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Question: How do we get non-writers to read?

As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed this morning–taking a quick break from a manuscript I’m critiquing–I thought about something that I’ve known for a while: We writers spend a lot of time hawking our books to other writers, or would-be writers.

This sort of thing happens in the realm of literary short fiction, a lot. Most of us who write short stories submit them to literary magazines, many of which have several hundred to several thousand readers. And who are those readers? Other writers, mostly. A few agents, looking for new talent. A scarce handful of faithful readers who don’t have daydreams of selling a novel or having a short story optioned by Paramount for a film starring Morgan Freeman.

On Twitter, writers follow other writers, and agents, and teachers of writing. We HOPE to connect with a community of readers, but in my experience, there are way more OTHER writers populating my Tweet Feed.

There’s nothing wrong with that, as far as the community and support and encouragement aspects of social media are concerned. But, it’s not a healthy business model for writers to only peddle their work to other writers. If I’m talking to twenty writers and they buy my book, then I also have twenty writers whose books I have to buy. Even if I self-publish, I’d only make, let’s say, $3 per book sold. 20 x $3 is $60. Let’s pretend, for a moment (mostly for the sake of math) that the average cost of the twenty books the other writers will publish is $10. I will spend $200 reciprocating the purchases that earned me $60. The only people making money when we are writers selling books to other writers are the printers and paper makers and eBook web hosts.

Don’t get me wrong. Buying the books of other writers is important to me. And, I would love it if my writer friends wanted to purchase my work when it is available.

But, how do we get a broader audience to read our writing? What do we do to build a platform not just of other writers, but of readers?

I don’t have an answer, really. I’m eager to hear some. Maybe that portion of platform building only comes after the product is ready for consumption.

If you have any thoughts about this, I’d love to hear them in the comments section below, or shoot me an email.

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