November 29, 2010

Nonreaders - An Untapped Resource

by Gloria Davidson Marlow

Thanks for letting me chat with you today! It's been a busy weekend and I'm a bit late showing up, but it's a pleasure to be here.

I thought I'd talk today about an untapped resource for writers - people who don't read. Now you all are probably looking at me a bit askance. Why do we writers care about people who don't read, right?

A few years ago, I suggested to a writers group I belonged to that some of us lease exhibition space at the Jacksonville fair to promote and sell our books. I was shocked when the group leader informed me that people who attend fairs are not "readers" and we would be wasting our time. I took immediate exception to that line of thought. We may not have sold books at the fair, simply because attendees may not have come prepared financially to purchase books, but to discount a whole segment of the population as not being "readers" because they have children or are seen by one writer as a lower class and not the type of reader he would want, is folly. In my opinion, he passed up an opportunity for himself and others to be introduced to a wide range of readers or potential readers.

None of us were born readers. I, for one, couldn't read a single word when I was born. Some of my earliest memories, however, are of my mom reading to my sister and me. It was on our living room sofa, curled up beside my mom and little sister, that a reader was born.

Other readers were born later in life and in different ways, but all had one thing in common. For a few hours, they were transported to another world, taken to live vicariously through someone they had never met, and most likely, someone who never really existed at all.

Even as a reader since childhood, I love to experience that. I love to be swept away and lost in the characters and plot to the point where the real world ceases to exist for just little while. As a writer, that is what I want to give my readers. I know from experience, that if I find an author who can do that for me, I go back and read more by her. I hope my readers feel the same way.

My sister did not become an avid reader on the sofa in our living room. Although she does read other things, she isn't a big book reader. So when she told me my first book was the best book she ever read, it was easy for me to discount it and tease that it was the only book she'd ever read. When she fell in love with the hero in my second book, I began to think of her as one of my readers.

When I talk about my books, a lot of people tell me they love to read and they enjoyed my books. That means a lot. But there are an equal number of people who tell me they never read, but they love my books. They almost always want to know when my next one is coming out. They may not be readers of anyone else, but they are most definitely "mine".

Do they or their opinions matter less because they don't usually read? I don't think so. I am actually awed and flattered that my words, my characters, my plots, and my voice is the one that transported them. It was my book that initiated them into the world of readers and it is my writing that keeps them there.

I have a fairly short list of authors who I love to read. When I find one I really like, I read everything they write. They may not be as famous or well known as many other writers. While other writers I know were reading the classics, I was devouring Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. While those writers continued their literary educations, I was falling in love with the worlds created by Jude Deveraux and Elizabeth Thornton. I remember the first books I ever read by each one of them, and I continued reading them until I'd read every one.

I wasn't born a reader, but it was those women, along with the writers of my childhood book list, who made me into one. It is my pleasure and privilege to carry that torch to my little part of the world.

Read more about me and my books at


Denise said...

Well, apparently, I'm not a reader. LOL I attend county fairs and state fairs and those little carnivals set up in parking lots.

Readers can be found anywhere and for various reasons. I became a reader, not because my mom read to me but because it was a way to escape my family life.

It also helped me cope with being a mother, I needed down time and not to do housework. Who cares about house work when I've got a great book just waiting for me to open it?

I loved your post.

Mona Risk said...

Interesting post. I discovered recently that many vacationers turn into readers when lying on beach lounges, lazing at the pool or traveling the world on a cruise. Can you approach them with your book? No, but they are interested and receptive when you give them your bookmarks.

Bianca Swan said...

I loved Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy and Mary Stewart!

Beth Trissel said...

Excellent post. You make some very good points. Readers are potentially anywhere.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Very wise of you. My mom was not a reader until she retired. She did not do well in school and always was embarrassed by how slowly she read. Once she was hooked, she became an avid reader and often said she was so sorry she hadn't discovered reading much earlier.

Margaret Tanner said...

Interesting post. I think you have raised a very valid point and tapping into a resource like this is a great idea. I'll have to try it myself.