To Gain an Audience, Write about What Others Have Written

Jan 7


Donald Mitchell

Donald Mitchell

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Do you have a message for the masses? Try writing book reviews on similar subjects as a way to get your point across. You'll reach many more people that way with less effort.


Life is a hospital in which every patient is possessed by the desire to change his bed.

 Pierre Charles Baudelaire

Many people want to tell their story,To Gain an Audience, Write about What Others Have Written Articles to share their perspective and help others. That's praiseworthy.

But most people don't have time to read very much. The average person doesn't even read one book a year and not too many articles.

Where is there room for more writing? The answer comes in helping others find what they are looking for to read: Quick answers to what is well worth reading.

If you are even an average-speed reader, you can read several books a year during time that might otherwise be wasted (like sitting in cars and airplanes during trips, waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and while listening to long-winded teleconferences).

Most other people haven't read what you've read. If what you read is in the field where you want to make a point, you can write online reviews of those books and express your opinion. Many more people will read what you have to say this way than if you wrote a book or article to make the same point.

Let me share some of my experiences to give you a sense of what's possible.

Although I began writing book reviews before coauthoring my second book, I didn't become committed to this path until well after that book came out. It was in late 2000 that I discovered that book reviews could be used to bring attention to what should be read and applied and to steer attention away from what would be harmful or a waste of time.

My younger son, Mark, played a big role inspiring the learning I gained. When my first book was about to be published, Mark told me that online reviews by ordinary customers and readers would be a large influence on the book's sales. Boy, was he ever right!

He also suggested I try my hand at writing a few "customer reviews" online to see what the process was like. With young tutors from my office on both sides of me, I succeeded in putting up my first "review," which was actually just a few words in favor of a book by Norman R. Augustine. My review was only three and a half lines long, and I mainly wrote about what a good leader Mr. Augustine was. The review is dated January 23, 1999, less than a month after my first book was published.

I must have liked the experience: The next day I whipped off 11 more slightly longer "reviews." Each comment focused on a book I knew well. As I looked again at those comments, I'm surprised by how helpful people found them.

For instance, my few comments about a book by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce M. Patton have received over 90 "helpful" votes readers over the years. Some of my early reviews also referred to overcoming various stalls described in my first book.

By February 3, 1999, I seemed to have run out of steam after 29 reviews. After that my reviews appear sporadically for the rest of 1999, with only 31 more written later in the year. Interestingly, I also reviewed beyond my narrow expertise, including some novels and children's books among the 31. I must have been enjoying the writing because these later reviews are longer and occurred more frequently.

I no longer have my e-mail records from that year, but I recall being surprised by several effects of my reviews. Since I originally included my e-mail address on my reviews, I began getting fan e-mails from readers who appreciated my thoughts. It was remarkable to me that I got many more such fan e-mails for my few online book reviews than I did for my first book. That was counterintuitive to me because I had sent thousands of free books and sold many thousands more. The second surprise I received was that authors began e-mailing to thank me for the reviews. When I later saw some of these authors in person, they went out of their way to be cordial to me. Clearly, I had developed a better and different kind of a relationship with people I had known for many years just by taking a few minutes to comment honestly on what I thought of their work.

The biggest surprise was getting e-mails, telephone calls, and letters from publishers, authors, and publicists who wanted me to review new books. What was that all about? Since the books came for free, I usually encouraged people to send them along.

With a new book to write, my rate of adding reviews slacked off in early 2000. As the possibilities of writing reviews began to expand in my mind, the experience of writing reviews provided even more stimulation. I began to realize that if those who are devoted to progress could all become capable book reviewers, the world's reading habits could be greatly improved.

Done properly, I realized that millions of people could be reached and influenced through online reviews . . . many more than most good writers ever reach.

Copyright 2009 Donald W. Mitchell, All Rights Reserved

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