Monday, May 18, 2009

The Reader

I've been thinking about readers. I assume most of us writers are also heavy readers, if for no other reason than to learn our craft. But, the readers I'm wondering about are the people who read heavily without trying their own hand at writing. How large is this group of people? Are the majority of book buyers truly people who just enjoy reading with no aspirations of their own?

When I think about my own friends and family, I know about two dozen writer/readers. On the other hand, I only know about six people who read regularly (say, at least five books a year) without writing. Granted, I'm biased. I seek out fellow writers, so this uneven ratio makes sense. But, it makes me wonder where all the readers are. Or, perhaps more accurately, I wonder who's buying books.

So, let's take a little poll. How many heavy readers do you personally know who don't also write?

30 comments:

  1. I know about half-and-half. Almost everybody in my every day life that I interact with in person reads but doesn't write. That's why I came here online - to find more people who understood the writing end of the spectrum in my life.

    My mom is a great reader. She devours books. So do most of my friends. And they're super super fast. I wish I could read that fast! I'm so slow.

    Fast = More Buying, LOL. My parents have a Kindle. My friend is looking into buying one. I think I might like one. Either way, anything that helps me read in more places is great.

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  2. I actually know more readers than writers. My mom and I are the only two "writers" in my family; and my mom only does it as a rare hobby. Also, I work in a library so I see and know lots of people who read like crazy, but I've never seen or known them to write. Guess it just depends on who you're around most often.

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  3. I know more readers than writers as well. My mother and sisters pretty much devour books, but none of them write. I don't read as much as I once did, but that's because I write. Go figure.

    Lady Glamis - I descended to the dark side back in March and bought a Kindle. I love, love, love my kindle. I still love to go to Borders and look at books - touch, feel the pages beneath my hands - but I seriously prefer reading on the Kindle. In fact, I just downloaded The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy to Kindle. I'm definitely a happy camper.

    S

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  4. My mother's side of the family are avid readers, and I take after them. I suppose this is why I chose to be a lit major and English teacher. I read a ton...but I have to take a break when I am writing.

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  5. Excluding writing friends, of all the heavy readers I know there's only one (my niece) who is a serious possibility of one day becoming both reader and writer. So, in my small world, there seems to be a lot more readers than wanna-be writers.

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  6. I definitely meet more heavy readers with no intention to write than writers. Some of them read a book every day, sometimes two!

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  7. Not counting people I know via the interweb, I know a lot of readers, but I only know two who are writers. I think it's the attribution heuristic: we're writers and we spend a lot of time talking to other writers, so it seems like the world is filled with writers when, in fact, it's really not.

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  8. Would heavy readers be known by anyone else?

    If they spend all their time reading, would they ever go out?

    If they don't go out, where do they get their books?

    ...my head's hurting.

    The only one I know of is my mother.

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  9. My parents and siblings are all heavy readers. My siblings spouses and kids are all heavy readers. We were raised with books. That's 15 people I know right off the bat who love to read.

    I turned to writing. My dad wrote technical papers for military, but never tried his hand at fiction. My brother used to write poetry. My mom tried her hand at children's books. But now they'd rather read.

    Come to think of it, most of the home schoolers I know who are heavy readers dabble in writing.

    Interesting!

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  10. I know tons of heavy readers with no intension of writing. I'd never be able to come up with a specific number. My writing has actually slowed down my reading. I was a book every couple days reader until I started writing. Now, there are some weeks that go by without being able to complete a book. I miss being able to read that much, but I love that I'm finally writing.

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  11. I know many....one friend has about 3 different books going at once, usually different genres though. A few others read romantic fiction, Danielle Steele, etc...including my mom who reads every single day while she's on her lunch break. And with the whole Twilight thing...a friend of mine who never ever used to read has devoured the series and is now reading other vampire-esque romance novels. My brother and my stepfather are huge Dean Koontz and Stephen King fans..both are always reading. None of these people write at all.

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  12. All of my students! I'm biased because I'm also a teacher, but I see plenty of students devouring books with no intention of publishing any :)

    And many of my fellow teachers read tons, even if they don't intend to write! :)

    ...as for people who buy NEW debut books? Well, that does seem to skew towards fellow writers.

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  13. Most of the readers I know do not write. It's no surprise really; I read heavily between kindergarten and high school but never considered becoming a writer.

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  14. I think most folks are readers. Writing is hard work. Only the brave (and foolish?) enter into that arena.

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  15. I know quite a few heavy readers. But like Beth said, I'm the person they come to when they're looking for recommendations on new authors they might like or something different that's not on the best seller list.

    Yup. I'm a reading enabler.

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  16. I know many more readers than writers. Of all the many avid readers I know, I only have one other real world acquaintance who writes.

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  17. I know more readers than writers, present virtual company excluded.

    To take the question a step further, for the writers you know, what do they write? Novels, screenplays, short stories, poetry? Do they write for business (press releases, copywriting, trade journals, etc.)?

    And, perhaps most importantly, are they published?

    I met John R. Maxim through my Dad. Maxim has published many books, making it to the NY Times bestseller lista couple times. He writes contemporary thrillers; fast-paced brain candy (but very fun reads). I spoke with him before I started my novel and he said that most people who start to write a book never finish it, and most of the people who finish their first book never go on to write another.

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  18. Plenty. Then again, I'm in high school still, so not many people share the dream.

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  19. I'm buying the book. Just take a look at the library I once called my house. ;) The problem is I have more books than I'll ever be able to read, yet I keep buying more. It's an addiction, I think.

    Lynnette Labelle
    ”Lynnette Labelle’s Blog”

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  20. Definitely more readers than writers.

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  21. This is all really great to hear! Although, I'll admit I'm now wondering how I ended up with the friends I did. :P It probably has to do with background. I majored in science and was surrounded by math and science geeks. Although they CAN read, they usually choose not to. Most of my friends are more into video games than books. So, the readers I know are ones I found through writing.

    And, a few of you did mention that you didn't know as many reader-non-writers. I wonder what we have in common.

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  22. Stephanie,
    I think Twilight and Harry Potter have opened the door for new readers in so many ways. In my lab alone (my literal lab, not the Literary Lab, ha!) two or three people got into Harry Potter even though they didn't read much before. Now, they search for other books they might like.

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  23. Rick,
    I know people who write all sorts of things: Women's Fiction, Memoir, Poetry, Screenplays. To say whether or not they will stick to it is beyond me at the moment.

    For this topic, the publication record wasn't as interesting to me because I was just wondering who was buying books. I realize I tend to buy books I wouldn't normally read out of curiosity. I want to know why a particular book was published. But, among my friends, almost all of them have published short stories in lower tier literary magazines. My poet friend is quite successful. A handful of my friends have published collections and novels, both through traditional publishing routes and through self-publishing.

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  24. Aside from blogging buddies, I know very few other writers. I do, however, know many other readers. Some are your typical five books a year kind of readers but more than half of them get through more books than that and do it simply for the love of reading. This includes non-fiction, of course.

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  25. There are no other aspiring writers within my immediate family (except my five year old daughter). However, everyone seems to read when they can. It's pretty gender specific stuff too. My mom read all the Clan of the Cave Bear stuff and everything like that, my wife reads Jodi Picoult, and my dad has read just about every worthwhile world war two book there is.

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  26. Hey Davin! The majority of people in my little corner of the globe :) definitely love to read, just to read. They love books. They don't write, they just read.I need to read more. Something besides my manuscript. :)

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  27. I belong to two book clubs...about 35 people total. All avid readers, no other writers besides myself.

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  28. Well I used to be a heavy reader/non writer till last November :)

    I don't know anyone else who writes in real life but most of my friends read a lot.

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  29. I'm surrounded mostly by techies, who don't read anything without equations in it.

    Now my s-in-law has suddenly started reading a lot of fiction because she's discovered books on tape during her commute to work. Of the others I know who read alot, many have aspirations to write novels but never will. Instead, they describe their storylines to me, on the assumption I am lacking ideas and would benefit from their much better take on X-men meets Lord of the Rings. ;)

    My husband buys books but never has time to read them. He doesn't give me complete storylines, but comes up with about 10 book titles a day and tells me I should write the book to go with it, "because that would be an awesome title."

    If only I could really write that fast. :D

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  30. It's kind of like the ratio of humans to vampires, isn't it? Although vampires need more humans to exist to provide food, there's always the possibility -- and temptation -- of converting a human/reader to vampire/writer.

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