How to get readers of digital content to keep reading
The explosion of digital content available for the voracious consumer of words has been one of the hallmarks of the last decade. Although writing has been available for readers to read online almost since ‘online’ became an actual thing, it has only really been since the invention and wide dissemination of the e-Reader that people have had a viable option to read almost everything in digital format.
Traditional publication channels have been smashed and now writers without famous names have been able to earn a living while doing something they love. Readers are winners too! Now they have many more writers to follow and read than ever before.
Challenges of so much choice
Since the Amazon Kindle has come along the publishing world has been tipped on its end. Once the paperback and New York publishing houses ruled, keeping a tight rein on both what and who got published. How different it is today!
Now, almost anyone can be published. This has meant writers whose work never had a chance of seeing the light of day can now gain loyal fans who will follow them, reading every book they digitally publish. Writers like John Locke, who sold 1 million eBooks in 5 months back when it was still laughed at to call yourself an author if all you had published were digital books only, are now well out in front.
Isn’t he laughing all the way to the bank now?!
As the digital format has risen to become the most popular way of consuming written material, the challenges for writers and readers alike have become numerous.
With so much more choice, at prices ranging from free to very little, readers are often overwhelmed by the amount of material coming their way. Through necessity, they have needed to become skilled at wading through the reeds to get to the best stuff. These skills are often brutally applied.
Digital channels like medium.com and Kindle Unlimited, which permit readers to consume content on a subscription basis, afford content creators the ability to analyze how their creations are performing. Medium’s stats and Kindle Direct Publishing’s KENP reading statistics often make for sobering reflection. Though they do give insights into how writers can give their content a better chance at success.
It is clear from the statistics writers can find from KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Page reads) and Medium’s views, reads, and fans count that writers and their readers have a problem with abandonment.
And, I don’t mean the kind of abandonment issues that’d have you seeking the help of a psychotherapist. Although, if it keeps up for too long…..
Abandonment is a term we can borrow from the world of podcasting. Major podcast hosts, like Libsyn or Podbean for example, keep statistics on the listens for podcasts. Abandonment is just one of the statistics podcasters can use to help them make better content. Abandonment shows how much of a podcast was listened to, and on average where people stopped listening.
Likewise, writers can gain an understanding about how much of their content is being consumed, and what is helping readers to continue reading versus what may be influencing them to stop reading. You want to be creating content readers love to read; writing that they can’t put down.
So, how do I create content people can’t put down?
Without a doubt, those writers who are succeeding in the brave new world of digital publishing are doing a few things more traditional writers are not. Don’t get me wrong, your Stephen King and Dean Koontz type of writers with proven big-name recognition and mega-million publishing deals can always afford to be in front. But, if you’re a talented writer from the Boon Docks, what can you do to enjoy more success?
Research before you write
This advice might be harder for fiction writers than for non-fiction writers, though it can’t be a bad thing either if you research trends within your genre. What are people reading? Are they into eschatological sci-fi or steampunk? Vampire romance or billionaire romance?
Keeping an eye on trends might give you a chance to achieve a breakthrough. Dan Brown’s speculative fictional best-seller on Jesus’ bloodline surviving achieved a breakthrough for him, and then opened up all of the great work he’d already been doing with novels like Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Generations were exposed to his whole catalog of work, all of which took off in the wake of his breakthrough novel.
Keep forging ahead and you too may achieve back catalog recognition.
For non-fiction writers, the task of research is a little more straightforward. You definitely want to stay on top of trends. But, there is much more to research that can you an edge.
To find out what to write, take a piece of paper and jot down all the things you have some knowledge about which you would like to write about. If you write about things you don’t really have a passion for, you’ll find readers will be turned off almost instantly. It comes through loud and clear in your writing.
Once you are clear on the areas you are comfortable writing in, head over to Google and find out what is trending. Google’s related search feature is a big help here. For example, a search on ‘make money writing kindle ebooks’ yields related search terms like; ‘how much money can you make writing a book’, ‘how much do self-published authors make on Amazon’, and ‘writing ebooks for a living’. If this were your topic area, the seeming popularity of these search terms gives you a huge clue about what you should write about.
Yet, if you are still not convinced you could navigate your way to trends.google.com. This enables you to check how your area of interest or search term is trending. It gives you great graphical confirmation of your chosen writing area.
Finally, Google Keyword tool can narrow your proposed topic down to a more manageable set of choices. More importantly, it can help you nail down the long-tail keywords that help you to write niche specific content. This can save you from writing content that tries to be all things to everyone.
After you’ve finished with Google, Amazon is your next port of call. Don’t worry if you’re only writing a blog article rather than an ebook. Using Amazon search, just like Google search, can help you find out what people are searching for. This will confirm your Google research and help shape and narrow the content’s formation.
Make sure your non-fiction content is 100% valuable for people. Use current statistics, the most recent research you can find, and check every fact you’re intending on using for accuracy. The good thing about writing digital content is you can usually come back and edit or upgrade. Continue to revisit and improve your work over time. Keep it up-to-date.
Write on a roll — use the ‘Inverted Pyramid’ writing style
The real challenge to beating this abandonment issue — where people will stop reading, presumably moving on to something else — is to capture readers’ attention and keep it there.
Thankfully, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. Newspapers and magazines have been using a proven formula that is so good it has been taught to artificial writing software that can crank out millions of short news stories in just a few moments. If a robot can write this way and get published you definitely can!
The trick to using the writing pyramid, as it is also known, is to write the most interesting content first and then unfold it to ever greater depths throughout the rest of a piece of writing.
We’ve all seen this in action on the front cover of newspapers and news websites. A captivating headline and sub-headline drags our attention toward an article. We then start reading from the top, where some sensational concepts or ideas are put forward — perhaps some details of a major crime, a big breakthrough, or some major event. We are intrigued enough to continue to read. As we progress, more details are given — perhaps some quotes, statistics, or significant comments. Before long, we’ve reached the end of the article and left feeling like we could handle some more.
This is one way you can structure your writing to maintain readers’ interest.
End with a call-to-action
Another way this can work is by using a call-to-action at the end of your content. If you were writing a Kindle eBook, for example, you could end every chapter with a statement that operates like a call-to-action, enticing the reader to keep going on to the next chapter.
I have seen this in operation myself, and I immediately recognized how effective it is. A simple statement like, “Now you’ve found out what to do on the first day on the job, keep reading to find out what the must-do 2nd day on the job activities are.”
Ok, that sucked bad! But, I think you get the idea. We have to give readers a reason to keep on going.
Shorter content..more frequently
Once, back in the day before Kindle, electricity, and microwave ovens, everyone expected to get their money’s worth when buying a book or magazine. The pages of a book must be filled! Filled to overflowing!!
Today, not so much.
Specifically, when it comes to non-fiction many people want something they can start and finish in 1 to 2 hours. This may have to do with reading rewards that help push readers along. Kobo, for example, has a range of cute ‘awards’ readers receive for milestones. They help motivate readers to push on. But, they also encourage shorter reads and the reading of digital content that is not unpacked through hundreds of thousands of words.
People want to zip through an ebook and move on to something else on their digital bookshelf. If you can help them by crafting an engaging, quick read, they’ll feel more accomplished and fill more space on their devices with your content. Think of Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Tim Ferris. They keep coming with valuable content. Their loyal fans keep buying and spruiking the benefits of their body of work.
How good would it be if your work were similarly received?!
If you can work to keep your writing interesting and informative all the way through you will be going a long way to keeping the digital reader’s attention. The more you have their attention, the more of your work they’ll be happy to read.