It's thrilling when someone who doesn't know me decides to give my books a try.
Everyone's reading time is limited, and thus extremely valuable, so we all want to make sure we can sink into a book and enjoy every minute of that story.
Ms. Sokoloff says she does a "read-and-discard" to find a book she wants to finish reading. If she likes the first couple of chapters, she needs to know where the plot is headed if she's going to keep reading.
She says, "So much of storytelling is about you, the author, reassuring your reader or audience that you know what you’re doing, so they can relax and let you drive."
This requires a certain amount of trust between the author and the reader. If it's an author I've read before, we've already established a relationship of sorts, so there's a fairly high amount of trust involved. This means I can lean the seat back, and even unbuckle the seat belt, knowing we'll get where we're supposed to, and I'll be happy with her driving skills along the way.
With an author that I'm reading for the first time, it's a bit like taking a ride with someone who's just gotten their learner's permit. I'm debating if I really want to do this, nervously trying to figure out whether to take that leap of faith.
I typically make up my mind after reading the back cover, the first line, and maybe even the first couple of pages. Even after going through this pre-drive checklist, I've still been disappointed on occasion, but so far there haven't been any fiery crashes, although a wheel has flown off once in a while.
Still, the author is promising a certain kind of story in those first few chapters, and the reader has certain expectations, which hopefully are going to be met during what is essentially a cross-country road trip.
How often have you seen this movie blurb: "Joe Schmo is a car thief/cat burglar/petty shoplifter who is ready to retire, but he is pulled into ONE. LAST. SCORE."
Yeah, it's been done about a zillion times, but you never hear anybody say, "I've already seen that. I don't want to see it again." Moviegoers like that scenario, so you'll see it get made a zillion times more.
There is a certain expectation of where that plot will go, based on implicit promises made at the beginning, even if the viewer can't predict what will happen during the heist. But if all of a sudden zombies jumped out and devoured the protagonist's brains while he's cracking open a safe. . . well, the writer has pretty much lost their driving license, right?
Whenever I read a review of a book that has gotten a low ranking, it's generally because the reader feels it didn't live up to their expectations. This could be because of misleading back cover copy, or from a plot thread that was left dangling or even unexplored. Readers like to be surprised, but not in a way that makes them feel foolish, or angry, for agreeing to let you drive them around in circles without a map for hours on end.
I highly recommend you read Ms. Sokoloff's entire post. She has really great information on having a PLAN that readers can, and will, follow during your thrilling car race of a story.
Next thing you know, you'll be on readers' auto-buy list. I'm hoping to be on that list one day too.
What makes you decide to read a new author? What makes you put someone on your auto-buy list?