, although the number is small.

    My Facebook pages are friends, family, writers and readers. Twitter followers are 75% fans, 25% others in the industry. Pinerest is about 50-50. Linkedin are 90% industry 10% fans.

    It’s all ratios,balances and getting the word out there. I may not be a best selling author nor may not even come close to a Pulitzer Prize, but I am content. Isn’t that the true point?

  9. Nikole Hahn says:

    I agree. Which is why I don’t write writing blogs. Lacking qualifications aside, I want to reach readers, too. Create community.

  10. Nice to see you here, Mike. Good point (s).

    Most people (readers) like to feel they have a mind of their own and cannot be manipulated. So why would a reader be interested in a blog telling other writers how they must only write stories that sparkle in a bonnet at Hogwarts?

    As a writer, I need to know how to get rid of the technical stuff (punctuation, grammar or presentation) that stands in the way of the story, but beyond that, advice is usually just opinion.

    Once the writer has found followers, a behind the scenes blog seems like a good bet.

  11. Catherine Hudson says:

    I absolutely agree, Mike. I regularly find ‘readers’ to help me with a new and revised version of my novels. As an unpublished author, that has been important because I don’t have (yet) an agent, publisher etc to give me feedback. I do have a freelance editor, but I am so aware that readers are different – they really do only have ‘one part’ to satisfy.

    Am I becoming insulated? Possibly. One of my first readers said the other day “Is that still that first book you are working on? The one I read?” (she read it four years and many revisions ago). When I said yes, she was shocked. She loved my book and can’t see why I keep editing.
    Readers often don’t care or understand why we don’t just publish the thing. Simple right? Only in the readers world.

  12. Janet Bettag says:

    Maybe I’m on the right track with my blogging then. I don’t maintain a rigid schedule, but when I do post something, it’s not about how to write or get published. I mostly blog book reviews, excerpts and deleted scenes from my book, short stories, and the occassional random thought. Hopefully my readers derive pleasure from these offerings.

    I like to read blogs about writing, but wouldn’t dream of writing anything like that. There are far more expert people online to handle that end than me.

  13. I think that both communities are essential. There are enough writers and publishing folk and industry watchers that if they like your work, they comprise a nice number of readers. Getting to know other writers is also a great way to expand your audience, by trading online support, or tag-teaming a tour, as some authors are doing these days. But best of all is probably when a book finds not only writers, not only avid readers, but people who haven’t read in a dog’s age and still love your book.

  14. Raisa Gerwig says:

    Hey this is a great looking site, is wordpress? Forgive me for the foolish question but if so, what theme is? Thanks!

  15. J.L. Mbewe says:

    Brilliant post! I totally agree. Kristen Lamb did a post a long time ago called something like Sacred Cow Tipping, talking about this point. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Heather says:

    I think I can count on my right hand the published author websites that are truly successful at both worlds. And I’m finding its the ones who build worlds the readers actively want to get into. The writer part of me wants to know the author’s process, while the fan in me wants more of the world that they’ve set up. I think of it like director’s cuts of movies. Its stuff readers and fans ultimately want to know, but geared to them, and not geared to writers, even though it helps them.

  17. I gave up connecting with other writers. Freed me up to connect with readers. What a difference! I now speak 100+ times a year to any organization that wants a program on the Civil War. Connecting to readers engages them and sells books. Even better—the responses I receive from those who read. Yesterday, “I hate historical fiction, but I love the story.” Engage, Entertain, and Educate an audience. You Will gain readers.

  18. That’s an interesting thought– how do fiction writers blog to their readers instead of other writers? (Where ‘readers who also write’ is a subset of ‘readers’)

    Almost all of the author’s blogs I subscribe to talk about the craft more than they do the individual series, probably because those are the sorts of blogs I enjoy reading. I think I’m going to have to sit down and search out blog in the other camp this weekend.

    I’m curious what sort of posts other than ‘buy my book’ and ‘I’m at point X in the book Y, work continues apace’. The only think I can think of would be the Fandom blogs that talk about the end product more than the process. *ponders*

    If anyone has any suggestions for good author-to-reader blogs, I’d love to see them! 🙂

    • Shawn Inmon says:

      I’m certainly not going to say that my blog is a great writer’s blog, but I never have a hard time to find things to post about, and I update it 3-4 times per week.

      I occasionally pluck a small concept or idea out of my book and blog about it with a new perspective, or connecting it to a current news story. Most often, though, I just write about things I enjoy – kindness, memories, stories from my past, etc.

      I’ve found that the more universal the topic is (Losing someone close to you, how we interact with our pets) the more popular the posting is, and the more interaction I get with my readers.

      My FB writer’s page, on the other hand, is almost all about interacting with the readers.

  19. Ann Averill says:

    The bottom line is that writer’s who know the craft provide their readers with a richer reading experience than writers who don’t. This is true whether or not the reader can name why they liked one book above another.

  20. Sue Harrison says:

    I agree with you, Mike. But we writers suffer from a malady that is common to almost everyone. I once read a novel written by an insurance agent. He had a good premise, and the main character was an insurance agent. Perfectly fine. However, I had to wade through a whole lot of information about the world of insurance, which really diluted the story.

    As you said, whatever we’re interested in is so exciting to us we assume the world feels the same way, and we build pretty strong walls to hold other “worlds” at bay.

    I’m still finding my way with my blog. I’m doing some things that are successful and some that aren’t. What I have found, though, is that when I take into account the nearly universal human need to be a part of a family, and I include my readers as if they were part of my family – I guess the word now is tribe – I reach more people.

    Thanks for the very interesting post, Mike!!

  21. Jeanne says:

    I would agree that the writing community can isolate writers from readers. When I begin my blog, my focus will be to draw readers. I may share a little about writing, but more than that what I share will be real life, thoughts, and encouragement.

    I get my writing fix from other writing blogs, and some from other forms of social media, as well as a crit group. It seems like finding the balance between connecting with readers and writers is a thing to strive for.

    I read books and enjoy the story line as a reader, but I do clue into craft strengths or weaknesses now that I write. My favorites are those books that I become so lost in the story that I don’t have to stop my mind from analyzing the craft side of the story. 🙂

  22. “Do writing “rules” really matter to readers?”

    This is an interesting question that I ponder when I consider some recent bestsellers that writers love to hate, and readers love to love.

    I’ve come to believe that readers care about story and conflict. Period.

    Writers must care about the rules in order for their stories to work. Readers don’t care about the “rules” except when writers haven’t followed enough of the rules to make their novels page-turning, conflict-filled, character-rich stories.

    So, I like to find balance between connecting with other writers who help each other grow as writers and with readers who help authors grow in their outward reach.

    Writers shouldn’t allow themselves to be insulated from readers.

  23. Kerry Ann says:

    I absolutely agree. Just the other day, a writer friend and I discussed our blogs. Though I’m not yet published, I explained how I wanted to transform my blog into my professional writer’s page. She stressed that I should continue posting about diverse topics: food, family, book reviews, life. Readers want to connect with a person and read about topics that interest them. They don’t want to read about writing.

  24. I absolutely agree with the post and with the comments. I have often thought that blogs about writing seem to preach to the choir.

    Another really interesting phenomenon I’m seeing in my state’s writing organization is that we all buy each other’s books for support’s sake, but then we don’t read them. It’s often a matter of not enough time or those books getting relegated to the bottom of the TBR pile, but still…

  25. I agree 100%. In fact, I’ve scaled way back on my blog because of it. I’ve stopped writing posts about writing and started…well…writing. The book. You know, the whole reason I started a blog in the first place. My facebook posts are more geered to the reader, not the writer, too. Don’t get me wrong. I love interacting with other authors in the online community, but like you put so well, I was losing site of my true target audience. Readers. Excellent post! Thanks.

  26. Jon says:

    Surely writers are readers too?

    • Mike Duran says:

      But are the majority of your readers, writers?

    • Writers as Readers are a subset of Readers, so it’s a narrowing of the target audience that might not be intended. It would be interesting to see what sort of blogs do manage to attract the right mix of folks– I’m wondering if maybe there isn’t a happy medium somewhere that grabs the whole venn diagram. *wanders in the internet in search of author blogs*

  27. Yeah, I can see this. Readers don’t have to deal with schizophrenic nature most writer/readers possess. Good thing we’re all human. This post serves as encouragement for writers to find creative ways to connect with their readers.

    Though I also think word of mouth is word of mouth and there’s nothing like getting a bunch of writers buzzing about your book. So it has a better chance of ultimately getting in the hands of more…readers. One big happy cycle.
    ~ Wendy

  28. CL Parks says:

    Honestly, before I started writing for a living (instead of just as a hobby) I loved books that the writing community scoffs at. One book in particular is Twilight by Stephany Meyer, as well as the entire Twilight series. The reader part of me (I’m quite a bibliophile) loved these books. I got so lost in the storyline and couldn’t wait to read the next one. The writer part of me felt the way everyone else did – the writing was amateur, and clunky. The prose was sloppy, etc.

    DO readers think about these kinds of things when reading our work? Do they sit there and think “oh, she’s telling way more than showing!”? What a great piece! Thanks for this one!!!

  29. Julie Luek says:

    It seems like a bit of a catch-22 doesn’t it? I have thought about this very issue a lot as I take my newbie, tentative steps in this world. Readers will come when you have a product to attract them, yet agents and others in the writer world want to see your platform built. Most of us make this up as we go along and follow the footsteps of writers before us. Perhaps there’s a new path to forge but we’re not finding it yet.

  30. I have come to the conclusion the only writing rule that counts in the final edit, is don’t stop the reader.

    I worked on writing tight to the point where my readers were saying~~huh?

    If the reader has to go back and re-read to figure something out~~too many times, they won’t bother.

    As Brandilyn Collins says, the reader does not care about the floating body parts in her novels.

  31. Roxanne Sherwood Gray says:

    As I read popular books, I notice the flaws the author has made in craft. But if it’s a compelling story, the typical reader doesn’t care about those flaws. I read other writers’ blogs to help me as a writer. But as a reader, I don’t care so much. I’d love to read a blog by Margaret Mitchell about why she wrote certain scenes in Gone with the Wind. To connect with my readers, I hope to give them little “insider info” to entice them to my blog. I want readers to connect with my stories and me as an author. They won’t care about craft. The goal for my blog is to promote my writing to readers. The way I’ll connect with other authors, is to have them as guests on my blog. That’s the community among authors, to help promote one another.

  32. We recently published an ebook for a missionary who had the book written based on messages he spoke over a number of Sundays. Because this ebook was based on spoken messages, it really wasn’t very well done.

    But. This ebook had thousands of downloads the very first month of release. The author and the subject where the reason the book did, and is doing, well. Readers truly are after something different than writers and publishers. We were surprised, and needless to say, this forever changed were we are putting our priorities as a Christian publishing house.

    Jeremiah Zeiset
    LIFE SENTENCE Publishing

  33. I’ve been blogging for 7 years (started 3 months before my first book hit the shelves). My first few books were about marriage, sex, parenthood. Now I’m writing about social justice & missions (with some humorous memoir thrown in). I blog about “writing” roughly 1% of the time. So, not very balanced. But works for me. (and when I need a writing fix, I go read one of the good writing blogs)

  34. Rose Gardener says:

    Excellent reminder to know your target audience and always write for them.
    I have kept two blogs in the past seven years, neither of them about my writing. Each was based around a specific topic and had a satisfactory number of regular followers. I occasionally strayed into talking about issues on a personal level, but worse, on two occasions I talked about the technical side of writing! Readers stayed (thankfully), but comments on those posts were few and far between, teaching me that my readers didn’t care about the process, just the results. Through trial and error, I learned how to balance personal views with discussion of the topic.
    It’s one of the reasons I haven’t started a writer’s blog. I didn’t want to end up only talking to other writers – that’s what critique groups are for.

  35. As a writer and a reader I know that a well-written book can take me worlds away. An inferior writer draws my attention to the deficits and the story begins to sit uncomfortably with me and often loses me. The only time I connect with other authors/writers is a my monthly writing group and at writing conferences and festivals. The remainder of my life is spent with readers. I gave my novel to READERS before I sent it to an agent. Writers are not always going to read and enjoy what readers read. I am a case in point. Very few of the books I read are ones that general fiction readers would enjoy. And yet, I write for general fiction readers. Go figure!

  36. Timothy Fish says:

    As a general rule, readers are not writers and they don’t care about a lot of the details of writing. As a general rule, there isn’t much a novelist can blog about that is within the interests of their readers. That being said, I think readers visit novelists’ blogs because they want a behind the scenes look. Sure, if it is all writing all the time, they would get bored, but they want to see writers talking about writing and a bunch of other things that go on behind the scenes.

  37. Readers are quick to tell authors if they like their work or not (and prone to lie if they do not so as to avoid offending them). I just about have to hold a gun to my proofreaders’ heads the first time I assure them it’s OK to tell me what they don’t like and that they will not possibly offend me. Of course the gun sorta then makes them afraid, too…
    Last week one proofie said she couldn’t get into my story, whereas another adores it and is almost more excited about it than I am.

    One friend can now no longer read novels without critiquing them from a writer’s perspective and blames me for ‘ruining her experience’ 🙂 However it’s the sign of a good book when a writer gets the same experience as a normal reader and doesn’t think about anything but the story, the characters, and is then left with a feeling of bliss and satisfaction once the covers are closed for the final time.

    Definitely a tough one, but readers do NOT read like writers, and that’s how we can get away with grammatical murder and make up new words and such. It’s why writers SHOULD always be in contact with their readers and feeling out their feedback.

    I do find myself critiquing even the most famous of writers on all kinds of things. It proves how much sway/movement there is and how much super-authors do get away with (all because they can make it work).

    If the writer is not his own worst critic, another writer is bound to be 😉

  38. fiona says:

    This is great post on an issue which I have wrestled with in recent months. Twitter, in particular, engages you with other writers or publishers and agents but I have been trying to focus on readers. For me, this has been mainly through goodreads and blogging. I think it is easy for writers to become caught up in a bubble with others in the same field and lose sight of reader engagement, which should be a priority.

  39. SolariC says:

    It seems to me that readers probably want to read blogs that regularly review books. I can’t do that, though, because as a writer-teacher, I don’t have time to do much reading, ironically.

    Anyway, I think fiction writers have the short end of the stick when it comes to blogs. Non-fiction writers of almost any kind have a topic which someone out there is interested in reading about. Fiction writers, on the other hand, have to transform themselves to non-fiction writers to host a blog…and yet they don’t want their readers to be interested in their non-fiction. It’s a quandary.

    I’m trying to solve it by using my blog to show that being a writer is actually much like being a regular person! Hopefully that will attract readers, since they are also regular people.

  40. Very true.

    Sure, the rules matter to readers, but implicitly. They’re the filter through which books and authors must pass to reach the market.

    Most readers are concerned with a storyline with which they can identify, and characters in which they see themselves – for good or ill. They’ll overlook a lot of technical imperfection.

    I think the best way to connect with readers through a blog is to create a blog that addresses a more general need your demographic has…and then keep the readers reminded that you write novels, too.

  41. This reminds me of seminary and preaching class. The guys who impressed the preaching professor were “ether preachers”–They put everyone else to sleep.
    “Learning the craft” doesn’t mean learn how to say something in an impressive fashion. It means to learn how to craft a story so it’s compelling.

    Knowing the difference=knowing the craft

    • Jeanne says:

      It’s interesting to hear how this translates into other “careers” or endeavors, for lack of a better word.

      I like your equations, Jim. 🙂

    • Joe Pote says:

      It boils down to defining your intended audience, and knowing what they’re looking for.

      I’ve had a few pastors mention, in advance, that they planned to read my book, “So You are a Christian Who has been through Divorce.” Each time, I’ve made a point of telling them that the book is written from the perspective of layman to layman.

      While I believe many pastors would benefit from reading it, if they’re looking for a book that attempts to prove each point with a plethora of references to historical writing on this topic, they won’t find that in my book. I did not write it as an academic theological dissertation, but as a help to people who are hurting.

      You have to know your intended audience.

  42. Melissa says:

    Right on. I struggle to review books now and attempt to only access the reader part of me when doing so, because I’m recommending to readers from a reader’s perspective–I’m almost certain it’s impossible to do so anymore, but I try. And I don’t know how many blank stares I get when I throw in an example author and the “normal” I’m talking with has no clue who that author is.

    • Kat Laytham says:


    • Cindy says:

      Yes! I have read so many writers who trash commercially successful writers (I’m speaking generally about commercial fiction) by complaining about a lack of “craft” or talent or skill, without acknowledging that the writer reached a tremendous audience by doing what great craftsmen often fail at doing. Reaching their intended audience.

      I have read numerous “bad” novels because I couldn’t put them down. I had connected somehow to the characters and I cared enough to wade through the difficult writing to find out what happened next.

      At times, writers fail as readers, because we judge too quickly and too harshly, when what we need to do is learn.

  43. What an excellent reminder that above all else, the product needs to be not only interesting, but desired. Only way to do this, is to crank out some serious talent.

  44. Anthony says:

    “Do you agree that the writing community can insulate writers from readers?”

    Absolutely. It is one thing to use a blog as a journal-as-you-go to help organize your thoughts. I get that.

    On the flip side, there are only a few spots on the internet that an author can engage, or reach, readers that he or she owns. If all that opportunity is spent in meta-writing, how can an writer truly grow by understanding the reader?

    • Melissa says:

      Anthony, you wrote:
      there are only a few spots on the internet that an author can engage, or reach, readers that he or she owns.

      What are those spots in your opinion?

      • Anthony says:

        Hi Melissa,

        You own your blog. You own your mailing list, and you own your RSS feeds.

        (although, many writers thing a blogger blog is something they own, um, no, technically you don’t have full control)

        Related, you own your domain name.

        To a large extent you own your Twitter feed, but Twitter is a free service and it is a skim, not push service. You compete with people much more interesting than you. 🙂

        Facebook monetizes how many followers you reach and it gets worse every quarter. It’s bad.

        Pinterest, tumbler, etc., aren’t bad, but again, you don’t own those spots.

        So, if you spend your entire time on the one place you control writing about writing or engaging writers, that’s counterproductive. I’m not talking about “branding” either. I’m talking about building a readership, and that’s hard enough without, as this article points out, isolating yourself from the very people who buy or will buy your books.

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