Notes: Publishing for Readers

From Thom Chambers' The Micropublisher, Issue Two, comes this bit about publishing for readers:

What if your work continues not to land, not to have impact, even when you’re proud of it?

Well, when your goals are focused on the internal, on the things you can control, then you can react. It becomes a question of knowing what the right work is.

First, make sure your story is right. Are you publishing things that people want to read? Are you publishing for the right audience?

This comes back to starting with why and being authentic. When you stand for something, when you believe in something, you attract those who believe the same. Then, make publications that delight those readers. Rather than writing something and seeking out new readers for it, you write for your existing readers. Focus on delighting them, repeatedly.

If as publishers we're constantly focused on controlling the audience, then it's a lose-lose game. We can't control the audience. Instead, we should focus on what we can control: what's inside us. We should focus on speaking to readers, on thinking one-to-one and communicating with humans not statistics.

Notes: "Any given person is dumber as a member of an audience than as a reader."

Paul Graham writes about why writing superior to the spoken word as a source of ideas. He makes several important points about how when we're in a group, we're heavily influenced by those around us. Reading, on the other hand, is a very personal, writer-to-reader experience. The medium of writing gives us both the opportunity to craft both the intended message and the interpreted meaning.

Audiences like to be flattered; they like jokes; they like to be swept off their feet by a vigorous stream of words. As you decrease the intelligence of the audience, being a good speaker is increasingly a matter of being a good bullshitter. That's true in writing too of course, but the descent is steeper with talks. Any given person is dumber as a member of an audience than as a reader. Just as a speaker ad libbing can only spend as long thinking about each sentence as it takes to say it, a person hearing a talk can only spend as long thinking about each sentence as it takes to hear it. Plus people in an audience are always affected by the reactions of those around them, and the reactions that spread from person to person in an audience are disproportionately the more brutish sort, just as low notes travel through walls better than high ones. Every audience is an incipient mob, and a good speaker uses that. Part of the reason I laughed so much at the talk by the good speaker at that conference was that everyone else did.