Will My Grandma Like My Book?

My dear grandma is 92. She lives in an assisted living facility in Iowa and she has the spunk of a teenager. Like most grandmas, she’s always been proud of my accomplishments, no matter how big or small. Now with the release of my debut book only months away, she’s bursting her buttons.

She might boast about me to her friends, but once she starts reading my book, will she actually like it? Maybe she’ll think the romance is too sensual. Perhaps she won’t like the realistic way I’ve tried to portray the violence of the 1600’s. She might even think I’m sacrilegious to take the life of a real person and twist it into a fictitious tale.

I won’t be disappointed if she doesn’t like it. In fact, I have a feeling there will probably be a number of other family and friends who will buy The Preacher’s Bride to support me but won’t particularly enjoy the book (yes, including some of you, my loyal blogging friends).

The fact is, I have to keep my expectations realistic. It’s easy to start thinking all my blogging followers, twitter pals, and long-lost friends on facebook will buy my book, read it, and actually like it. Some might not like historicals, others may not want a romance, still others won’t consider picking up anything unless it’s Amish.

Bottom line: Our books won’t appeal to everyone.

Not everyone is going to want to “buy” our books. That goes for agents, publishers, as well as family and friends.

*Agents: Agents are attracted to different projects for various reasons. Of course they’re always looking for a well-crafted, saleable story. But agents have differing tastes in what they’re drawn to and we would be wise to try to get a grasp on what they’re looking for.

Many agents have client lists on their blogs—I suggest looking at the types of books they represent, perhaps reading a few to get a feel for what appeals to them. Take the time to get to know them through Twitter and blogging. This may help narrow the search for agents who will be most likely to “buy” our books.

*Publishers: Publishers often gain a reputation for certain types of books. For example, my publisher, Bethany House, is known for putting out terrific historical romances. Sure, they represent other genres. But they’ve built a name for strong historical romances.

I personally think it’s best to have the expertise insider advice of an agent in finding the publishers who will be most likely to “buy” our books. But we can also do our homework. Make a list of the top houses that represent work similar to ours. Look at their websites, browse through their books at a bookstore, get a feel for their tastes.

*Family & Friends: Forgive me for stating the obvious again: Not everyone is going to want to buy our books. It’s something I’m telling myself, especially the closer I get to the release of my book. And I won’t be offended if YOU don’t (although if you refuse, you may force me to TP your front yard with The Preacher’s Bride bookmarks).

It’s best to remember the bulk of our fans are Readers of our genre. I’m learning that there are a few places I can begin to connect with readers. I’ve recently signed up for accounts on GoodReads, Shelfari, WeRead, BookArmy, & LibraryThing. I want to be in the places where readers congregate so that I can begin to connect with the people who will enjoy my book the most. Many of these sites have pages for authors, as well as ways to chat with readers, do book giveaways, and draw in new fans.

Will my Grandma like my book? Will my nephew serving in Iraq like my book? (Last week he was very sweet and told me he was going to order it!) Will faithful blog readers like my book? Will they like yours?

Friends and family will support us, be proud of us, and cheer us on. But not everyone will fall madly in love with our books. As much as we want to strive to have a saleable, marketable books, we just can't expect to please everyone. We have to know our target audience, the true fans of our genre. They're the readers we'll want to please.

Where does that leave us? Be wise with professionals. Be realistic with friends. And most of all, make sure we love what we’re writing. Because when we’re passionate about it, it’s a lot easier to get others to love it too.

Will your Grandma like your book? Do you have realistic expectations about who will like your book? And do you know your target auidence, agents, and publishing houses?


  1. I got a kick out of your post because my grandma is seriously my biggest fan. She just finished my most recent story and wrote me a hand-written letter front and back. At the end, she wrote one of the greatest compliments she could have given me, "I didn't think you could top Bethany's story, but I think Robin's story touched my heart more." I loved that comment because it shows that she loved my last story and didn't see how I could improve, and yet I did. She liked this one better.

    Now, of course, she's my grandma. And she loves romance novels. I think, if I ever get published, she's going to be a tenacious marketer on my behalf. I'll have cute little old women across Iowa reading my stories. :)

  2. *Sigh* I wish my grandmothers were still alive. One of mine would be around 92 and the other 102 if they were still with me. You know one of my grands thought I could do no wrong. But I am certain both would be fans of my writing.

    I'm buying your book and reading it too. :)

  3. They probably wouldn't have "gotten" my book.

    A hard realization in general, is that not everyone is going to like me, period. Littleless a book I wrote, but it's God's opinion that is higher. He will LOVE your book, I'm sure. :O)

  4. Well, if Grandma's reading my book, I'm going to be really frightened!! Now my mother, well, that's a totally different story. In fact, she probably won't read it, but hey, that's part of the writing life. Audience. My writing, fortunately or unfortunately, falls into a niche market that, luckily, isn't totally inclusive of the niche market. Still, mainstream 'Twilight' type audience - uh, no.

    I have researched agents and publishers (small press, indie press, etc.) that cater to what I write about. I know my audience and, while I might fantasize a time or two about 300 weeks on the NY Times BestSeller List . . . I'm realistic enough to know that's just a fantasy.


  5. You'll have to let us know if your grandma likes your book!

    I love having realistic expectations. I do with querying. I have to or I'll go insane. If anything I have low expectations so I'll be suprised with good news.

    And yes, bloggers are a small percentage of who might read a book of mine. It's kids. And word of mouth. I think online creates buzz but it really comes down to the writing and the story!

  6. This is so very, very true. I know there are many of my family members who are excited that I write, but when the time comes, I'm prepared for them to not buy or not like the story, and that's OKAY.
    I love so many of my writer friends, but I don't always love their stories.
    This is a realistic post and I think writers need to be aware of all this. Thanks Jody!

  7. Thanks, Jody. I think you make a good distinction between people who support your writing efforts (friends, family and other writers) and readers, and that there will be some overlap, but maybe not much. And again, it is something you have no control over. Thanks for providing a list of places where you plan to connect with readers.

  8. So my first book was nonfiction (and about marriage) and my book-a-holic grandma bragged about it to every single person she met.

    When my 2nd released, I didn't exactly tell her about it. (It's about sex.) Six months later, I thought, "Why am I depriving her of the joy of knowing I wrote another book?"

    So I called her up and tried to casually explain that I'd written a new book on "intimacy" and "loving our husbands." She got the point. And then she said something I've never forgotten.

    "Well, you know what your Grandpa always told me."

    "What did Grandpa always tell you?" I asked.

    "You never turned me down."

    Whoa. Wow. 65+ years is a loooooong time to go without a headache. Either Grandpa was a bit forgetful, or Grandma just rocks. :)

    You might be surprised at how your grandma feels about your book, friend. :)

  9. Saw your tweet about GoodReads the other day. Love that idea of connecting with readers. I'm thrilled that my mom and one of my sisters will dive into my books, but I know a handful of family members who may never read my work. My husband's aunt is a huge support as well. Though, this doesn't impact what a write at all.

    Writing a memoir will be a whole different story.

    I write novels I want to read. Hopefully I'm not the only one who wants to read them. ;)
    ~ Wendy

  10. Great concepts to remember. I think my paternal grandmother would have enjoyed my novel-in-progress. I'm worried about my mother, though. It may be a bit too much for her.

  11. I already know a ton of people who don't read my kind of writing:) But I already had my daughter preorder yours cause she loves historicals and I don't BUT because it is yours--she will pass it on to me and I will read it cause I want to!! Cause it is yours!

  12. LoL...I blogged about this recently. My agent wrote to tell me his 97-year-old mother was loving my book. This made my day but surprised me because of the snarky content. But it gave me hope that my book can be enjoyed by women of all ages. My agent's email also prompted me to print out a copy for my grandma. I gave it to her a few weeks ago on her 95th birthday. She's half-way through so far and I'm anxious to hear her thoughts. Not sure it's her cup of tea, but I know she loves reading what I've written. :-)

    Now to keep my fingers crossed that an editor falls in love with it, too.

  13. Totally true.

    I must say, I don't read a lot of Christian fiction, but knowing you makes me want to read your book.

    The same goes for me. How many of my family/friends regularly read mid-grade?? Not many. I think it's unrealistic to expect everyone who knows me will love my work (or to expect the same of strangers!).

    This is a good attitude to have going in. As always, great post!

  14. I've thought about this issue myself.

    Mamaw Lucy, age 74, has read many different books, including some more racy secular ones. I don't think she'd be shocked by my subtle love scenes. She's very Southern Belle-ish and loves a good romance. (she actually enjoyed a dramatic and beautiful romance with my grandfather). Perhaps I'll buy your book for her, hmmmm?

    My almost 79-year-old mamaw may feel differently. She's discreet and doesn't discuss "such things." I think she might be put off by my book. It's kind of sad because it's her heritage, her family's Smoky Mountain lineage that got me started on all this!

  15. I really don't think my mom will like my book. Not that I would put anything in it that went against my values, but it's not her style of book and I know she won't really like it. But that's okay - I just have to hope there will be lots of other people who will.

  16. You might be surprised. I've had things published that I was sure certain people would see as scandalous and often THOSE are your most supportive readers. Even if you were writing steamy romances (which you aren't), I'd guess your grandma would become your biggest fan. Grandmas are often VERY cool that way! I've even heard romance authors say the moms/grandmoms they were sure would be horrified came to them later and said they liked the love scenes best.

  17. I'm so nervous about people I know reading my book. The idea of my coworkers reading it is the worst. I'm really proud of it, but writing has been a private thing for me, having it out in the real world is going to take some getting used to.

  18. My grandmother - God bless her - is incredibly supportive, and brutally honest. When I recommended that she read my book, she sort of raised her eyebrow and moved the conversation right along. Apparently, grandma's don't like science fiction, no matter how much I emphasize that it's more than genre 'sci fi.' I only wish my genre didn't have such a negative literary label. It's a tough stigma to break out of.

  19. Hi Jody -

    Wow! Great tips in this post. Looking at an agent's list of authors will give some indication of the books he/she represents. Hmm, this book publishing business requires the savvy of an investigative reporter.

    My grandmas are both in Heaven, but Mom is my biggest fan. I've also had a number of people ask where they can order my book. One of these days, I'll be able to tell them. :)


  20. I think it'd be worse if my family and friends didn't give my book a chance. It'd be a bummer if they didn't like it, but I'd bum harder if they didn't bother trying to read it! But you're right: I don't like every book I read, so how can I expect everyone to like my own book?

    Btw, I can't wait to read your book, and I've added it to my Goodreads!

  21. More great information, Jody! Thanks for getting us to think about these things in advance! Also appreciate the links you share! Such valuable info! Praying for you as you get closer to your book release date! God bless!

  22. All good questions, Jody. And I've thought about them a lot, even though my book isn't published and I don't have an agent and all that.

    I've written a memoir, and as is probably the case with most memoirs, there was always the question in the back of my mind while I was writing, "Will this hurt others? Am I revealing too much?" It was challenging to walk the line -- to write a genuine, honest account of my journey to faith, but also to keep my loved ones and their feelings in mind. I know there are some who would disagree, but for me personally, hurting my family wouldn't ever be worth it -- even if a publishing contract were on the line!

    I asked each family member -- my parents, sister, in-laws and my husband -- to read the draft, and I told them I would change or delete or rewrite anything that they felt was hurtful or inaccurate. Maybe that means I'm not being a real writer, or loyal to my "craft," but that was the only way for me.

  23. What a clever lady you are to invent this post!

    My grandma is dancing with Jesus today, and yes, she adores my books. The story I sent to
    Guideposts for their contest includes my Granddad, and how God used him to change my heart of stone to one of flesh. She'll like that.

    I used to wonder if my audience is too narrow. Then my agent got a letter from a pub house that said they only publish ms. with more specific audiences. Sheesh!

    If only they were all grandmas, we'd have it made.

    I love your new b and w photo, Jody. You look so young and chic.

  24. Hi Jody,

    I appreciate the reality check; the truth is, nobody likes every book out there, so we can't expect everyone to like ours. But I agree that passion is contagious! I can't wait to read YOUR book, Jody. :)

    P.S. I've signed with an agent! *squeal!* I hope to write a post about it this weekend.

  25. Great post! You are so wise to be thinking about this issue. I have been discussing it a lot too. It can be difficult when those closest to us don't like what we write or judge us.

    It is true, we must still persevere and write what we were put on this Earth to write - even if it is sex, crime or horror.

  26. A friend told me once that it's good to write your book thinking no one is going to read it, so you can write what you want. Great post.

  27. Good question! This is something that I consider when I write anything from an article to a blog post and beyond. In some ways it makes putting my work out there a little harder, but in others I know it's all a part of this writing life that I'm called to do. A life, by the way, that I would not trade! Thanks for bringing up these points and reminding us to keep a perspective. As for your grandma liking your book? My guess is that she will:)

  28. You posed the question on Twitter about knowing who will like my book. I'm pretty sure the answer is probably not, but that's my own cross to bear. Getting out there at Shelfari, etc., before publication is a smart move. You can't use those sites to sell books, but you can sell yourself, and once the participants like you, they'll want to buy. Good luck with the book. I'm sure you'll Tweet the pub. date as it approaches, so I can be sure to buy a copy. Maybe not for me, but my wife will be sure to like it.

  29. My debut releases next Monday and I am trying to prepare myself for the negative reviews. I know it will happen. I know everyone on the planet can't love it.

  30. I love this post! You give insight to your own journey (love the TP'ing yards with bookmarks humor), and insight to the publishing world. Thank you!

    As far as my Grandma, well my Grandmas are already in heaven with their Savior, and I'm not sure if they were here if they would like my writing.
    I think they might like some of my poetry and my devotions. My fiction, especially my fantasy and science fiction, would probably not be their favorite thing.

    In fact, I know from getting some short stories, poems and devotions published (devotions published by my church), that some people love my writing, others strongly dislike it, and then it depends on the person and the genre.
    My husband dislikes reading anything except technical manuals, so I won't be pleasing his tastes anytime soon.

    Writing what I love is a must, and then I hope someome likes it.

    Getting to publishing houses is something I haven't really done much of yet . . . but I'll take some of your advice on that front.
    Thanks again for a great, thought-provoking post.

  31. Jody,
    As always your posts hit home. When I wrote my first children's book, I didn't let too many people read it. In fact I kind of kept my writing to myself and my family at first. Then one day I had the courage to let my dad read it...he started the book (a chapter book for 9-12 year olds) and just stopped reading after a few chapters...wasn't his style, I guess. But it devestated me. However when my latest children's book was published, he loved it! Maybe because it was shorter and much easier to read :) Makes me think twice about my reaction to what my kids do!! Now if I could just get them all to realize this is a career for me.... not a hobby...!
    Barbara Hagler

  32. First of all, how lucky you are to have such a grandma!

    I will know the difference (I hope) between people loving me and people loving my book. I think I am being realistic about my target audience - but at this point I will be grateful to have any audience at all. :-)

  33. Your post reminds me of "You can't please all of the people all of the time." I believe you have to write what is on your heart and there will be many hearts that will be touched by it. I'm sure that those who don't read your book will be missing a best seller story! Can't wait for the day of celebration on the release!

  34. I'm not sure it matters if your Grandma likes your book. If she's anything like my Grandma, she'd never let on if she didn't. :) Here's hoping that most people buy it, love it, and demand more!

  35. I know I'll worry about everyone liking my book, but you are right, not everyone will! And that is okay, because there are some authors I know that I really admire, but I can't read their books because they are too dark or violent.(I'm more the happily ever after kind of gal!) And thankfully they understand that. But I still support them and encourage them, even if their books aren't my cup of tea:)

  36. Grandmas can be hard to please. I serve at an assisted living center. I watch over about 50 women. I love them. Right now I'm reading my book to a lady who can't see to read anymore. She laughs when I hope she will. It's been a wonderful experience.

    Sure we won't please everyone. But for those we do it's soooo sweet!

  37. My grandmother is in her late nineties and still has the spunk of a teenager as well. (I'm thrilled we both have great genes ;) I'm SO interested in the fact you take real people and turn their lives into fiction! I know for sure I will love your book. Can't wait!!!

  38. How wonderful to have a grandmother who has lived such a long life!

    My Grammy (mom's mom) would LOVE my book, but she passed away when I was 18 :(

    I don't think my Mom-Mom (dad's mom) would enjoy my book, because I talk quite a bit about wine and she is NOT a fan of drinking (very strict Southern Baptist ;P).

    I'm writing the story I'd like to read: contemporary women's fiction based on family, friendships, and romance. If that doesn't connect with readers, then I have no hope of a writing career! :P

  39. LOL

    I'm not sure if my grandma would even buy my book. I'd like to think she would but I definitely don't hold out hope that my family will like my book. Great way of putting it into words!

  40. Loved this post! One of my grandma's is with Jesus, but she was so supportive of my writing. Not sure she would have liked my books, but she would have smiled and nodded:-) My other grandma has Alzheimer's so I doubt she will read my books, but she's one that got me hooked of Christian Fiction when I was young (her bookshelf was full of them!) so I'm certain if she could understand, she'd be so very excited!

    I totally get that all my friends/family won't like it. Now, I still expect them to flock to the stores and buy a copy to support me anyway, HA!!

    I do know my target audience, and I think I have a good idea of which publishing houses would be better for my type of writing. Agents is a little harder, because they, for the most part, do a lot more variety.

  41. Funny... I know people who won't like mine. I'm okay with that. I like my book. :0)

  42. I know most of my friends and family aren't "readers" so to expect them to read my book AND like it is probably too much to ask. They support me other ways.
    As for trying to please everyone: it's impossible. I write best when I'm passionate about my subject and I get the most out of my writing when I stay true to that passion.

  43. You may be surprised Jody, your grandma may just Love your book.

    You are right, not everyone who buys or reads our book/s may love it/them. As long as the story does not disappoint them and they are not bored stiff, its okay.

    P.S- Do let us know what your grandma thinks.

  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

  45. I was surprised that so much of my family wanted to buy my first book. A lot of them even read it! The second book I have coming out, is A LOT more sensual, so I'm kinda afraid my family will want to buy that one too...and read it. Talk about embarrassing.

  46. Since I write chapter books and PB's, I know my grandma will love them. I just hope she'll still be here if and when they get published. :-)

    Another great post, Jody!

  47. Excellent point. I belong to a book club and we are all great friends but we have very different preferences when it comes to our reading. I have enjoyed being exposed to things I may not have picked up before. Did I like all of them, not even close.

    But what it did do was help me define my preferred style even more.

    Keeping an open mind is the best way to find new authors and one of my absolute favorite things to do is fall in love with a new author or a new to me author.

  48. Thanks for the reminder, Jody! It's easy to wish everyone would love our books, but it's also important to realize some people won't enjoy our stories/writing style and that's OK :)

    Would my grandmother like my book (s)? Hm. I'm guessing no, but because she's sweet, I think she'd probably read it and say she loved it, even if she didn't ;)

  49. Loved this post! My grandma and I did tons of reading when I was young. Although she is no long alive, I know she would have loved the middle grade novel I'm working on right now. But either way, I love my stories whether anyone else does or not, although I'm hoping others will too!

  50. I'll be buying *and* reading yours, Jody, and based on your writing style and voice I'm confident I'll enjoy it, too.

    My grandmothers are no longer here but I have an elderly aunt who is one of my beta readers. She provides thorough critiques and seems to like my stories although I would expect my target audience to be a lot younger. Most of my family would probably buy and read anything I write, just to support me, but I'm not under any illusion that they would all like it. I have my preferences in genres and writing styles so I expect they will, too.

  51. I think I do. I know some friends and family won’t like it because they don’t like either the genre or style or subject matter, but that’s okay because they still support my writing habit.

  52. I love the way you add such useful information in an easily digestible format. I know your grandma is going to LOVE your book!

  53. working on understanding the answers to all of those questions that you posed, but also having a freedom in knowing that even if it doesn't get published, that it is a sweet story of God's glory between Him and I.. Mmmm, that gives me warm fuzzy feelings.

  54. What a great post. Thank you for this! I have to keep telling myself that not everyone will buy my book (I'm self-publishing a little novella this fall) even if they are proud of what I've done. Even close friends might not spend money on it. Who knows. It can hurt, but it's really good to remain realistic about these things!

  55. This has been a topic that has been on my mind lately. I finished a book last week that I loved. When I looked at the reviews on Amazon I noticed how unfair they were. Some were great, of course, but others blasted the writer b/c it wasn't what they were expecting. Very subjective, and now I know why so many writers don't read reviews. I think I'll stick to reading the 4 and 5 star reviews and live in denial re: all others.

  56. This post really spoke to me! I am at the point right now where my close friends and family are reading my book, and it is driving me crazy. I was so worried my mother wouldn't like it. And I regretted saying a few things about some friends & colleagues. But in the end you can't please everyone. I just wish my grandma was alive to read the chapter I wrote about her!

  57. I started a class last night on business for artists. We talked about this. Our product is not for everyone. And, as I was driving around today, I compared it to clothes. You can see a really cute dress, hold it up, admire it, then hold it up to yourself and look in the mirror and know it's not the right style for you. That helps when your work is declined by someone. (Isn't that a nicer word than rejected? The instructor gave us that last night.)

  58. Wow, great post. Glad I finally figured out Twitter. Now I can be a part of the Wordserve-Twitter family.

    I will definitely enjoy your book. I picked up a book at a library sale that I'm reading by author Ann Gabhart, published by Revell a few years ago. It's a Christian fiction romance about a young Shaker girl and the town doctor who isn't a believer. How could somoeone not enjoy historical romance? I just don't get it.

    But, then again, I wonder how someone has the talent to write historical romance. I sure don't. I'm a nonfiction writer all the way. I'm not creative enough for fiction!

    Great to finally meet you and congrats on your debut book!

  59. I realized long ago that not everyone will like my books. I write for a certain market, and those who aren't into inspirational historical romance set in my locations and periods probably won't be racing to Borders to buy my book.

    My grandmother has gone to be with the Lord, but my mom is here. She's proud as can be of the progress I've made and will be thrilled for me when I sell a book, but I don't count on her to read it. She's just not a romance fan. Even so, I'll give her a copy because she'll tell everyone about me and my book. :)

    I like your idea of connecting with those who do like to read on sites such as Shelfari and Goodreads. There are also book review blogs where readers congregate. That's where we're likely to encounter readers who will enjoy what we've written.

  60. Another great post. :) And you're right, we have to be realistic with our expectations. Regarding agents, I keep files on my top agents, and I keep a list of the books I read. When I see an agent in the acknowledgments and the book is in my genre, I add the agent's name to my book list. I believe all this research will pay off! :)

    Your cover is beautiful! So exciting!

  61. Mary Alaagaard said: "That helps when your work is declined by someone. (Isn't that a nicer word than rejected? The instructor gave us that last night.)"

    My answer: Mary, I LOVE it!! Thank you for sharing that with us! I'd much rather think of rejections as declining--sometimes just not the right fit or taste (as with the clothes analogy you mentioned).

  62. Marvelous post! I'm saving this one :)

    Will my grandmother like my book? I doubt it. She doesn't like fantasy. Will my family like my book? A few maybe. Most don't like dark fantasy, some may even find it ... dare I say...bad. Does that stop me from pursuing its publication? No. The thought of the majority of my family not liking my book (and I could be dead wrong there, and I hope I am), is fine to me.

    Everyone has differing tastes and my taste in stories has always been different from what everyone around me is reading.

    Thank you for keeping us honest :)

    Happy weekend,

  63. Your Grandma looks so sweet & happy to be in her garden!

    Somehow I think she will love your book.

    I also think family members are usually our biggest fans and supporters.

    Of course not everyone will like your book, because it will only appeal to a certain type of audience. If you write nonfiction, fans of fiction might not flock out to buy it or even check it out of the library. The same goes for fiction or genre fiction.

    Ultimately, it does come down to being passionate about our books. Believe in them & you'll attract the right kind of audience.

  64. I loved that comment because it shows that she loved my last story and didn't see how I could improve, and yet I did. She liked this one better.
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