Discussing “Are you my reader?”

She's SOMEbody's ideal reader...
She's SOMEbody's ideal reader…
It may seem strange to consider that writers don’t WANT everyone to read their books. That in fact we have specific readers we want our work to reach, and other folks we genuinely don’t want to have as readers.

I have a very clear and specific idea of the person I’m writing for when I’m planning and writing each novel.

Why?  Because I know what I write is not going to appeal to everyone.  It’s going to appeal to people who share certain core values that matter to me, and who love some elements of genre and content  I love.

I write what I love—my ideal readers will love what I love, and because of this, my fiction will fit them.

Here is my description of my ideal reader…

And, trust me—this is not everyone. This is, in fact, a pretty small subset of everyone.

So… Are you my reader? If not, whose reader are you, and what are YOU looking for in fiction.

If you’re a writer, who’s your ideal reader?

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53 responses to “Discussing “Are you my reader?””

  1. Rusti Avatar

    Is there a sequel or ending to Genna as the sunrider? Just finished “The Silver Door” and feel more bereft at hanging in the air and losing the characters to the unfinished story.

    Love these characters and their struggle.

    Fellow writer

    1. Holly Avatar

      There is a sequel coming. Today is the day I’m planning projects, three fiction, three nonfiction. Genna is in the three fiction projects.

      1. Rusti Avatar

        Any ETA for the sequel? I can put it in my calendar and watch or do you keep a mailing list to apprise your readers of new titles? Thanks!

  2. Kamas716 Avatar

    I’ve only read a couple of your short stories, but I’ve absolutely loved them. Now I see Damien Walter and John Scalzi have taken issue with your views? Well that’s nearly as good of an endorsement these days as praise from Sarah Hoyt or The International Lord of Hate. Am I your reader? Apparently I am. Keep up the good work.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Kamas,

      Delighted to meet you.

      I’ve never heard of Damien Walter, but years ago, John Scalzi proved himself a massive ass.

      I wasn’t aware that he’d said anything recently, though. Not that it matters. I wrote him off as irrelevant last time. I’d be surprised if I were still on his radar of rage, though.

    2. Holly Avatar

      Wow, Kamas. Thanks for the intro.

      Having discovered who Damien Walters is (yet another commentator) and what he said about me, all I can do is laugh.

      I didn’t go to college. I got an ADN (a nursing degree) from a two-year technical institute that became a community college the month I graduated, so technically, I graduated from a community college.

      The only English class I had there was English 101, which was a required elective (all electives in the grueling nursing program were required electives). It was brain-dead simple, and for me, useless.

      I spent seven years on my own, teaching myself to write fiction in my spare time, (in between working as an RN and taking care of my kids), and earned more than 100 rejection slips before I sold two funny science fiction poems to Aboriginal SF editor Charles Ryan.

      Not long after that, I sold my first novel to Jim Baen, and it went on to win the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel.

      I am my own proof that writers can build lifetime careers without government aid. I bootstrapped my way into a writing career, and I teach other folks who want to write how to do that. I have a lot of successful students.

      I—and they—do just fine without government welfare for writers, or leeching off of taxpayers.

  3. Sara Avatar

    I love your secret texts series! are you ever going to do more with it, even as self published?

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      It depends. Most of my contracts have “non-compete” clauses, which means that I can’t write any stories in the worlds of those books. It’s the issue with MOON & SUN. I’m pretty sure it’s the issue with SECRET TEXTS and WORLD GATES, too, though I’ll have to pull out the contracts and look again just to be sure.

      Odds are, though——no. Those worlds are all probably dead.

      And this more than anything is why I quit commercial publishing——commercial publishers are fantastic for tying up rights, and then doing fuck-all with them.

  4. zaviyah teague Avatar
    zaviyah teague

    hi i just started reading this book and im in love the book im reading is the ruby key moon and sun series yeaaah

  5. Tamoso Deep Avatar
    Tamoso Deep

    Your articles are keeping me alive from the day I discovered your site. If somewhere I would see I am different from you, I would even cry I think! So far the only difference I saw is: I do not like heroism, and you talked about heroes on the top of your reader’s mindset list. The rest of the list matched with my psychology completely. And I am very happy about that! I will keep reading you Holly, until I die. And if I ever get chance, if I ever manage enough money to pay you, I will translate as much your works as I can into Bengali. I do write a lot, and all my poet friends and many other writers of Bangladesh do like me. Some of them regularly write poems about me, to name a few ones: Mou Modhubontee, Rahman Henry etc. All of them are good poets, and they love me enough not to get tired of writing poems about me- even when they write poems against me! Yes, that happens, too!

    You are the Virginia Woolf I myself have discovered. I have a feminist friend who writes as much good as Woolf, too- Shumi Reksona Parvin. And now I am glad having found you. Shumi’s topics are different anyway, she writes about politics and feminism mostly. But she does have the depth. I just wish we could return to the age before Tower of Babel, so that there would be language barriers amongst any of us. Sadly, the entire human history and the human nature never allowed any symbols of such unity to exist for so long. And now here we are, living in a world full of hatred. We hate each other even when we slightly disagree with the views of anyone else. Radicalism is blamed, and I do not like that. Yet, more or less, we are living in a radical world. Now, this may sound paradoxical, yet I dare say that I am even radical in my belief in tolerance and freedom of speech! And everything I believe in. That gets me into lot of struggles every single day of my life! Needless to say that at the end of the day, all that just strengthen me more and more and more. And at last I can get satisfied with my life, and don’t mind dying any moment at all if death pierce its nails into my silk-soft skin all on a sudden. I have lived my life enough to enjoy all the wonders of the world, though I know very well wonders never finish away. But still, I am happy with all those years of playing with dolphins and sharks at the same time. And I don’t mind if all on a sudden the octopus of death catches me. It has been enough, enough beautiful, enough lovely, and enough melancholy as well. Although I have works left to do before I die, yet, I know very well, somebody else will do them even after three centuries if I don’t get the chance in this one I am living in. Now, I can have some happy moments at last- reading you, reading others, watching art films, listening to classics and other musics, and doing a very daring attempt to at last understand paintings- although I know my attempt will surely fail. But, these are the things I now live for! And your articles are one of the greatest parts of them.

  6. eliza Avatar

    I read The Ruby Key and The Silver Door over and over and over. I LOVE both of them dearly, for their twisting plot, otherworldly imagination and because I first opened their covers while at my most favorite place on the planet. Keep up your spirits! You’ve got a fan base, at least here in VA.
    Hope to take one of your courses. 🙂

  7. Ruth Avatar

    The neatest thing has happened recently. I was talking to my son-in-law recently over dinner about our favorite topic, books, reading, and our favorite authors.

    I told him that I had ordered some courses from you and went on to describe you to him. He let me run on, smiling through his Santa Claus white beard and listened until I ran down.

    I ran down with, “I just bought this wonderful sci-fi adventure, “Corrigan’s Blood,” and he belted out his awesome belly laugh.

    Without another word he got up, went to his room, and got two books down from the shelf. Yellowed and worn, dated 1996, were the treasures, “The Devil and Dan Cooley” by Holly Lisle and Walter Spence.

    The other book is Holly Lisle’s “Sympathy for the Devil.” I just thought that was the neatest thing.

  8. Roisin Avatar

    Ah, this…

    This is why I both loved and hated the first book of yours that I read, Holly. It was Talyn.

    I think I’m going to need to read it again. Because Talyn reached inside of me and grabbed me by the spine. It shook me around a lot, and peered far deeper into my personal abyss than any book ever has. I cried. I felt sick. I couldn’t stop reading it and I desperately wanted to read something else, just to get rid of the feeling that someone was peering into my soul.

    So I think I’m your reader, Holly. It was a trial by fire, but I have never looked at reading – or writing – in the same way since.

  9. Susi Matthews Avatar
    Susi Matthews

    I am most definitely your reader; and several other author’s as well, I’ll admit. I read not only for escapism and relaxation but to nourish my preferred mind-set of victory over mediocrity, hope over despair and the fact that honor and integrity matter in the real world, every day. Happy endings are never guaranteed but the idea that hard work, a good attitude, doing the right thing because it *is* the right thing, loving people for their inherent loveliness and goodness rather than surface appearance…all that dopey Honor stuff. I’ve been a performer at RenFaires for more than half my life, have portrayed Queen Elizabeth and have knighted adults and given them Blue Garters; one cannot do those activities and not have it affect who one is at a fundamental level.

    So yeah, I’m your reader.

  10. Lavenia Otts Avatar

    I definitely am your reader. First I read Fire in the Mist. I loved it. Then I read the books of the Secret texts, 1 thru 3, and finally I read Talyn, a novel of Korre. I did not think you could ever match that story, but yesterday, I bought Hawkspar on my Kindle, and oh my, you definitely matched Talyn, and I know that this, too, will be a story I will love to re-read many times in order to enjoy all its nuances to the fullest! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the many hours of enjoyment that your books have provided me. In reading you, I have run the gamut of emotions, but always at the end I am filled with wonder and happiness. Blessings on you, always, for the gifts you’ve shared with me and so many others!

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      You’re welcome…and thank you for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed my work.

  11. Ann Schaller Avatar
    Ann Schaller

    My daughter who is 9 has really loved your books from the moon and sun series. She would like to know when the 3rd book is coming out. She can’t wait to find out what happens next. Thank you for writing quality books for kids. I love it when she can’t put a book down.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Ann,

      The misery of this is that I don’t know if there will be a third book. I have Book 3 partially written. I want to finish all 7 books in the series, and was unwilling to truncate the series to three books and take the massive pay cut offered by the publisher to finish the third and kill the series prematurely.

      So if I finish the series, odds are that I’ll have to publish it myself. It may come to that. In the meantime, everything regarding the world of Moon & Sun is in limbo.

  12. MadameRanunculus Avatar

    Hi Holly!

    This is actually my first time posting anything on your website (or anywhere for that matter).
    I read Armor-Ella and an excerpt of Midnight Rain but never a whole novel of yours. I love your style and i find a lot of my reading self in (are you my reader) except for the believe in love part. I guess I haven’t read any of your novels because I’m currently reading thrillers and the like.
    As to whose reader I am right now: I’m a devoted Mo Hayder fanatic, and I also began reading the David Hunter series by Simon Beckett.

    I don’t know who my readers are yet…I definitely have to start thinking about that though.
    By the way, the email ( See The Good) didn’t simply make my day, but I feel as though it made my life. I can’t begin to describe how it got me back on my feet after a loooooooong tearful slumber :D, just wanted to say thanks A LOT for that particular email.

    1. Holly Avatar

      You’re welcome.

      And about seeing the good: being able to do that, and to not get sucked into the sensationalism of the news is a survival skill.

      I’m glad you found that newsletter helpful. 😀


  13. Alicia Avatar

    I am so your reader…at least when I’m not writing or studying.

  14. Somebody's story Avatar
    Somebody’s story

    You are my ideal reader if
    * You gape at people who ask “Why would anyone read fantasy? It’s not about anything real.”
    * You gape at people who say “If I have to think about it to understand it, it is poorly written.”
    * You love to see ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
    * You can see both sides of a conflict, and understand that morality isn’t always black and white.
    * You yearn for adventure and exploration.
    * You aren’t threatened by women kicking butt.
    * You have never put down a book because sad or painful events were happening.
    * You have never put down a book because it was too weird.
    * You don’t expect your protagonist to be perfect.
    * You often find yourself drawn to a work that has a great idea, but then you come away disappointed that they failed to explore it.
    * You get a thrill out of watching mysteries get untangled.

  15. Prue Avatar

    Well, yeah! You have yourself another Reader 😀
    I have to confess that apart from one freebie, I’ve not actually read any of your books – too busy trying to get my head round writing mine and dealing with what Life has thrown my way recently.
    Time to get reading your books.
    Good luck with your new venture. Great that you’re feeling excited by it! 🙂

  16. Kenny Avatar

    Hi Holly, I just wanted to let you know that: yes I am your reader. I was having computer problems and had to build a new one and am now in the process of restoring data and tweeking the system. I was reading “Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood” when my machine decided to go kapult. Cadence Drake RULES!!!Thank you for all your tips! Good luck, good day and GOD bless!

  17. Joan Avatar

    I am so your reader! I ran across your site when looking on help with writing. I studied all your articles as well as went through HTTS and HTRYN. Fortunately I got a copy of your paperback Talyn that got me started in reading your novels. I went from there to the Secret Texts. The title alone hooked me on that on. I loved both of them and keep my eyes open for more. I’m an avid Kindle/ebook type reader as holding a regular book is painful after a few hours. Yes, I devour books and don’t stop till I get to the last page on those I really love.

  18. Shelisa Avatar

    Definitely your reader, nearly across the board, though Talyn will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ve lurked around on your website for a long, long time and learned so very much. Thanks for your incredible efforts to give back to other writers, congrats on the switch to self-control of your destiny, and oh, LOVE the new website!

  19. Martin Avatar

    I think I was a reader from the time I read Fire in the Mist. I know I agree with the points in the description.
    And you’ve given me something to consider about self-publishing too.

    Keep on rockin’ Holly.

  20. Seraphina Avatar

    Definitely one of your readers and have learned a huge amount about writing from your tips and crash tests! I write paranormal, high heroic fantasy, mostly MM and some chick lit…one of these days I’ll get published in my niche, and then go down the self publishing route. A good editor is really key though. Holly unbound is going to be a force to be reckoned with and I hope you get your back list back so I can get my sticky mitts on it!

  21. Lyyda Avatar

    I love Midnight Rain, have read it a couple of time. So I do like your Romance/mystery, whatever your classification is for Midnight. I especially liked your gentle touch on Tarot cards and ESP abilities. I still get chills just thinking about Midnight.

    I have to work more on reading your Fantasy, as I’ve read just a little bit of it. Truthfully, I have to really be in the reading zone to wade in and stay with it. Long ago I learned I have to be careful what I read, avoiding anything that kicks off or increases my depression (Chemical depression-when I remember to take my vitamins I don’t get depressed.)

    I’ve never read your SF so it will be a whole new field for me to begin. I am a Holly reader. I am a writer who’s letting your lessons perk as I keep coming up with new story lines and possibilities.

    Again, the truth. I am a avid reader and I read fast. Sometimes its hard to turn loose of the books and just sit down to the typewriter.

    Hang in there, Holly, you have many supporters, friends and admirers. Permit yourself to rest. Rest, relax and heal.


  22. Cynthia stubbs Avatar
    Cynthia stubbs

    Having difficulty finding your books at my local library, which I admit right now is my reading source. Soon I hope to own my own computer. As people get pcs and Kindles I think there will be a much bigger audience. I, who would buy books until I turn blue, have to borrow them. It’ll be a whole new world maybe, with authors & readers able to find one another.

  23. Kari Wolfe Avatar

    Heh, after reading all of these comments, I’m feeling guilty. I have to admit–I’ve been around your site for quite some time and… I have yet to actually read one of your books. (blush) But I’m going to pick up copies as you release them and read them. 🙂 I’ve purchased all of your writing programs–I’m a part of the HTTS forum and it’s kinda like home to me sometimes.

    Just let us know when you plan on releasing your books–I’ll so be there. 🙂

  24. Mia Avatar

    I’m your reader – when I take a break from writing ^.^)

  25. TerriAnn Gill Avatar

    I LOVE your suspense novels. I am a big sci-fi & paranormal/romance fan. I am thrilled with your HTTS course and I feel my writing has vastly improved thanks to you.

  26. Scott Olson Avatar
    Scott Olson

    Hello Holly,

    I’ve traded emails with you a couple of times, and can honestly say that I do believe I am one of your readers. I’ve read “Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood”, and a few of your other books. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed several others with “The Secret Septs” being what captured my interest in you.

    Thank you for being who you are, and including your readers in what you do. It brings the world of fantasy into reality, and has done so much to stimulate my own reading and writing!

  27. Geraldine Ketchum Avatar
    Geraldine Ketchum

    Not entirely, but I get a lot out of your lessons when you include a project you’re working on. I’m more a romantic suspense reader, but a little magic never hurts.

  28. Nik Ishah Avatar
    Nik Ishah

    I just don’t know how to to comment. Not yet. All I know is, I must start reading your books continuously. I’ve not done that all this while although I’d love to.

  29. godexplosion Avatar

    Considering your books are some of my most favorites, I’m definitely your reader. We share a lot of the same values, and SSM “shivers”, so that is probably why. I’m pretty confident that even if you branched off into a genre I tend to avoid, I’d read it anyway, and you’d somehow manage to make me love it.

  30. Sherilyn Avatar

    Yup, I’m yours. I’ve loved your writing for years. I’m really going to enjoy having your backlist available as my library has suffered a couple of unfortunate reductions. I really admire you taking on publishing new fiction yourself and I look forward to reading what you write without the big-house editors riding you. Looking for more of the good stuff!

  31. Lisa D Avatar

    I read everything I can get my hands on and write just as much as I read, I haven’t had the nerve to submit anything to a publishing agent, I can’t stand the thought of someone dissecting my thoughts and then correcting them and my story. Self publishing is definitely more enticing. I’m sure you’ll be much happier. Good luck!

  32. Lee Birdine Avatar
    Lee Birdine

    Heys 🙂

    First: I want to say I’m sorry you are going through such a trying time medically. I can’t even conceive what a migraine feels like. I think early in my youth I suddenly decided I wouldn’t get anymore headaches and I think I’ve had maybe two since then…

    I’ve a friend though who would get these really debilitating migraines and I can only guess that they are truly horrible to go through. Here’s hoping you find the cause of yours and fix that.

    Secondly, I’ve given you a chunk of my hard earned money, prowled your site before that (you definitely know your shit!), but I am really really sorry…

    … that it’s taking me so long to actually start reading you! Granted, in my defense, I’ve mostly been wrestling with my monster of a series and so have done very little pleasure reading.

    I just bought and started reading HtCB (mostly because of week 7 walkthrough and knowing I’d have to start reading you sooner or later) :). Taking your course is all well and fine, but how I really learn is seeing the end product of how you use all your techniques.

    And I have to say, I am only on chapter five just yet, but… You know your shit! lol

    I just wanted to say you have some really cool tech going on! The doppler recorder for one. Love the scene how Cady and Badg dissect the recording. Fleshtabs, etc. Still trying to wrap my brain around the origami drive and how it works. I’m almost there though :P)

    I love the opening scene and the whole process of her finding out who slapped her around like a brutal handball match.

    I have a question though, are you able to track your sales and actually see who buys your books? Just curious about that.

    Also, okay get off teaching and jump on the Cady series RIGHT FREAKING NOW! I want book 2 ready before I turn the last page of book 1! DAMMIT! lol

    But you challenge me to do better in my own work and I really appreciate that. Through your courses, your writing, and being who you are.

    But now this whole self publishing thing. Wow. Picked up and read John Locke’s book. Nailed down my domain with Tiger Tech, Got WordPress and Twitter–and am absolutely overwhelmed in trying to set all this up. Not to mention getting product ready for consumption. What actually started as single epic book, got broken down to 2 books, then 3 (at the suggestion from some submissions to keep word count per book within a certain range.)

    Which is a good thing. I can officially say my series is well and good and started lol

    But anyways, I just wanted to drop you a hello and say how much I really appreciate you and your work giving back to the writing community.

  33. Vanessa W. Avatar

    Oh yes I am! : ) Some of the early stuff was a little too bitter and dark for me, but I love your books (starting with the Secret Texts) I can NOT wait for C. Drake. I love the fact that you’ll get to write whatever you want and I’m looking forward to seeing that ‘Holly Unleashed’ looks like…(more of the wicked humor that makes the courses so much fun?) Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to seeing more of ‘you’ in your books.

  34. kenbar Avatar

    I could copy your list and make it the foundation of my own list of desirable qualities in readers …EXCEPT for the item on fantasy and magic. If you have to have magic, then, yeah: it has to have rules and consequences.

    I have enough on my plate trying to keep up with the rules and consequences (and wonders) of the real universe. I don’t need to invent a whole new set.

  35. CraezieLady Avatar

    Hmm, I’m not sure if I’m your reader or not. I’m not sure what my preferred novel type is, although, off the top of my head, nothing on your list is a definite “no” for me. I do know that much of your list is quite different from how I write fiction, so I’m wondering if that makes my reader-style different from your reader.
    For example, I like to have two characters working hard for two very different, yet compelling motives, where it is at the reader’s discretion to determine which one they think is right or wrong. I like to privately champion the underdog, yet leave it open to interpretation. I like to have the two characters represent two opposing values, both of which I can appreciate, but that I myself feel conflicted about.
    But I also love a great many story types, so I guess I need to do some reading and figure out if I’m your reader or not…

  36. Jean Delaney Avatar
    Jean Delaney

    I tend to try to find the silver lining in everything. I like happy endings for the good guys and for the villains to get their just comeuppance.

    I will be discovering whether I am your reader.

  37. Connie Avatar

    I appreciate the way you have approached this and look forward to checking out the different aspects of your site. I am most definitely your reader, from print to web and commercial to self-publishing. Kudos to you for following your heart and good luck on this new adventure!

  38. Robotguy Avatar

    Rock on! That sounds perfect; I am definitely part of that demographic. I recently struggled through the first book in a “popular” series thinking “Who are the GOOD guys? ” If I wanted to see marginally decent people get the ^$^&! beat out of them I’d watch the nightly news.

    I actually discovered you while looking up online writing tutorials for my daughter. After reading the description of your ideal reader I’m going to have to go out and start catching up on your “32 novel backlist.” Better yet, I’ll keep my eyes open and grab them as you make them available 🙂

  39. Penny Ash Avatar

    Definitely a reader. Especially of the SF. Give me a good first contact or colony world story and I’m yours forever. I like my Fantasy a bit low, like failed fairies and inept pixies…

  40. Shirls Avatar

    Holly, I am most definitely your reader. I love all the elements you mention. I have some of your writing clinics which are great. Now I want to read your fiction as well. And I really admire your courage and tenacity in the face of what you have been through. You are a role model par excellence. I hope your migraine leaves you soon.

  41. Kari Wolfe Avatar

    I will most likely be your reader for SOME of your books, at least 😉 I can’t help but not be a huge lover of sci-fi/fantasy, but, because I know you (online counts, right?), and I know your philosophy, I would give your stories much more of a chance 🙂 BUT what I will do, more than anything else, is spread the word about your books! 🙂

  42. Anthea Avatar

    I am so definitely your reader. 😀

    “You’re my reader if you love the shiver you get when you look into the twilight, and the unknown looks back…”

    The fact that just reading that sends delicious shivers of anticipation down my spine probably says a lot about why. 🙂

  43. Hanna Avatar

    I like the new website. I don’t have an answer yet to this question, but I love the way you approached this. It is on my ‘to do’ list.

  44. Rebekah Aimee Avatar

    Hmm… I’d like to have readers who think. People who want to read about real people, about people whose lives do not revolve around a movement to save rabbits, about people who want to do something instead of settle for mediocrity. In fact, if my readers themselves are people who do not settle for mediocrity, all the better. My readers should be people who don’t tolerate ignorance or “good enough”s, because my characters, my readers, and I need to know the power they/I hold, and channel it into a purpose, because that’s a basic in my storylines. Really, it’s a basic in any storyline, but it’s especially pronounced in mine.

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