Your Reader Won’t Read if You Won’t Read the Reader

Your Reader Won’t Read if You Won’t Read the Reader

Recently, I was in a conversation with some people over dinner. They talked.

They talked, and talked, and talked. If they asked me a question, it seemed to be a way for them to tee up another story. An elaborate story unattached to any particular aim.

I’ve known people like this, and I may be one of them: a person who fails to read the faces of the people with whom they are conversing.

If you don’t watch your listener, you might not notice they are bored, they are wanting to say something, or they are simply no longer paying attention.

I know when I have been “talking at” my wife. She will, in spite of herself, start to doze off, as well she should. No one likes to be talked at, even by someone as fascinating as ME!

This got me thinking. Do we do that to our readers? If so, how?

Am I doing it to you right now? Maybe not if you’re still reading. 🙂

People who talk at people are not in a two-way conversation. They are just talking, and it’s challenging for the listener. If they are generous, they will invite the listener to do some of the talking. They will ask questions. They will show interest in the answers.

All good writing is reader-centric. Otherwise, who wants to read it? How can we apply this to reader-centric writing so your reader can feel seen?

How can I do it right now in this post? Do you feel seen? I wonder. I hope!

I usually write these posts about things I already think I know and understand. But here I’ll need to go and do some research. I’ll be back to finish writing it afterward….

I’m back.

According to the first site that came up when I Googled it, here are four questions you can ask to start a reader-centric piece of writing:

Who is my target audience? Are they internal or external readers? Upstream, downstream, or lateral from you? Do I have multiple readers?

What is their perspective on the topic, on me, and on the document I will write? What are they expecting to do with the document? What is the document meant to accomplish? Why has it been requested? What is my role and relationship to my readers? What does the reader need to know? Already know? What does my reader NOT need to have explained?

What is my goal or purpose in writing to these readers? What am I trying to communicate? What do I want them to do as a result of reading this document? How can I plan the content to meet my readers’ needs?

What is my reader’s goal? Why does this audience want or need to read this document?

This all pretty interesting, but I wonder what ChatGPT will say. Let’s ask:

ChatGPT pretty much looked up the same website as I did, but also added:

Create a Connection

Show Empathy:

Acknowledge your readers’ challenges and show that you understand their perspective.

Be Authentic:

Write in a genuine and honest voice. Readers appreciate authenticity and can often sense when it’s lacking.

Encourage Interaction:

Invite readers to comment, ask questions, or share their own experiences. This creates a sense of community and involvement.

(By the way, reader, did I mention that I truly understand your challenge and perspective? I feel you. I really do. Leave me a comment and let me know how you feel about how I feel about you.)

I’m remembering now that my very favorite book (besides this one) on the topic is AJ Harper’s Write a Must Read where she describes the brilliant reader transformation sequence. Here’s what Harper says:

What you want is a perennial bestseller, a book that sells well year in and year out. That’s a book that will change your life. And to get that book, you need to first be mindful of what I call the Reader Transformation Sequence: buy, read, finish, act on, tell. You want readers to buy your book, read it, finish it, act on your advice, and then, because some aspect of their life has been transformed, tell someone about it. Or tell a lot of people about it. A lot, a lot.

How do you do that? Here’s a quick reference I hope you’ll jot down and keep close as you read this book:

Buy. Readers will buy your book because you have a solution for their problem.

Read. Readers will read your book because you see them and you get them.

Finish. Readers will finish your book because they trust you.

Act on. Readers will follow the advice in your book because you believe in them.

Tell. Readers will tell people about your book because they believe in you.

A little later, Harper drops this bomb:

To write a transformational book, the key point you need to understand is that a book is not about something. A book is for someone. It’s not about your topic; it’s for the people you serve and the people you hope to serve.

Come on! She preaches! Her book is reader-centric, therefore I have let it change my life and I recommend it to everyone who writes. As Harper always says, “reader first, last, and always.”

I can be so self-absorbed, and that makes this difficult. I know that many of you feel the same. You have a story to tell, so you assume the story is about you. You might say it’s about God (and it is), but He doesn’t need to read it.

If He’s called you to write, it’s because He knows there is a reader out there. You and I have to discover who that is, love them, think about them, pray about them, find them, and serve them.

Who is your ideal reader? What do they want? What is causing them pain? What do you know that could transform their life? What do they think their problem is? What do you know to be their real problem?

Feel free to comment with some of these answers. Let’s get a conversation going.

Other articles you might like

Scroll to Top