If it Ain’t Read, it’s Dead! So who did I write this for?

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Does anyone read what I write?”

I have. Often. Yet, I continue to write.

So I decided to explore the problem. I realized that no one is going to read what I’ve written, if they don’t know about it.

And it’s true.

If it’s not read – it may as well be dead!

But I’m not ready for my new book, God in Africa ~ 90 Days in the Land of Majesty & Mystery, to die! So I set out on a journey of exploration. What was I doing wrong? What was I failing to do?

If no one reads a book, there’s no point in writing it!

Over and over, I hear my fellow writers complain. “Why doesn’t anyone buy my books?”

If it's not read - it's dead. How can I improve my outreach? Click To Tweet

I’ve said the same thing. But let’s be logical here. No one, not even my doting aunt if I had such a valuable commodity, will read what I’ve written if she doesn’t don’t know it’s there.

How not to spread the news

I once had a friend who used to pop into my home to visit. But she always brought at least one book in her hand. “Take a look at my latest,” she would urge.

She had obviously heard the sales technique that once you hold a book in your hand, you are more likely to buy it. Unfortunately, she didn’t know me all that well, as I developed a resistance to this particular tactic. It wasn’t that she didn’t write well, she did. But I wasn’t interested in the topic, it meant handing over money not in my budget, and besides. I really didn’t like being pressured.

And I don’t want to turn into that sort of person.

Then I read something interesting. The article, and I’ve forgotten where I read it, suggested the reason so many writers hate to market their book is because they see it as doing a hard sell of their books. And they don’t want to turn out like my friend. Instead of looking at the book, the article suggested, we should be looking at our readers. Those we wrote for. What do I have to offer those people?

Marketing is not about selling. It's about meeting a need. Click To Tweet

Good thought! But whose need was I wanting to meet? In other words . . .

Who did I write this for?

There is just no topic on earth that will appeal to all readers. I accept that. So who did I write this for? Who stands to gain the most from God in Africa? Would it appeal to you, for example? And if the answer is no, I must accept that graciously. It can’t appeal to everyone!

Some may be vaguely interested in the topic of learning more about Africa. Others may be fascinated by the thought of God at work in this land of turmoil and political unrest. There are many folk out there with needs I know nothing of. But I mustn’t try to reach them with my book. That will only water down its message.

I need to aim at those I wrote the book for. They are the people I spent valuable time and effort in trying to satisfy. I want to try and meet their needs. 

So who did I write for?

The title gives the answer.

The title, God in Africa – 90 Days in the Land of Majesty & Mystery, reveals the book is about Africa. But it’s not just a geographical textbook. It is a devotional book that points to God. So it is written for people who believe in God, and who are interested or intrigued by Africa.

We can also see it covers ninety different facets of the continent of Africa, the land I have lived in since the age of four. Clearly, from the title, I see it as a majestic and mysterious land. So you already know quite a bit about the book, just by reading the title.

I didn’t write this for atheists who hate all things African. 

Yet there may well be a few who are intrigued by the fact that their friend wrote it, or who wonder how anyone can write such a book given the political unrest in the land . . . or any other of a myriad of reasons.

But I didn’t write this for them!

Would I be okay if one of them picked up the book and made a purchase? You betcha! My prayer would be that by the end of the book, should I manage to hold their attention, they would come to see the reality of God as well as have a deep desire to visit the continent of Africa!

But I didn’t write this for them!

So I’m not going to try and sell it to them. Because, as far as I know, they won’t be interested.

Coming up with a great front cover.

Next up, I had to come up with a front cover that would attract the people I knew would benefit from the content. You know? The Christian reader who has a fascination for Africa.

I wish I could say this was easy. I went through a myriad of ideas, some of which I bounced off my street team (a.k.a. Shirley’s Book Brigade). Some they rejected. Several, and one in particular, they liked. Many fell in love with a cover that showcased the sausage tree of Namibia.


And for a while that became the image on my work in progress. However, as time went on, I realized I wanted a more elaborate cover. One that would show more of the majesty and mystery of the continent, and not be restricted to just one tree, fascinating though that is.

Three F’s of the final cover.

I searched Amazon and Goodreads for ideas, and finally came up with the cover you see at the top of the post.

1.  Flora

You still see the sausage tree my Book Brigade loved, but it is only part of the cover. It represents the flora of the land.

2.  Features

There is also a picture of the stunning beauty of the majestic and mysterious “Smoke that Thunders” also known as the Victoria Falls. That represents the incredible geographical attributes of this rugged land, the second-largest continent in the world.

3.   Fauna

Finally, you have the regal and powerful King of the Jungle, the magnificent beast we call a lion. He, of course, symbolizes the rich, diversified animal life of this land mass, varying from the tiny but influential dung beetle to the colossal, family-oriented elephant.

And finally, I had a cover I was happy with. This cover, including the title, pretty much sums up the message of the book. Hopefully, it will attract the people of whom I can say,

“I did write it for them!”

I’ve often heard the saying, “You don’t judge a book by its cover!” But I have seen, over and over, this book cover drawing people in. Some weeks ago, I took the book into a select, privately-owned book shop. I asked the owner if she would be interested in holding some copies of the book on consignment. Her reaction?

Before opening the pages . . . she asked, “How much do you want for it?” Her initial judgement was from its cover.

You don't judge a book by its cover. Really? Or is that the first feature people notice? What do you think? Click To Tweet

So what came next?

Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger, makes a good point. He says, “A great headline mixed with a weak opening is like inviting someone into your house, only to slam the door in their face as they approach.”

A great headline mixed with a weak opening is like inviting someone into your house, only to slam the door in their face as they approach. Click To Tweet

So having come up with a great title, and a fabulous cover (at least, I think so!) I took care to keep the door open. I wanted my invited guests—those that I wrote for—to feel at home. I tried to think of what questions they would ask me and to provide them with the answers. I hoped to entertain them and inspire them to see Africa, not just as a large landmass frequently suffering severe drought, but as a land of majesty and mystery. If I could enthrall them with the wonder of this incredible continent and the awesomeness of the God who created and maintains it, I would have succeeded. Because these were the people I wrote for.

Only you can tell me if I’ve succeeded.

Please will you give me feedback? It will be a real source of encouragement for me if you answer at least one of the following questions in the comment box below.

  • Does the cover attract your attention?
  • Can you tell from the title what the book is about?
  • Have you read the book? If not, it’s available here in both paperback and e-reader.


[stextbox id=’alert’]Come back next week and read about some more of the amazing and awesome revelations of God in the continent of Africa![/stextbox]

16 comments on “If it Ain’t Read, it’s Dead! So who did I write this for?

  1. Yes, Shirl, I love it all! Still reading your book (I’m slow). Great points on marketing here, and thank you for the tips you gave in your newsletter today. So glad I’m on your list. Blessings to you from the US.

  2. I’m still reading – and loving – this book. At my age, my traveling in person days are probably limited severely. I turn 81 this June and friend-husband will be 87 in May. I love being able to travel in my armchair. I can see the things you describe, the flora particularly in the last devotion I read. I can hear the thunder of the falls and almost feel the spray. And I love how you tie the devotions in.

  3. Yes, yes, and I’m still reading it! I love the book and I’m constantly handing the book to my husband and asking him to read certain chapters. Like the dung beetle! I really like the format of short chapters and her hood thought-provoking questions.

    • Thanks so much, Melanie. I love that you’re sharing with your husband too. And yes, I am fascinated by the dung beetle too! The first time I visited Addo and read the sign saying the beetles had the right of way on the roads, I believed it to be a joke!

  4. Thanks for the interesting blog, Shirl.

    My answer to all three questions is a resounding ” Yes!”

    I thoroughly enjoyed God in Africa and highly recommend it.

    • Thank you so much for reading this, Ruth. I’m so glad you can answer “Yes” to all three questions. I’m also thrilled you enjoyed the book.

  5. Hi Shirley! Thanks for your informative blog. This avid retired reader unfortunately judges a book by its cover and title. God in Africa was recommended by Marion Ueckermann. As a German American I have always been drawn to learning about other countries, their language and culture. As a youngster in church I heard about our mission fields in the Congo and Nigeria. Through Marion Ueckermann I learned about South Africa. Through history and the Bible Egypt. Visiting zoos we saw the beautiful creatures – elefants, giraffes, lions, tigers or my. I purchased, read, and left a review for God in Africa. I also liked your post with questions from your book. Made me go back and reread portions. Best wishes.

    • Thanks for your visit, Renate and for telling me some of your background. It’s interesting that you’ve made contact with me through Marion. She is a good friend and a fabulous writer.
      Thank you for leaving a review on God in Africa. Reviews make a huge difference to the sales of a book, as well as being a great source of encouragement to the author.
      Every blessing!

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