Should Writers Expect Family and Friends to Read Their Work?

Yesterday, I read this list that Meg Dowell compiled. It describes 18 things that writers should stop worrying about, and one item in particular jumped out at me, but not for the reason you might think.

6. Writing things your friends and family will read/love.

I suspect the reason that item is there is along the lines of worrying about what anyone will think, but having published a few books, I think it’s there for another reason.

Writers shouldn’t worry if their friends and family will read (let alone love) their stuff because said friends and family probably won’t read any of it.

Matt Leblanc Wait GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I know. It’s kind of a tough pill to swallow. But there’s a reason for it, and it doesn’t involve your loved ones being huge jerk faces.

Ripley Patton wrote on the topic, and while all of her reasons (including your loved ones being afraid they will hate your literary creation) are plausible, I think she nailed it with one in particular: To your family, you will never be primarily a writer.

Side note – as you write for a while, you meet people who do primarily know you via writing, like your critique partners. This isn’t about them.

This is about people who watched you learn to play the flute when you were twelve, or who were there for you when you got dumped the first time, or who you helped move to their first apartment. They watched you graduate and wreck your car and opened Christmas presents with you and burned dinner when you were both too busy drinking wine to pay attention to the stove (hopefully those all didn’t happen in the same day).

To them, you are a fully-formed human with dreams and thoughts and other friends and probably a non-writing career. And then one day you appear to them and you’re like:

And they’re like, “Yay!! That’s amazing what an accomplishment!”

And you ask if they want to read it. “I’ll send you the PDF,” you’ll say.

And then one of two things will happen: They will agree and read your book, or they’ll agree and not read your book.

If it’s your first book, there will be more friends/family in the first group. If not, because either the novelty wore off or because the first book wasn’t as good as they’d hoped (I can only assume), there will be more in the second group (at least in my experience).

I come from a large family. I don’t even know for sure how many first cousins I have. Know how many family members have read my most recent release?

Two. My mom and my Aunt Shirley (and I don’t think Mom has finished it).

If you count my husband, the number goes up to three.

Add in my long-time friends and the number increases, but we’re still in the single digits. Most of my ARC and beta readers were people I met in the blogosphere or on Twitter (mostly other writers). When my first book, The Fourth Descendant, came out, three times as many family/friends read it.

Which, I think, is how it’s supposed to work. They supported me early on, and after Descendant did very well, they likely figured I didn’t “need them” so much.

I didn’t know that would happen or that it might even be normal (until I read Ripley’s post), and at first I was like:

come back

I’ll be honest: when The Seventh Seed‘s launch didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, and I realized that even if one quarter of my Facebook friends had bought the ebook on Day 1, its odds of success right out of the gate would have greatly increased. I’ve been in a bit of a slump that sounds something like, “If I can’t get people closest to me to care, why should I?”

Here’s the thing, though: If they’re like me (and I know they are), they have many other friends trying to sell them makeup/leggings/nail art/body wraps/cooking stuff/essential oils/luggage/etc etc etc. I would love to support all of them and their businesses, but I don’t have that kind of income. So I only buy what I like and will use. I could buy all of the other things, finances willing, but I wouldn’t be those friends’ real “audience,” to use writer-speak.

Which brings us to the other heart of the matter: Just because you wrote a thing doesn’t mean your loved ones are the audience for that thing. Maybe you wrote a romance and they like thrillers. Or maybe they don’t like to read at all (neither of my siblings do). They might buy and/or read your book as a show of support, but it won’t be the same as acquiring a true, new fan who is in your audience.

So, coming back to Meg’s point from the beginning, if we understand our loved ones won’t likely read our stuff, we can adjust our expectations. We won’t get down on ourselves when it doesn’t happen, and we can write what we and our audiences want, knowing Grandma won’t be scarred by that one scene.

36 thoughts on “Should Writers Expect Family and Friends to Read Their Work?

  1. My friends tell me they have a hard time reading my writing because they see too much of me in it which makes them uncomfortable, while at the same time they don’t see enough of me in it which also makes them think there is more to a story or something I’m not saying. Stranger feedback is much easier for my psyche to take.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “They will agree and read your book, or they’ll agree and not read your book.”
    Yeah, that sounds about right. The reality that feedback is such an uncommon thing to come by for writers has all but stopped me from writing for long periods. It’s left me envious of all those other kinds of artists whose work can be evaluated in minutes. I’ve recently begun working on a new novel, and when I’m done, I’ll know which friends and family members I can approach about a reading–readers who will actually read it and give me some solid feedback.
    And ya know what I’ll cherish just as much (or maybe even more) as that friends-and-family feedback? The unsolicited feedback that comes from a complete stranger. Praise is always nice, but it the criticism is right-on, and something I can learn from, then that’s fine too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I definitely think there’s a part of the writer heart that wants to know that family and close friends love our work. But for the reasons you mention here and probably so many others, that isn’t necessarily going to be the case. Unless your intended audience is actually your friends and family, it’s unlikely that your work will find its home with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m having the issue of wonderful support from family and friends. It’s probably because it’s my first book (like you said above). My issue is getting other people to read the book and getting it out there to the cyber world. Maybe when I finally get copies to people who ordered them through me and I get more reviews it will help.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ok, so as a “just starting out” writer and future author I think your blog is right on, and definitely informative. Your family and friends fans of your writing may totally not care for the genre but they care deeply for you and want to be the person that says, I read her last book and dang she has talent.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My experience is that family have very little interest in the ‘book’ other than it gets finished some time soon … and makes some money! I’ve found it best not to talk to friends about the ‘book’ … unless I want to lose them! The group of people who are most intrigued are former colleagues … and fortunately after a long career I’ve a lot of them … I link the odd blog post on LinkedIn and it works a treat … it’s where whatever advance sales I’ll get will come from … I think some of them think they’ll be in it!. All the best Allison. Eric.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Lol at Grandma. Great post. I never expect my family members to buy my books, it would be nice but I don’t expect it. I think my twin sister is the only relative to ever buy one of my books and since we’re like technically the same people, she don’t really count lol.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Totally. When I think about my first novel (when it gets done), My mom will, of course, read it. And my dad might. But I doubt that my other siblings would. Most of my friends – even the ones I’ve known forever and did not meet through the internet – are writers or artists, so I feel like the READING by them will be higher than it might be for other people, but I don’t have any thoughts that they’ll BUY it. That involves that whole money thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Totally agree. It was great to have friends and family help out by buying the first book, but I’ve told them not to worry with subsequent ones (though it’s nice that one or two still do). Ultimately the books have to find their own way. I also apply the same rule when it comes to me reading books which friends have published…

    Liked by 2 people

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s