As of June 9, 2012 I will no longer be accepting e-books for review. This is due to the overwhelming
demand of reviews, work and night classes taking up a lot of my spare time. It
is taking me several months to read and post reviews therefore until “my to be
reviewed list” is smaller I will no longer accept any more e-books for review.
I am extremely sorry.

April 3, 2012

Guest Post–Author Jolene Ballard Gutiérrez

Today I have author Jolene Ballard Gutiérrez who wrote the awesome angel story Devil. May. Care

Writing for Reluctant Readers

by Jolene Ballard Gutiérrez

Although my first love is writing, my day job is that of a teacher-librarian at a school for students with learning differences. My degree is in library science and information literacy, not learning differences, but I’ve been the librarian at this school for over 17 years, and my time working with students who learn differently has informed my writing in countless ways.

I truly believe that we all have learning differences—there are some things we do well and other things that are more of a challenge. That being said, I also believe that authors should be aware of the ways some of their readers may struggle with the printed word. Your response to this thought might be along the lines of, “Why should I care about reluctant readers? They’ll probably never even read my book!” I would argue that if your book is well-crafted, both avid readers and reluctant readers will be drawn to it.

Here are a few things to think about when writing (and if you consider yourself a reader rather than a writer, I’d love to hear how these categories influence your reading):

*Help readers visualize! Many of my students struggle with visualizing things. They often visit the library asking for books that correspond to movies they’ve seen because the movies “give” them the pictures they struggle to form in their own minds. These readers may love graphic novels as well because of the visual support they provide. If you’re talented enough to write a graphic novel, by all means, do it! If not, being specific with some of your descriptions can be extremely helpful for your readers who have a difficult time with visualization.

*Larger font and extra white space! Lots of readers struggle with font size. Small, crowded fonts can literally be painful for readers’ eyes. If you have any control over your print book’s layout, consider your readers’ visual comfort.

*Short, quick-paced books! Many readers are intimidated by thick tomes. As a writer, if you have a huge manuscript, think about what it might look like divided into a few smaller books. Thinking in terms of trilogies or series might be good marketing for you, and it keeps readers wanting more. If your book is action-packed and quick-paced, that’ll keep your readers hooked, too.

*Characters are crucial! For most readers, characters are vital to the story. If you’re writing middle grade or young adult novels, think about bumping your main character’s age up a bit. Many readers are frustrated and embarrassed when they find books at a great reading level for them but with characters much younger than they are. While we’re on the topic of characters, write your main character as a male if possible, because your book will then be “readable” by both sexes. Although this trend is changing as more and more strong female characters enter the scene, studies have shown that girls are much more likely than boys to read opposite-gender main character books. Lastly, when you name your characters, try to make sure that each name is unique and, if possible, starts with a different letter. Readers are sometimes confused by character names, and this confusion stands in the way of them losing themselves in the story.

So, as writers and/or readers, what have you noticed that appeals to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I have to say I love short and quick-paced books. It makes me love them even more than books that are slow and boring. I have a very small attention span and I get bored fairly easy.

To win a *SIGNED* Paperback copy of Devil. May. Care. Answer Jolene’s question in the comments, leave your name/alias and email. Your comment will count towards the grand prize giveaway. As an extra bonus every comment that is made on this post will raise $1.00 for the Alberta Special Olympics!

This contest is open to US/Canadain residents only. Sorry International friends but shipping is expensive :(. But if you are an international follower state so in the comments and you will get a bonus entry for the grand prize!

Cassay Sig


  1. Very interesting post, Jolene.
    I think it's particularly important for C/YA authors. You want to hook kids young and make the struggle of learning to read well worth their time. As a dyslexic person would couldn't read until the 3rd grade and took remedial reading classes up to high school . . . I speak a bit from experience.

    Personally, I don't like short books because if I really fall in love with the characters and story . . . I simply don't want it to end. But I guess if it was part of a trilogy or longer . . . then it'd be okay.

    Good points! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Theresa! I absolutely hear what you're saying about wanting longer books if you've fallen in love with the characters and story. Have you always felt that way? I'm just wondering if that's something that's changed as you became a stronger reader or if it's always been a preference. I really appreciate your response because as a dyslexic, you've been there! :)

  2. Publishers would be smart to pick up on your tips, Jolene. Making things visually easier to read by adjusting the kerning and using sans serif fonts really can make a difference.

    1. Thanks so much, Elizabeth! I know that more space on the page = more pages = a more expensive book, but I think lots of us would be willing to pay a few extra dollars for something that's more visually comfortable. I wish publisher could be flies on the wall and hear how many of my students turn down books with the tiny, cramped fonts.

  3. I love the tips for writing for a young audience. The idea of writing boy characters and naming each with a different letter is golden!

  4. As a reader, I like to see some pictures so I have an idea of what the characters are doing.This was a helpful article.

    1. I have a difficult time visualizing things sometimes, too, so I like pictures as well. Thanks so much for your comments.

  5. The boy character idea was helpful to me--I'll try this in my own writing. Thanks for writing this!

    1. Hi, Shaian. I'm glad to hear you'll be trying this in your own writing! Yay!

  6. im an international :( but thats ok, this gets me a extra entry into the grand prize. tho i have to say this book sounds really good :)

  7. Thanks so much, Alice! Sorry you're international, but glad you got an entry for the grand prize!! :) My book's also available for Kindle, in case you're interested:

  8. Hi! I got to meet you at Caliche. You told me to just keep trying to write my book. It's not done yet, but I've got a fairly good idea. Can I know who you went to preview your book before you put it on the shelves?