Successful Non-Fiction Authors Don’t Confuse “Empathy” With “Sympathy”

Synopsis
Even though empathy and sympathy both involve your “feelings” about your readers, they refer to two distinctly different emotions. As an author, and book marketer, (and as an emotionally mature adult that is trying to help people) you must genuinely understand the difference. Here is a short discussion about the importance of empathy, and how it relates to your book sales.

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What You Will Learn In This Post
1. You will learn the difference between empathy and sympathy.
2. You will learn why understanding the difference will help you sell more books.
3. You will learn how and why empathy for your readers will improve your book sales.

Authors: If You Learn How To Walk In Your Readers' Shoes You Will Sell More Books Infographic

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Introduction
Do you truly understand who you’re writing for? And not in a superficial way. Knowing is the difference between building a devoted audience of followers, readers, and book buyers that you help, and your time, words, and efforts being wasted and helping no one. The difference here is that empathy is a major ingredient to your success as an author.

Successful Non-Fiction Authors Don’t Confuse “Empathy” With “Sympathy”
Even though empathy and sympathy both involve your “feelings” about your readers, they refer to two distinctly different emotions. As an author, and book marketer, (and as an emotionally mature adult that is trying to help people) you must genuinely understand the difference.

Authors: If you learn how to “walk in your reader’s shoes,” you WILL sell more books! (CLICK to tweet this quote)

Therefore, here is a very quick definition of empathy and sympathy to get us started:

Definition # 1. Empathy: refers to your ability to “walk in your reader’s shoes.” You’re trying to get into their heads, and understand their reality, feelings, and motivations. The more intimate knowledge, or understanding, that you have about their motivations, their questions, their confusions, and their desires, the more you and your book will be truly able to help them find what they need and want. Deep down, you must know your audience – and you can’t fake it.

Definition # 2. Sympathy: refers to the compassion, sorrow, or pity, that you have for your readers. With sympathy, you might have compassion for your readers, but you don’t know what it’s like to honestly and sincerely “walk in your reader’s shoes.” Empathy and sympathy typically go hand-in-hand. And, sympathy might have been an initial motivating factor to get you to write your book. But, simply having sympathy with your readers does nothing to help them find answers and solutions. And sympathy alone certainly won’t help you sell more books.

Thank you to Joel Friedlander of TheBookDesigner.com for linking to my blog post from his blog Carnival Of The Indies #99

Thank you to Joel Friedlander of TheBookDesigner.com for linking to my blog post from his blog Carnival Of The Indies #99

Now, you might be asking yourself, “How Can Empathy For My Readers Really Improve My Book Sales?”

Empathy can be shown for the readers, and can improve book sales at the same time, in two easily achievable ways:

1. Having Empathy Before You Write
Developing empathy for your reading audience, before you write your book, also forces you think about exactly who you are writing for. Who are you trying to help? Who can you relate to? Identifying your reading audience is imperative if you ever hope to build an audience that wants to listen to you, and read your books.

Zeroing in on this specific group of people, and building an audience who knows what you write about, and what you are about personally, and what knowledge you have, and how generous you are with your knowledge, will help you to build an audience that will continue to grow over the long-term. This is how you build a continuous stream of income from your writing.

Successful Non-Fiction Authors Don’t Confuse “Empathy” With “Sympathy.” (CLICK to tweet this quote)

2. Having Empathy While You Write
When writing non-fiction with the intention to share your knowledge and experiences with the readers, you must have empathy for those readers. If you do, the readers will immediately see and understand that you can relate to them and their problems. This helps them to make an emotional connection with you. The readers realize that you are striving to help them improve their situations. All of this leads to a more devoted audience of followers, readers, and book buyers.

Conclusion
I believe that most people go into writing non-fiction out of a desire to help their audience find answers and solutions to their problems and questions. We enjoy sharing information that can help others become more successful and happier. We are writing as a way to reach out to the world, and lend a helping hand in the best way we know how – by writing about subjects that we are very knowledgeable about. And, make a few bucks for our efforts. This is a win-win for everyone involved.

But, on the other hand, if any author is writing, and their motive to write is not at least partially to help readers improve their lives, then their books will be awful – and help no one. And, authors like that will make very little money from their own writing. This is a lose-lose for everyone involved.

The simple one sentence takeaway from this post: Having real and honest empathy for your audience is one of the keys to success as a non-fiction author. (And, obviously, the definition of “success” is however you personally define it for your own needs and wants.)

Google Alerts for: Authors: If You Learn How To "Walk In Your Reader's Shoes" You Will Sell More Books (Infographic)

Questions For Us To Think About And Discuss
1. What is your motive for writing? For example, helping people, making money, or seeing your name in print?
2. Did you truly understand who your audience was for your book before you started writing it?
Let me know in the comments section below.

This article also appears in Joel Friedlander’s online publication Carnival of the Indies – Issue #99

Thank you for reading this. I hope you found it helpful. Please share it.

Hashtags: #selfpublishing #nonfiction

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About Joseph C. Kunz, Jr.

Author, educator, business owner, husband, and father of twins. Kunz writes to help others learn how to write and publish non-fiction – so that they can grow an audience of people who know, like, and trust them – which can help them achieve more success and profit from their hard-earned skills, knowledge, and experience. Kunz is the founder of Dickson Keanaghan, LLC, a medical training and publishing company near New York City.
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