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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Trying to Understand the Minds of Readers

by James L. Rubart

I probably should've titled this post, “You Can’t Understand the Mind of Readers”, but I digress. Let’s get to the stories:

In March I keynoted at my friend Jan Cline’s writing conference in Spokane, WA and had the chance to stay for a few nights with Brandilyn Collins and her husband Mark who live in nearby Idaho.

The view from Brandilyn and Mark's home. Spectacular!
Taylor (my oldest son) was with me and when we arrived at the Collin’s home after the first night of the conference, Brandilyn and Mark were finishing up dinner with friends of theirs.

Being the extremely gracious hosts that they are, they invited us to join them and their guests at the table.

After meeting their friends and a bit of chatting, the woman I’d just met asked me what kind of fiction I wrote. I described ROOMS to her and she got a puzzled look on her face for a second and then said, “I read that book. I gave it to a friend of mine after I finished. She really enjoyed it.”

I smiled and nodded.

She paused and then said, “That book was … uh … interesting.”

I showed no expression on the outside, but on the inside I was laughing. It didn’t offend me in the least. If she’d expanded on her feelings she probably would have said ROOMS was all right, but it didn’t really connect with her.

That reaction I understand. Not everyone is going to love our novels. (Let alone our jokes, the movies we like, even our personalities.)

Here’s the story I Don’t Understand

Last Friday I was part of a multi-author signing and during it a man came up and tapped one of my novels.

“I just had to thank you for this book. It was an amazing novel. Really just so powerful. I bought it four or five years ago from you and still think about it. Had to come up and tell you how much it means to me.”

I thanked him and asked if he’d read any of my other novels, and if so, what he thought.

“No, no, haven’t had the chance to read any of the others.”

At that point my marketing persona kicked in. I didn’t ask my next question hoping he’d buy one of my other novels, I was genuinely curious.

“If you liked this book so much, what kept you from trying any of my others?”

“Well, I have a lot of books on my to-be-read pile.”

I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation, you’d probably be thinking the same thing at that point: It’s been four or five years! That must be an Empire State Building tall TBR pile.

Maybe it’s because when I find a book I go crazy over, I devour all the books that author has written. Finding a new author I love is like opening a multitude of presents on Christmas morning.

Am I weird? Do you ever read a novel, love it, but never read another by that writer?

Do you have any stories in the same vein as mine? Would love to hear them!

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, Christy award winning author of six novels. His seventh, The Five Times I Met Myself, comes out this November

During the day he runs a marketing company which helps authors make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife in the Pacific Northwest and loves to dirt bike, hike, golf, take photos, and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at


  1. Speaking as an author, I totally get it, Jim. (And one of my dear friends didn't want to tell me what she thought of my third book but when I pressed her, she couldn't tell me enough how much she hated it. Sigh.)

    As a reader, I have read a few novels I really enjoyed by a new author, but . . . I haven't been moved to pick up another because their next books' descriptions didn't inspire me to do so. But, like you, I've found new authors where I couldn't wait to read their next ones (i.e. Vince Flynn was one of those) because their storylines totally intrigued me.

    However, understanding readers is not uniform. It's a hodgepodge of chaos.

  2. Ouch! Not expected from friends, Nicole. I like that, A Hodgepodge of Chaos. And you bring up a good point. If a description isn't compelling, we might not pick up the next book(s).

  3. I read this post a few days ago, and have been pondering the question since. I'm guilty of this as a reader. In fact, I'm guilty of reading one book by James Rubart, thinking it brilliant, downloading another ... and not reading it.


    At the risk of sounding stupid, the answer (well, my answer) is fear. What if the second book I read doesn't match up to the first? You set such high expectations - how can you possibly exceed them? What will I do then?

    At the moment, if someone asks if I've ever read Jim Rubart, I can say, yes, great writer (and excellent marketing advice as well). But if I read something else that doesn't meet the high expectations you've set, I'd have to say, well, so-so fiction author but lots of good advice on book marketing.

    It doesn't help that I currently have 30+ books on my read-and-review list, and another 50+ books I've paid for and haven't yet read. And the hundreds of untouched free downloads ...

    Of course, it could just be that I'm strange.

  4. Iola you are not strange I have so many unread books if no books were produced for 10 years I would still have unread books.
    I have gone from reading 100+ a year to under 20 and this year only a few novella's.

    On being pushed for an answer about if I liked a book. I have been asked and I try to be diplomatic. I have never said I hated a book to an author. I have said it wasn't my type of book or I can see others really enjoying the book but it wasn't the type of book I really enjoy. One lady did push and I explained how in places it seemed to jump from one place to another to fast but I went on to say what I enjoyed.

    I have also been known to buy a book at an event where the author is doing a book signing and still haven't read the book.


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