James Patterson vs. Rick Springfield: A Test of True Engagement

If you are like me, you have some type of daily commute to the office. And you may travel on occasion (or frequently like I do). I used to spend much of my commute or travel time working. I still do, but one year ago I decided to cut back on work and let my mind take a break. My progression went like this:

I started by getting a subscription to Lumosity. After all, who can afford to not train their brain? Lumosity was great fun and entertaining, but once I hit the high 90s in every area I decided it was time to move on. So I went to that dark place – binge-watching.

After binge-watching every episode of Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards, Dallas, Burn Notice, and even Pretty Little Liars, I felt like a drug addict whose dealer left town. I tried binging on other shows, like Supernatural or Dexter, but they creeped me out too much. Binge-watching was addictive and entertaining, but with months to a year before I could binge-watch again, what was I to do?

Then, something interesting happened, I started reading books; e-books, on a NOOK app on my iPhone no less, and I liked it. The words were large enough that my eyes were happy, and the books were compelling, entertaining, and emotionally fulfilling. Reading brought my back to my younger days when I would stay up late because I couldn’t put down Flowers in the Attic or Gone with the Wind. However, I quickly ran out of books that people suggested I read and was left to choose from 3 million books on my own (gulp). What was I going to read next?

So I decided to choose something completely new. I chose to read Magnificent Vibration by Rick Springfield. I choose this book because it was a featured title on NOOK, and I couldn’t image Rich Springfield writing a book that got five-star reviews. Yet, all of the reviews said people couldn’t put the book down. Then, I read Unlucky13 by James Patterson, mainly because I have never known of a bad James Patterson book. While reading books by these two divergent authors, I realized that successful publishing, meaning publishing that captures the heart and soul of the reader, requires the author of any length of content to meet the following criteria:

  • Your content must be written to engage your reader. The tone, phrases, and words must match the experience your readers share, or strive to achieve. Conversational, playful, and confidant are three characteristics of every good piece of content. 
  • There needs to be a hook (or seven). Any author, of tweets, news blogs, or books, must include a hook that drives the reader to want more. This could be more of the article, story, or book, or more of what you have to write.
  • Your content must steal your reader’s mind. If the reader cannot picture themselves in the venue you are writing about, you’ve missed the boat (hopefully you are picturing yourself reading your favorite content and experiencing the emotions it creates). 
  • Leave them wanting more. This works for authors as well as on Broadway. If you’re a great publisher, you will find a way to create this need for the reader to want/demand more from you.

Kudos to both authors for successfully engaging the reader, keeping them hooked, and leaving them wanting more. As you and your team continue to leverage content of all shapes and sizes as a powerful publishing engine and engagement tool, I encourage you to take away some lessons from the “big guys” and apply them to your everyday business.

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