But even though I write without thinking about whether my books are going to be read or not, I am very conscious in the editing process about what's in it for the reader. I don't think it matters exactly what the reader is going to get out of investing their time - lots of exciting action, beautiful use of language, interesting historical information, insight into human emotions, a removal from this mundane world into a fantasy land - but I think the writer should know what it is they're offering - and then deliver.
I've been thinking about this because I've workshopped a friend's memoir for a couple of years. In our workshopping group, we know each other so well that we're sometimes blunt: 'It's interesting to us because we know you, but it wouldn't interest anyone else'. The discussions gradually centred around 'why would an outsider want to read this?' Sometimes the answers suggested that the author should go down more sensational or personal paths than she wanted to go, so she had to find other pathways.
I'm pleased to say that the memoir has found a publisher, the contracts have been signed, and the book is scheduled for publication in 2012. I like to think that asking What's in it for the Reader? helped. It's made me go back to my own work and ask the same question.
I know what I think I'm offering the reader - do you?