Five reasons why taking advice from writers about what readers like is a (really) bad idea.

Writing, marketing, and publishing advice is plentiful online. There’s excellent advice that can take your business to the next level, good advice, mediocre advice, very very bad advice, and some advice that is straight up, literally, illegal.

But when it comes to writers giving other writers advice about what readers want, I have found that, depending on where you get it, a lot of that advice isn’t to be trusted. Here are some reasons why it’s probably not a good idea to apply advice from other writers when you’re trying to write, publish, and market to readers–especially to readers who don’t write.

Writers don’t read like readers do. This is a big one. I hate seeing writing advice online. I hate it. I try to avoid it on this blog unless a pet peeve like my “got” issue (and not Game of Thrones) crawls too deeply under my skin and I have no choice but to speak up. Writers don’t read like readers do. How may times have you heard an author say, “I couldn’t get into the book. I was too busy dissecting/editing/proofing it to enjoy it.” A mom hiding from her toddler in the tub with her Kindle and a glass of wine isn’t going to critique your book. She wants a good story, characters to fall in love with, maybe some sexytimes, and if you give her that, she’s not going to care about small issues like whether or not you used the Oxford comma. She actually probably won’t even care how many times you use the word, “got” if the story is engaging and she cares about the fate of your characters. Give your readers a good story, and forget about the writing advice you see online. Keep changes between you, your beta readers and your editor.

A related thing I dislike is hearing writers say, “I read everything, and I write for readers who read everything, too.” The fact is, there are very few people who will read “everything” and writing and marketing to people who read “everything” is like throwing a handful of gravel into the wind. The pebbles scatter, and the force behind your throw is wasted, but throw ONE rock as hard as you can and watch it fly, right? You can’t write for everyone, you want to write for readers of a particular sub-genre. It will make it much easier to find readers because you already know what they like. Whale readers devour everything they can get their hands on in the sub-genre they prefer to read. They don’t stray much outside of their lanes, which is why writers are also counseled to stay in one lane–at least for a while.

Other writers may not have the same audience goals as you. We all want to find readers, but that doesn’t mean we have the same goals. I want to make a living with my writing. That may not be someone else’s goal. Maybe they want to sell only a handful of copies to say they are a published author. If we don’t have the same goals, we aren’t going to run our business the same way, or even think of our books as a business at all. That means anything from being a multi-genre author instead of niching down, not putting their books in KU when yours would do well there, or writing whatever they want when you would prefer to follow what’s selling in the market.

This goes hand-in-hand with writers who will give you plain old harmful advice. The other day on Twitter there was a writer who asked if she should separate her different genres with a different pen name. I can’t tell you how many authors told her not to bother and my jaw dropped. I wanted to explode, but I kept scrolling. Unless your genres are closely related, (billionaire romance/mafia, paranormal romance/speculative women’s fiction with romantic elements, mystery/thriller/domestic thrillers) you’ll do better if you separate your genres with pen names. It will make marketing easier, your also-boughts on Amazon won’t get messed up, and you can cultivate two sets of readers. It’s work though, and that’s why the thought of pen names turns off a lot of writers. Readers will appreciate the separation. Even if you don’t keep your identities a secret, they’ll appreciate knowing which name you write under that they like best. Writers say they want to take credit for all their hard work. You can still take credit–inside on the copyright page. So many people told me that I didn’t need to separate my 3rd person contemporary romances from my 1st person billionaire books. I wanted to because they have different tones, though the subject matter (my characters’ personal problems) is largely the same. I felt validated when Zoe York mentioned in a Clubhouse room that she separates her 3rd person from her 1st person. It just made sense to me all around, though readers probably can switch from reading 3rd to 1st easier than I can writing it.

Writers don’t read enough to know what’s going on in their genres and the industry as a whole. For every rule there is an exception, and there are probably a lot of writers who read regularly. I’m not one of them, and I should be. I should be gobbling up every billionaire romance out there. I did read some, when I decided to make my switch, but I didn’t, and still don’t, read enough. I’m willing to bet that if writers read more in their genre, they wouldn’t be giving the advice they do. They would know what readers want, what they look for, what they’re willing to pay for. They would know the book cover trends, what kind of blurbs capture a reader’s attention. Advice steeped in ignorance is not advice you want to take. I have bemoaned on this blog so many times about how a lot of indies don’t understand the industry, and if you don’t understand the industry, you don’t know what’s selling, or why it is. That’s important.

“I don’t read newsletters, so that’s why I’m not offering one.” This is, by far, the craziest thing I have ever heard. You are a writer. We’ve already ascertained you more than likely don’t read enough, so saying you’re not subscribed to any newsletters isn’t surprising, but it’s not a reason why you shouldn’t offer one to your readers. Readers are not like us. You need a way to communicate with them. I haven’t offered a newsletter in the five years I published under Vania Rheault, and it’s my biggest mistake. If you don’t offer a newsletter, your readers have no way of staying in touch with you. I gobble up non-fiction content and I’m subscribed to many newsletters from big indie names like Dave Chesson, Derek Murphy, David Gaughran, Jane Friedman, Ricardo Fayet from Reedsy. I also get newsletters from Kobo Writing life, Reedsy, BookBub and more. Their information about publishing is valuable, and I subscribe, and, more importantly read, to stay in the know. Your readers, if they enjoy your books, will want to sign up for your newsletter to stay up to date on what you’re doing. This does mean that if you offer a newsletter, you have to send one out on occasion. Content wasn’t the issue with me. I’ve managed to regularly blog for 6 years and rarely do I run out of something to say. I didn’t offer a newsletter because I’m lazy. I didn’t want to learn how to use MailerLite. I didn’t want to take the time to figure out how to create a landing page, how to set up an autoresponder, the technical issues of signing up for a professional email, blah blah blah. But, I finally did it. Now I’m five years behind. Don’t offer a newsletter because you haven’t subscribed to any. You’re not a reader. You’re a writer.

Stubborn indie writers are set in their ways and won’t change even if that behavior hinders finding readers. The two most stubborn groups of people in the world are runners who are injured and who should take a break from running to rest and heal…and indie writers. Taking advice from a writer who isn’t open to new ideas and bristles at constructive criticism is a terrible idea. Feedback and kind criticism are a necessity to grow in craft and in your business. I wish I could count how many times I see an agent say, NO PROLOGUES and a writer say, “I’m gonna write all the prologues” then cry when they can’t find an agent. Are you going to listen to someone who is intent to do it their own way damned the consequences, or are you going to listen to someone who knows what’s going on in the industry and is flexible enough to pivot and or try new things? (By the way, agents know the editors {who are the people who actually buy the books} who know readers and what they like. Just a thought.) As far as readers go, what’s expected in your genre? Fantasy uses prologues. Mystery/thrillers do too, often in the POV of the villain. If you want to write a prologue and your genre supports it (meaning your readers are used to them) write a prologue. If a prologue won’t enhance your story, maybe you don’t need it. I like epilogues. I like writing them, I like reading them, and they are often found in romance novels to tie up loose ends. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary writing an epilogue. Sometimes a story needs it, sometimes it doesn’t, but prologues and epilogues are not a hill you need to die on. What is best for YOU and your genre? Romances don’t do well with prologues. Readers want to get to the meat of the story as quickly as possible. Introduce your heroine and hero ASAP. Writers have made too much of an issue about something that should be considered on a book by book, and genre by genre, basis.


Writers do their best to sabotage their own businesses–sometimes not thinking about their books as businesses at all is the first mistake they make. Everything you do should be geared toward finding and keeping readers. Writing what you want is only good advice if you know the genre you want to write in, the reader expectations of that genre, and if you enjoy writing that genre and those tropes readers expect. Many people have asked me if I feel boxed in writing billionaire romance, but I don’t. The same tropes (and yes, I structure my novels around tropes) apply to people who have money as to the characters who are broke. They handle problems differently, sure, but that’s fun, too. Make what you love to write meet in the middle with what readers want to read. You can’t listen to a writer who says a book cover doesn’t matter or tells you readers don’t read blurbs. Over on Twitter, I’ve heard it all, and it’s concerning because the writing community has thousands of members, and some of the information passed through those hashtags is harmful at best and toxic at worst. Think like a reader from start to finish and you’ll never go wrong with writing, publishing and marketing of your books.