book-coverThe Mysterious Reader-Writer Connection
Connecting in Person
by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hardly anything in this universe is for certain and sure—but there’s one thing that might be. Every author started out as a reader. Isn’t that true? Every single one of us who writes began our writing life buried in a book. Or two or three or hundreds or more.

So when authors ask—how do I connect with readers? That’s such an easy answer. Because all I’m doing is connecting with people just like me. Exactly like me. And you. And you. Who love the same things we do, and are annoyed by the same things. Of course we don’t all love exactly the same books, and that’s part of the fun.

But I just gave a class to Sisters in Crime New England called Perfecting Your Presentation, where we talked about (and practiced) how to read your work out loud, and how to be interviewed. I’ve also taught classes in public speaking. And what’s so important when you are in front of a group of readers is not only eye contact, but ear contact and brain contact. That’s connection.

nancydrewThink of what makes you the reader connect. When I say in my library presentations something like: “How many of you used to read Nancy Drew? Because I did!” And when the hands go up, and we all realize, Oh! There’s a light in each of our hearts that is exactly the same. And when I say “I started writing at 55, 11 years ago. What is it that you would love to do in this half of your life?” I see the thoughtfulness in people’s faces, and the realization that they, too, can follow their dreams.

And how about reading out loud? How many times, when you go to a bookstore or library event, and the author says, “Now I’ll read a little bit from my book…” How many times do you cringe, thinking: I hope this is good.

But when the author is enthusiastic, and reads dramatically, and chooses a compelling section—and by compelling I mean interesting, and short, and with an irresistibly teasing ending—aren’t you thrilled?

Because that very wise author has put him or herself in the audience’s shoes, and in their minds. On Facebook, and Twitter, when someone posts about Me Me Me…How much fun is that for you to read?

If you truly and genuinely are interested in other people, and care about how they feel, and what they’re interested in, that comes through. You can’t fake it! Because you care about someone else, they care about you.

Sometimes it’s difficult, in the relentless pressure of writing and promoting, to forget that. Just between us, I can’t believe there aren’t more authors running out onto the streets, simply yelling: “PLEASE please please buy my book!” I know I’ve felt that way. (Like, every day.)

But aside from being pretty funny, you know that would not be successful, right?

audienceSo the key, darling writers, is to put yourself in your audience’s hearts. When I was a beginning reporter, and still incredibly nervous about being on TV, a very wise advisor said to me: “Do your job out of passion. Out of love.”

And I can give you no better advice than that.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate, winning 33 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. The bestselling author of nine mysteries, Ryan’s also an award-winner in her second profession—with five Agathas, two Anthonys, two Macavitys, the Daphne, and Mary Higgins Clark Award. Critics call her “a superb and gifted story-teller.” Her WHAT YOU SEE is an Agatha and Anthony nominee and Library Journal Best of 2015. Ryan’s newest novel is SAY NO MORE — Jeffery Deaver says “Superb!” and a Library Journal starred review says “Ryan does it again.” Hank is a founder of MWA University and 2013 president of National Sisters in Crime.

Based on a Henery Press blog post news tip by newsie Art Taylor.

author-photoMysterious News Investigates Hank

by Bruce Cantwell

Okay, veteran Mysterious Newsies knows the rigorous vetting process involved in becoming a newsie. So I dug a little deeper.

In this scathing fiftyplus advocate exposé I caught Hank saying things like:

"You can plan all you want but that rarely works out. Life is a series of opening doors – we can all have amazing experiences if we take a chance, stay curious, stay connected and stay interested."

and

"Look in your heart – what is it that you really want to do?

I started writing at age 55. If you’re 50, you may still have half your life ahead of you. That you would want to start shutting down – that’s just astonishing. You could have a whole new career ahead of you. Put your passion to use and spread your wings.”

Pretty subversive stuff: and there's much more where those come from.


Suspecting I was onto something, I asked my crack private investigator Walter Forbes to dig for more dirt on Hank. Once again, I balked at the price he quoted. I pleaded for a discount by explaining how much I charge for subscriptions. No dice. So I checked in with newsie Stephen Campbell who shook her down...interrogated her on his podcast The Author Biz: Touring to Promote Your Books.

Here she cleverly sneaks in an answer to the question where she gets her ideas. A question, I might add, that Steve never asked.

Hank: The thing that I love is when something that I learn as a reporter or something that I learned as an attorney's wife becomes this gorgeous jewel of the nub of my imagination. And I take that little jewel and think what could have happened? What might have happened? How can I make this into something that no one's ever read before?

With an appreciation of Hank's sneakiness, Steve went for the secret truth behind Hank's ambitious touring schedule.

Hank: I go on tour like crazy. It is the joy of my life. Steve, it is so funny. I roll my little roller bag down the aisles of the airport humming Magical Mystery Tour to myself because it's crazy, it's chaotic, but this is what you dream of. So, going from city to city and getting to talk to readers, and getting to talk to writers, and getting to share not only experiences about the book, but talk about writing, and talk about this world that we're all involved in is absolutely great.

Steve: Now, you understand that for some people the idea of what you're describing, while it sounds fabulous, would be terrifying.

Hank: Oh, I'm not saying it's not terrifying. It's terrifying every day. If somebody said to me, would you rather stay home by yourself and write or go out and see a million people, I'd be, I'm at home. I am not a good chatterer. I am not a good small-talker.

Steve: You're kidding.

Hank: Oh, no no. I'm terrified every day. If you see me at a conference, come talk to me, okay, because I am terrified.

Every author will tell you the same thing. When we go to the bookstore or go to a library there's always the moment where you think what if nobody comes? What if nobody comes? So, every single person who comes to one of my events, I am infinitely, eternally grateful. I love seeing each and every one of you.

I know how important it is to support writers. I go to the events of people I know, and I go to the events of people I don't know. And I have made so many friends and learned about so many fabulous books from that. I mean, that's social media, isn't it? You know, the original social media was seeing somebody face to face and actually talking to them. So, I like to be social in real life. Not only on the internet.

One of the things that I always tell people about conferences is that something wonderful happens at every conference. You just might not know what it is until later. But every single time I go somewhere there are some dominoes that fall and some effect that happens. There's a cause and effect thing, and the universe doesn't reward you unless you put yourself in it.

Steve: You're really good on social media. You're clever, you tell a funny story, and oh, by the way, I'm on my way to St. Louis, #HankOnTour, see you at the such-and-such bookstore.

Hank: I'm just being a reporter about my own life. And I'm all about telling a good story. So what would make it be a good story? I mean, that's the instruction, I guess. You know, think what would make that a good story that somebody would want to read?

Steve: Do you find one social media platform to be more appropriate for you than another?

Hank: I'm very comfortable with Facebook. My twitter thing is more broadcasting than listening, I think. Everybody you talk to about social media would say you choose where you're comfortable and then just don't worry about the other stuff. You know, our minds are scattered and crazy enough without saying oh, my goodness, I have to do this. Oh, my goodness, I have to do that. We can't keep that many plates spinning. So just pick a plate or maybe two and spin those and forget about the rest and you'll feel much more relaxed.

Steve: One thing that I notice about your social media presence is that you're constantly talking about other people's books, and how much you enjoy them, and what other people are doing.

Hank: One of the things that I really love about this life is that I get to be in a community of people who care about the same things that I do, and love the same things that I do, and read the same things that I do. And so, that's what you do when you have friends. Somebody else's success is just as enjoyable to me as mine. You know, we all take turns in this world and something good happens to someone else, that's wonderful. Be happy for that person. This is a world where you be generous, and you be giving, and you be kind, and you be enthusiastic, and you help the other person. We're all in this together. And that's really important to me.

Sisters in Crime did a big survey to figure out how we all choose what we read. And, amazingly, shockingly, astonishingly, I'm being sarcastic, it was word of mouth. It's that I tell you, that I put a review, that I put it on Facebook, and somebody says, oh, Hank and I kind of like the same books. If she liked that, I would like that. And then you pass the word along. It's all about share share share. It makes such a huge difference. It's just that one click or that one mention to me or to any author. If you love a book just TELL SOMEONE.

If you like my books, please tell all your friends. If you don't like them, just don't say anything.


Doh! Well, Hank's not going to win an Emmy for this one, but she's on to our secret at Mysterious News. Whether you choose to keep our secret or (hint hint hint) share it (maybe by using the buttons below) is up to you.


Connecting in Person - Hank Phillippi Ryan | Hank Phillippi Ryan - Say No More | Melissa Lenhardt - The Fisher King | Bruce Cantwell - The Catalonian Candidate | Renee Patrick - Design for Dying | Get Out the Vote Edition Gratitude