Why Should I Read Your Book?

Michelle Ule

Blogger:  Michelle Ule

Filling in for Wendy, who is at the International Christian Retail Show.

Articulating Reasons for People to Read Your Book

“Why should I read your book?” The rotund man with a trim mustache was on his fifth or sixth glass of wine, but we’d finally moved the dinner conversation around to me.

I didn’t recognize him; as far as I knew, he was merely another guest at the fashionable party I was attending at a sprawling beach “cottage” on Stinson Beach.
(We were required to wear all white. Yes, I felt like an actress in The Great Gatsby).

I didn’t expect the question, and I stumbled. I hadn’t even had a glass of wine!

While the rest of the table watched politely, I tried to remember my “elevator pitch.”

My questioner leaned closer. “Has it got good hot sex, violence or anything else of interest?”

I could answer that question. “No.”

“Then what’s the point?”

I went mute.

My personal patron of the arts (aka my husband) stepped into the breach and discussed the drama of the story, the complexity of the characters, the important plot points.

The questioner sloshed his wine glass and then asked who owned the adorable baby sitting on my lap.

A two-month-old got me off the hook

With him, but not with myself.

I’ve puzzled over the question ever since. Why should that elegant,  San Francisco socialite–whom I’ve since learned runs a tiny publishing house–read my Civil War novel?

Why should he read your project?

Wise King Solomon advised, “of the making of books there is no end.” For this reason, it’s important  when we write a story we create as unusual a tale as possible. It behooves writers to ask themselves what they hope to prove in the writing.

What’s a potential reader’s personal “take away”?

If a reader can’t find something in the story meaningful to themselves–whether they realize it or not–I’m not sure a novelist has done them a service. Click to Tweet

My Civil War story turns on how a woman copes with setting aside her personal ethics to marry a bandit for the “Cause.” How does she cope with what her marriage does to her soul? When he is killed while under investigation by the Army for impropriety, how does she emotionally work herself back to spiritual peace, particularly since she is on the war’s losing side? How does she reconstruct “normal” when all of life has turned upside down?

I’m personally interested in questions like these, but would a drunk man at a fancy dinner be?

Who knows?

But he probably should read my book.

Addressing the question why should someone read your book is one of the sections of a proposal writers should consider carefully.

A novel is more than a story; what themes are you examining?  We shouldn’t be writing polemical novels that shove our point down the reader’s throat if we’re trying to entertain, but nuance and deeper meanings can turn even a simple novella into a thought-provoking work.

What makes a book worth reading? Click to Tweet


What about you? What is the underlying concern behind your project? What is your reader take-away?

In one simple sentence, why I should read your manuscript? :-) Click to Tweet

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44 Comments

  • Anne Love says:

    Great thoughts Michelle, and humbling story about the guy at the party.
    Perhaps he wasn’t looking to have his “heart touched”? But I think a walk with God is all about keeping our hearts “touchable”–and that’s what I look for when I’m reading. I don’t call that entertainment, I call it inspiration.

    So, here goes. You should read my book if you’ve ever lost courage and wanted to give up and throw in the towel, if you’ve ever felt disillusioned by your dreams, wondered about your calling, failed at anything–because my book is about finding courage in the face of these things.

    • lisa says:

      I love this Anne, I want to be inspired when I read too.

    • Michelle Ule says:

      Great reason, Anne! And you’re right that such a beginning, as others noted, can be a great lead in for other questions; and our answers can open doors for ministry that goes beyond our books.:-)

  • lisa says:

    Accepting the unending love of Christ, despite past. Forgiveness. Grasping redemption.

  • Norma Horton says:

    Excellent point, Michelle. I’ll be prepared for this question, and one day will thank you for writing this blog!

    In this instance, my inclination (which I’d never cede to) would be to respond that my book addressed alcohol addiction, and the breakdown of manners in contemporary society. Of course, he TOTALLY wouldn’t have gotten it, so the observations would be wasted.

    Can I rent the two-mnth old on an hourly basis? I think I remember how they work…

    : )

    • Michelle Ule says:

      LOL. He was a friend of my brother’s I couldn’t insult, though he probably would have laughed.

      The two-month-old is now an irrepressible 1 and probably would steal the wine glass and slosh it all over her beautiful white dress! :-)

  • This is one of the reasons I love Christian fiction–it entertains and offers hope, even without being preachy.

    I also love The Great Gatsby because it’s a book about people chasing everything the world says will make them happy–and when they get it, it doesn’t satisfy. Pretty honest stuff. Great conversation starter for telling people about what WILL satisfy.

    My story has come out of what I’ve seen since the late nineties when my husband was in seminary and, since then, a pastor. People getting saved as adults are very often coming into the church with quite a past. And while God has completely changed them and while they love Him and no one would ever guess what their past has been like, that past often still haunts them.

    How do they move on and live life without constant guilt? Many feel they have to keep their pasts secrets when all they really want–and need–is to work through the issues with another Christian. My book explores that, following a bad girl whose life is completely changed. But can God really love her? Will she ever be good enough for that man she’s met–the man who treats her differently than anyone ever has in her life?

    • Michelle Ule says:

      Great analysis of The Great Gatsby, Sally, and isn’t it interesting a movie with such themes is playing during this time? Good literature should be asking questions which challenge people in entertaining ways.

      I certainly hope my work does that!

  • Larry says:

    Indeed, “why should I read your book” is the question every reader asks, as with all the bad books out there most readers probably feel in need of some spirits to lift their spirits after reading! ;)

    (I think the San Fransisco socialite you mentioned got that reversed, though….)

    Really like the themes and questions asked by the novel you mentioned; a book like that is something which can really add new dimensions to what a “romance” novel can be, or what historical fiction can be.

    “Why should I read your book?”

    I am sure writers have many responses for that, but I think we all would also like to say, “Because everyone else is reading it, why aren’t YOU???” :)

  • Jeanne T says:

    Wow, Michelle. What a story. Can I be honest and say I don’t like answering that question? It’s so hard to tell someone why they should read MY book. That being said, though, I know it’s important to have an answer.

    Why should someone read my book? My book is a story about a wife having to deal with the consequences of choices her husband made that change their lives. It’s about working through the hurts of the past and present, choosing to forgive and giving grace and second chances.

    Even as I write this, I see that I need to really hone in on my answer to that question. Thanks for challenging me today Michelle. :)

    • Michelle Ule says:

      Another interesting theme, Jeanne, and an important one in an age when vindictiveness is lauded at the expense of reconciliation.

      I wonder if part of our descriptions should be general yet pointed enough to elicit a reaction from the reader.

      Sort of like one of Jesus’ parables? :-)

  • Andrea Cox says:

    What a fun challenge, Michelle!

    When battle-weary war hero Jamison Heathrow returns home, will he rediscover how to be a civilian and lean on God for help overcoming his grief, guilt and and flashback-riddled mind?

    Blessings,
    Andrea

  • Why?
    When hurt is so deep that it becomes part of one’s soul, only someone who has fought back, and won, can be strong enough to wrench away the wrought iron defenses that keep a heart from living free.

    Oh, and I write a really hawt hero. ;)

  • Great story, Michelle. How nice that your hubby stepped up to the plate to help you. Your book would be an easy sell to me. The words “Civil War” makes it almost a given on my list.

    I hope this would convince young readers to try my historical MG project once it’s ready:

    In Reconstruction Era America, Amelia befriends a Negro stablehand and works to uncover a secret from her aunt’s past.

  • Thank you, Michelle, for this challenging post and for sharing your own story.

    I don’t think I could have sold the San Francisco publisher on my story, although it does have some sex and some violence in it–none of which, I suspect, would be graphic enough for him. Since my book is YA fiction, the answer has to entice teens while still appealing to adults. At present I can’t do it in one sentence, but here is my answer to “Why should I read your book?”

    “Can power lead you to freedom? Join Siobhan as she works to attain her deepest desire: to fly.”

    Blessings, Michelle. :)

  • Michelle Ule Michelle says:

    Note: I’m typing on a spelling-challenged IPad!

  • Rick Barry says:

    Not everyone should read my books or your books. Each of us writes for a particular segment of society, and no book pleases all segments of the population. If someone is hoping to find gratuitous graphic sex in the pages of a novel, then that person should not read my books. However, if someone is searching for stories that transcend time and space and hopes to experience another person’s thoughts, fears, sorrows, and triumphs, then I invite such a reader to consider my work. :)

    • Michelle Ule Michelle says:

      Good point, Rick.

      But what is it about your story that would enable such a seeker to find it? That’s an interesting question, too– how to provoke interest in a reader who may not have realized what they sought?

  • Paula says:

    Well, that depends a bit on the person asking the question, doesn’t it? :)

    A girl who was raised to be a criminal is trying to become one of the good guys and follow Jesus… but the good guys don’t particularly want her. She’s dangerous, destructive, and unpredictable even when she’s on her best behavior. They could handle the property damage – but maybe not the way her salvation challenges their own comfortable lives.

  • Josh C. says:

    I wouldn’t say everyone should read my stuff. But to answer the question, I’d say, “Because you’ll see the world through my lens.” If that interests anyone.

    • Michelle Ule Michelle says:

      Okay, who are you and why would I want to see the world through your eyes? Are you 7 feet tall? Albino? A former nun? What do you bring to your story that would make me realize your unique angle is important to me?

  • Secrets are dangerous things, they own you body and soul. Will Emily Taylor find redemption in the painful truths floating to the surface during her summer sabbatical at her Nana’s Lake Tahoe cabin, or will she chose to continue hating those who have betrayed her?

    Great challenge, Michelle. And thank you for honestly sharing your moment of truth. I can clearly picture it in my mind.

    I do have a 22 month-old grandson I can borrow…

  • Elaine Faber says:

    Everyone above has such an inspiring message and reasons to read their books. Yes, one should read these kinds of books for all the reasons listed above. Why read my book?

    Because once in a while everyone wants to escape from the reality of life. What better way than diving into a cozy mystery? Come and spend a few hours by the lake with a lady and a cat determined to solve a 25 year old mystery. Just come and laugh and gasp with surprise and wonder and spend a few hours of fun and fantasy doing absolutely nothing whatsoever productive – You’ll like it!

    • Michelle Ule Michelle says:

      Thanks for the invite. As a matter of fact I AM sitting beside a beautiful lake as I type this but, thankfully, no bodies have turned up . . . Yet! :-)

  • Why read my ms? . . . Because it’s tightly written. (My mantra is – Bore No One)

    This “upper middle grade” novel for boys isn’t a ‘dude and his dog’ story, oh no! It’s 1805 and twelve-year-old Nicholas Goodlad and his sidekick Vittles (a short upright walking – backwards talking creature) are sailing together on a Royal Navy exploration ship when a disaster occurs, sending their ship to the bottom of the sea. It’s in the imperfect relationship between the boy and his creature – where the true story lies.

    . . . since it was a short elevator ride (3 floors) I left out this – it’s in the imperfect & adventurous relationship between the boy and his creature – where the true story lies.
    I also didn’t have time to say – this story is a whimsical mix of satire with generous dollops of humor, as “fun chases danger” on the high seas during the Napoleonic wars

    That’s my elevator pitch. Would you like to read the first three Chapters of my completed novel?

    DING! “Third floor. Women’s apparel, kitchenware and linens.”

  • Michelle Ule Michelle says:

    LOL. I have three sons– that might be their kind of books!

    • Yes! Your son’e will love it. . . especially the part where the pirates get scolded by Captain Daniel Nastyface for their bad table manners consisting of – but not limited to- obnoxious slurping, grunting, belching, burping and serious finger licking.

  • Michelle, this post presents wonderful food for thought.

    The Lord’s promise to pursue us and redeem our fallen hearts nudges up against our hope hungry souls until we realize that only he can satiate us.

  • Kiersti says:

    Learning to see through others’ eyes–specifically one of the First Nations of our land–and find hope for the healing Jesus can bring even in the face of tremendous hurt.

    Thanks for this post, Michelle!

  • Patricia Zell says:

    You should read my book (God’s Absolute Love: Perfect, Complete, and Real) because it will strengthen your understanding of the Bible and will strengthen your relationship with your Father God.

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