A local charity just held its third annual fun run fundraiser. The first year, the turnout was respectable and although the weather was awful and the route poorly designed, runners had a good time. For a year they told their friends about the swag bag they got after they crossed the finish line. It was filled with unexpected and generous goodies.
The second year, registration increased. The weather was a little better, there was an even better swag bag plus full-sized chocolate bars (in addition to the healthy snacks of course). Runners could have taken 20 bars each if they’d wanted, but they didn’t. They shared one among many. Still, they talked about those bars all year because they were unexpected and generous.
This year, the weather was perfect. The race sold out and there was even a waiting list. The route was excellent. But at the end, the swag bag disappointed. Gone were the generous samples, replaced instead with token items and sales brochures. Gone too were the chocolate bars. People noticed.
What will they talk about this year? And, does this really have anything to do with bars and free samples?
Why is unexpected and generous so important? It’s because it makes people feel like they’ve been seen. Like the hard work they did raising funds was appreciated.
How can we apply this to our books and the people who read them? For starters, we can learn to craft a novel that goes above and beyond the reader’s expectations. It takes time and hard work, but our investment in our craft is a gift to our readers. It’s a way for us to let them know that they’ve been seen and that their purchase is appreciated.
They expect a good book in exchange for their money, but what would happen if we gave them a great book instead? A great book is unexpected and generous. Great books get talked about.