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Charles Rosenberg: What Do Readers Want?... On Mystery Fanfare

Freud once asked of Marie Bonaparte the (sexist) question, “What does woman want?” With apologies to Freud for adapting his question, I want to ask “What do readers want?” For most of history, writers found out what their readers wanted indirectly—by looking at sales figures, by reading professional reviews in newspapers and magazines, by hearing from agents, editors and writing teachers, and by talking with friends, acquaintances and other writers (most of whom probably didn’t say what they really thought). Unless they got tons of pointed fan mail, writers didn’t usually have direct access to the views of hundreds (or even thousands) of ordinary readers of their books.

Now, thanks to reader reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads, plus lots of blogs, writers are awash in reader opinions—if they want to read them. Some authors don’t. I do, and here are a couple of things I’ve learned.

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