Forget the other things you may dream of. Forget the beautiful covers and the thrill of being on the shelves of book shops. Forget the congratulations and the celebrations. Forget royalties and rankings and reviews. Yes, all of these things are good things. But the best thing, the very best thing about publishing a book is readers.
Because you are the storyteller. Your story has been aching to be told. And now by some kind of miracle it is being told far and wide. Being heard. Being appropriated…by readers.
It’s only two months since The Night Rainbow was published, but I’ve heard back already from so many readers, and honestly, every time it makes my heart sing. When readers take the time to write a letter or a tweet or a review to say what they thought about my story, it’s a gift. And this week I had the chance to actually chat with a reading group for the first time. We did it by Skype and although we had a couple of technical issues overall it worked really well. I would love to do it again. I could get hooked.
What surprised me most was the kind of questions that the readers had to ask. In particular:
- Questions about events that happened before the story starts. What led the characters to the point where the novel opens?
- Questions about what happens after the book ends. Do I foresee happiness for my characters?
- Questions about characters’ motivations for certain actions or comments they made. What were they thinking?
Aren’t they amazing questions? Not questions about structure or voice or writing techniques. But questions about the characters. As though they were real. Because just as for the writer, for the reader those characters were real too for a while. Their story was told, and the readers listened.
Readers: The absolute best thing about publishing a book.
Photo via flickr creative commons (c) Thokrates. Have a look at some of his other beautiful photos too.