Claire King


The best thing about publishing a book…

Posted on: April 17th, 2013 by Claire - 10 Comments

Reading a book

…is readers.

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.

10 Responses

  1. Mike Clarke says:

    What a great blog post — showing what satisfaction you can gain from being able to share your story with a wider group of people.

    My novel’s not been published yet (not surprising as I’ve not — quite — finished it) but I’ve shared a lot of the work in progress on writing courses and with writers’ groups and it’s always amazing when other people want to discuss your characters as if they were separate from you (the writer). ‘No, X wouldn’t do that!’.

    I had a comment recently from someone who genuinely wanted to inflict physical violence on one of my characters!

    Shows that your book groups want to know lots about your characters, which shows you must have got the balance right between providing enough information to make them real but also allowing the reader to ponder over unresolved questions.

    • claire says:

      Thanks Mike. It’s amazing isn’t it how readers meet the characters fully formed for the first time, and so somehow believe them into being. Love it.

  2. Lovely post – and I agree absolutely. For people to give up some hours of their lives for something we write is… nothing short of amazing. I will never cease to be hugely pleased, and thankful. Glad you had such a brilliant time with the book group. x

  3. Kerry Fisher says:

    I couldn’t agree more….I recently self-published my novel, which had had several ‘nearly but not quite’ moments with agents and it was joyful to realise that actually, people did want to read it and they did love it, especially one of my naughtiest characters. It certainly has given me confidence – and like you, I love it when people take the time to comment – it’s a very generous thing to do and I have started doing it more for other authors because I now understand what it means!

    • claire says:

      I’m glad to hear you’re getting good feedback from readers on your book. It’s so hard to get that ‘click’ with an agent. But if enough readers cheer for you an agent will see that sooner or later. Fingers crossed.

  4. Jean Ryan says:

    I recently wrote a post on why readers in general prefer novels to short stories, and the prevailing reason is that readers make friends of the characters and want them to stick around as long as possible.I find this odd and touching. In creating characters, writers are forced into objectivity; readers do not experience this separation. If these are the questions you are being asked, you’ve done an admirable job.

    • claire says:

      Thank you, Jean. You’re right, getting to know characters is so important in a novel – for me, caring about a protagonist is a major reason to keep reading a novel even when other elements don’t have me hooked. It’s so much harder to do that in a short story.

  5. Mel Randles says:

    Hi Claire,

    Great post – best of luck with the reading groups and readings.

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