Whenever I tell someone I’m a published author I get one of two responses.
Response #1: “Oh, wow, that’s great. Can I read your book?” To which I say, “Absolutely,” and send them my amazon link for The Travelers. (Obviously, this is the response I prefer. It doesn’t always happen.)
Response #2: “Oh, wow, that’s great. I’m not really much of a reader.” To which I say, “What the heck is wrong with you?” (I don’t actually say this. Well, not anymore.)
Response #2 is typically followed by a lengthy rattling off of reasons why said person is not much of a reader, often involving not having enough time, despite copious free time for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and binge watching Netflix.
If you are reader, this response can sometimes be confounding. But there are people out there who don’t read, like at all! (I know, it’s true!)
“About a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year.” – Pew Research
I understand having a reading slump. I can even understand not being excited by the prospect of reading on some days. Sometimes after a long day at work, you want to shut that brain down and zone out on Netflix.
But, never reading at all or very little can be very confusing to people who love books. It’s like chocolate lovers when people say “you know, I don’t really like chocolate.”
Irrational Reader Response to “I’m just not much of a reader?”
Let’s face facts. It’s not that people don’t have time. People make time for the things they want to do. So if someone is not a “reader” it means they don’t really want to read and you’re not likely to convince them to become one.
Still, if you’re like me, you try. You ply them with facts about how great reading is for you. You tell them about how all great people and thinkers don’t just read, but read a lot.
You start ranting like a lunatic about your favorite books and how amazing they are and how that person absolutely has to read them because if that person reads them, said person will definitely like books.
And as the eyes of the person you’re talking to glaze over and he or she looks for an exit strategy, you start to wonder why you wasted your breath.
Your enthusiasm for books likely isn’t enough to get someone over their reading slump whether it’s been there for months, years or an entire lifetime.
Getting Real with Non-Readers – A Guide
I’m no psychologist, but after many years facing this dilemma and many years being the crazy loon talking to the person with the eyes glazing over, I’ve started to take a few different approaches.
The direct approach: Ask about a favorite book.
“Not a reader? Do you have a favorite book?”
Everyone has a favorite book, even if it’s Where the Wild Things Are. One way to talk to a non-reader about books is to find out what a person’s favorite book is or the book that person remembers first reading.
In my experience, not liking books sometimes comes from not finding the right book fit. Books can often be like a clothing style. People have a certain style and some people stick to that style no matter how the world of style changes. And that’s OK. Perhaps it’s not about liking books, it’s about liking certain types of books (aka a book style). The first book someone loved or the only book someone loved, may be an indication of that style.
Try to uncover why the person liked that particular book. What was it about that book that makes it the favorite. This can provide vital information into that person’s reading style. Based on this alone, you can sometimes engage non-readers in a book-versation. Just talking about a favorite book might encourage someone to read more. And, if you can truly gauge someone’s reading style, you might even be able to make a recommendation.
The Indirect Approach: Expand the conversation
“Not a reader? What are you interested in then? What do you like to do?”
Instead of trying to convince someone that reading is the best thing in the world or making a person feel terrible for not reading, try to get to know the person. Ask about hobbies and interests. Bike riding? Crocheting? Gardening? Dig in there (pun intended) and find out what makes them smile.
Essentially, make it conversational. Most people like to talk about themselves, get them talking!
During the conversation, if the person mentions a topic or makes a comment that reminds you of a book, then bring it up casually. But the key is not to say “You need to read this book about that…” Try to weave it in as part of the conversation and show the connection to the person and his or her interests.
“You know I heard about this story that sounds a lot like that….”
“That’s so interesting, you know I read this thing once that sounds similar…”
“Yes, I’ve heard about [insert topic] because of something I read…”
The final step
If the person shows interest in your book comment or suggestion, offer to send them a link to the book.
If not, just let it go. Don’t force it on them. You never know, it might percolate in the person’s mind.
It takes the average person 7 times seeing/hearing about any type of purchase before the person will buy something. This goes for books too. (It’s called the “rule of 7” in marketing.) That will at least be moment #1.
The Work is Worth the Reward
You may not get someone to read using these approaches, but I bet you get someone thinking books…and maybe in the future with a few more discussions you could convert the person to a reader!
Is this a lot of effort/work? Yes! And it’s so much harder with adults. We’re all stuck in our ways. Worth it, though? I think so. More readers = more intelligent/thoughtful people in the world. More intelligent/thoughtful people in the world = better world. Who doesn’t want a better world?