Maybe you gave your friend a paperback of your first or latest novel. Or you emailed a link to download the e-book free or buy it for a low price.
Yet your friend hasn't read it or reviewed it.
Or maybe, as several authors I’ve spoken to recently have done, you had a party where you gave away 25 paperback copies of your novel to your friends and colleagues and asked them to please read it and consider leaving a review.
No one did.
What can you do other than feeling disappointed?
Below are five main reasons your friends and acquaintances don’t buy or read your novels and what you can do in response.
Reason 1: They Don’t Like Reading
It seems shocking to those of us who love to read and write novels, but some people simply don’t like to read and/or they find it very difficult.
I recently heard a podcaster who believes that paperbacks and e-books alike will disappear entirely in favor of audio because reading is hard. While I like listening to audio while doing other tasks because it makes good use of my time, I can read much faster than a narrator can speak, so it’ll never replace reading for me.
Also, I love the experience of reading a book.
If your friends find it difficult, though, they may read if they have to for work, but the last thing they’ll do when it’s time to relax is read your novel or any book.
If your friend is not a reader, pushing your book will do nothing but make that person feel bad.
If your friend is otherwise supportive of your career as an author and wants to help, ask your friend to pass your novel on (or recommend it if it’s an e-book) to someone who does love to read the type of book you’ve written.
Be clear about what type of reader that would be and about the genre of the book you've written. Don’t task your non-reading friend with figuring that out.
Reason 2: They Don’t Read Your Genre
Some people love to read but don’t happen to read what you like to write.
They may enjoy stories or narratives but prefer to read about real people, so they read biographies rather than novels.
Or they read novels but they love mysteries and you write westerns, or they love romance and you write horror.
It’s tempting to think that our friends should be willing to switch genres for us.
But if you think about what you love to read and don’t, it can be hard to switch to an entirely different genre.
I will cross over a little bit, but not that much. I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but if a friend who knows what I like recommends a sci-fi book I’ll check it out.
On the other hand, if my friend wrote a long literary novel about a highly dysfunctional multi-generational family where everyone behaves horribly to everyone else and is deeply depressed, I’d rather bang my head against the wall than read it.
And if I did read it, there would be almost no way I could honestly write a positive review or, even if I set honesty aside, that I would know what to say that would be positive.
I just deeply dislike that kind book, despite that many such books win prestigious literary awards.
Despite that this type of friend loves to read, your solution is the same as for Number 1 above.
But there is good news. Because your friend overall likes to read, she’s more likely to know other readers or to understand who would be the best person to whom to give or recommend your book.
Reason 3: They Read An Average Number Of Books Per Year
Most of the research I did listed 12 books per year as the average number that people read.
Keep in mind, though, that this number is skewed by voracious readers. These are people who read anywhere from 2 to 5 books per week or more.
If we take out those people, most people read only 1 to 4 books per year.
If your friend falls into that category, it’s a big commitment to read your book. If the person already has a couple favorite authors, that fills the reading quotient for the year.
So this friend may in theory want to read your book and be excited about it but may simply not get to it for a long time.
This friend may very well buy your book to be supportive, so go ahead and tell him about it or give your friend an autographed copy.
If your friend is really excited for you, ask if he will shelve the copy somewhere where other people might see it, maybe on a shelf above his desk at work, on a coffee table at home, or on a virtual shelf on Goodreads.
That way, your friend can help you even if there’s no time to read the book right away. The same friend might also be willing to post a picture of himself holding the book on social media with a note about how excited he is to have it.
As far as actually reading the book, don’t push. Putting on pressure makes it less likely your friend will want to read, as it will make it seem like a chore.
Give it a little time and back off and you may be surprised to find one day that you have a new diehard fan or a great review.
Reason 4: They Read A Lot More Than Average, But…
It can be especially upsetting if you have a friend who talks about books and seems to read a lot of fiction, but who doesn’t read your novel.
Because most people read only 1 to 4 books per year, though, a person can read much more or much more quickly than average and still not read a lot.
Someone who reads 12 books a year, for instance, is reading more than average. And if that person likes to read novels, she probably has a number of favorite authors who put out at least a book a year. Once that person reads each book by a favorite author, that leaves only a few slots left.
Also, how much people can read depends on what’s happening in their lives. If your friend just had a newborn or got a promotion or is caring for an aging parent, there simply may be almost no time to read.
If your friend doesn’t read your genre, see Number 2 above.
If your friend does usually read the type of book you write, ask what format is the preferred one. If your book is only available as an e-book, and your friend only reads paperbacks, you may need to wait until you issue a paperback version of your book or offer to print a copy from your word processor for her.
Also try the approaches in Number 3 above.
In addition, because your friend is a bit more of a reader than those in previous categories, you can feel a little freer to let this friend know how much it would mean to you if she would read your book (and post an honest review if she’s comfortable doing that).
Finally, be sure to read Number 5 below, as if your friend is not reading your book, it may be the reason why.
Reason 5: They're Afraid They Won’t Like It And Don’t Want To Have To Tell You
Your friend may love to read and may read in your genre and yet still hold off on reading your book.
That’s because it can be very awkward if you read your friend’s book and you really don’t like it. You are then in the position of needing to lie to your friend and/or, if you’re being pushed to write a review, to write something that will hurt your friend’s feelings or that you might not be comfortable writing.
If you are giving the friend a copy unsolicited, make clear that you are not pressuring that person to read it. You can say something like, “I promise I won’t quiz you on it.”
You can also say something like, “If you love it or hate it, I hope you’ll post a review, because having more reviews, even if they’re not all 5 stars, helps a book sell.” (Which is true.)
That way, your friend knows that you understand that you may not love the same types of books. Also, it’s unlikely your friend is going to post a truly bad review. If she or he doesn’t like the book, either there will be no review or you’ll get a neutral review.
You can also tell your friend that if she fears she doesn’t have time to read it, it would be helpful to do the things suggested in Number 3. That way if your friend doesn’t like the book, she can avoid mentioning it but still be supportive in other ways.
One Last Category
There are acquaintances and friends who simply will never buy or read your book and it has nothing to do with whether they are readers or not.
You may have referred clients to them, donated to their political campaigns, or given gifts at baby showers, christenings, and birthdays for each of their children, but even if you directly asked them to, they won’t get around to spending a few dollars on your book or reading it if you give it to them.
Often these are people who don’t understand how important writing is to you, particularly if you have another career.
Regardless what you say, they’ll see it as a hobby that there’s no reason to get excited about or support.
Or these friends may simply not be very supportive people. Presumably they have other great qualities about them that you value and that’s why you’re friends.
Appreciate those qualities and let go of your hope that they’ll read your books or be encouraging about your author career.
Hopefully, though, most of your friends don’t fall into this category!
If they do, you may want to make an effort to add some more positive, supportive friends to your circle.
That’s all for this week.
Until next Friday —