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Do You think a #Book that isn’t Read doesn’t Exist? #amreading #amwriting

I recently came across a post about writing books, which deals with a question I personally am at peace with: If No One Reads My Book Did I Even Write It?

The blogger, Caleb Pirtle III, boils it all down to a question of sales — he worries if he doesn’t sell what he wrote, the book has had no readers, and if no one reads his book, does it even exist? I understand his anxiety: I’ve heard it voiced before by fellow writers. Not in so many words, but it is there.

All art, in one way or the other, is an expression. It is a communication: it could be one of sentiment, of perception, intuition, realization, philosophy, curiosity, desire, or any number of human thoughts and emotions.

So yes, it is natural for the communicator to feel anxious about whether the message/ vision/ expression made its way to a viewer/ listener/ reader. Did they notice it? And the question of ego: did they Like it?

I work
hard to select the right words and the right rhythm of words in every
paragraph, but I would take sales over a well-written book every time. –
See more at:

A poet I’ve heard of often says he writes for posterity. The blogger I quote would settle for sales: “I work hard to select the right words and the right rhythm of words in every paragraph, but I would take sales over a well-written book every time.”

My answer lies neither in sales, nor in posterity — though those are often the goals of many writers.

Shakespeare (Posterity), or a Nobel Laureate in literature (sales and Posterity), or a Stephen King (Sales and posterity) or an E.L. James (Sales, at least for the time being) all of them are awfully fragile.

They will last till human memory lasts, but despite our egocentric belief as a race in our own importance, permanence, and so on, the truth is humbling. We’re miniscule beings on a tiny planet which could be wiped out any moment by a passing asteroid/ a mega earthquake, or any of the apocalyptic scenarios we keep watching in movies, even if we manage not to implode it all by ourselves.

Bottomline: it doesn’t matter. Even if a gazillion people read a book, it is still not permanent, and might wink out of existence. Sooner or later.

Writing a book, at least for me, is my act of living in this moment, recording it, trying to capture it. It is my act of creating a world, of making something meaningful, despite knowing it is all transient.

The world I live in is transient, and I’m making a transient ‘thing’, it could be good or bad, beautiful or ugly, but as a writer, it is my act of living, for whatever it is worth. It is my act of trying to find meaning, my act of faith and as long as I engaged in the act of creating a book, it is there.

 It may die in a desk drawer, unread, not live long. But life itself is relative, isn’t it? I would like my books to live long (who wouldn’t, right?). But even if they don’t, they definitely were born, and had a life, however short.

For every book that gets published, there are hundreds that don’t. And not all those that do see success. Their life is drastically shorter than Shakespeare’s plays, or Toni Morisson’s novels, or Stephen King’s horror sagas, and well, even E.L. James’ ‘erotica’.

But as long as a book is written, it exists.

What’s your take on this? Does a book need to be read in order to exist?

I work
hard to select the right words and the right rhythm of words in every
paragraph, but I would take sales over a well-written book every time. –
See more at:
I work
hard to select the right words and the right rhythm of words in every
paragraph, but I would take sales over a well-written book every time. –
See more at:
I work
hard to select the right words and the right rhythm of words in every
paragraph, but I would take sales over a well-written book every time. –
See more at:
Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Whether a book exists or not depends on the purpose it was written with. Any book is what it is because of its writer. So it will enjoy only that personality that the writer bestows upon it. If the writer wants it to exist for him/herself, then it will. If the writer writes it only for others to read, then it won't exist functionally though will be evident to the eye.

  • Fayaz Pasha says:

    A book whether read or not read exists for sure. Even some great books were recognized several years after the death of the writers. It all depends what books the readers are truly interested. The picture or topic of the book usually sells the book these days.

  • An interesting question, and my opinion is that it DOES exist! Of course it does! I can see it on my computer, on my ereader, maybe even in print. Just because nobody else reads it doesn't mean it isn't there. Those characters were "real" while I wrote them, and if I go back to the story they'll still be real. I can't deny them their existence just because I'm the only one who had the pleasure of sharing their company 😉
    (All that being said, I'd obviously be VERY bummmed if no one wanted to read my books!)

  • Mystica says:

    The piece of work will exist but all of us I think like to think that someone would leave alone appreciate at least acknowledge the work that goes into a piece of work like art or a book. It is not a nice feeling not to be acknowledged.

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will return.

  • Al Diaz says:

    It certainly exists, in this I believe. "The fact that something lives in your imagination, doesn't mean it doesn't exist." Things exist even if they never reach the physical plane, such as thoughts. A book, like a human being, exists, not in the moment it enters this world, but since the moment of its conception. A story in the mind, is like a baby in the womb. And they exist already. The act of creation itself is always worthy, even if not paid or applauded.

  • Great post, it gave me something to think about!

  • inknpetals says:

    Whoops, forgot to leave my link: Linda Paupst

  • lindapaupst says:

    Damyanti, thank you for following my blog. I so appreciate it, in part because it led me to your blog. This is a beautifully written piece and I am now following you because of the exquisitely descriptive, "Even if a gizillion people read a book, it is still not permanent and might wink out of existence." …. might wink out of existence … OMG.
    Why is it that some speck of a whole can trigger such a response? Actually, I think I wrote yesterday of a similar situation, when a speck created a response that initiated my watercolour paintings.
    Sorry for rambling on. Thanks again.

  • I agree. I write for my own pleasure and as long as I keep enjoying it, all is right.

    • Damyanti says:

      Miranda, I do write with an ideal reader in mind, but I'm not heartbroken if my work isn't published. Some of it has been, some more might, and in the meanwhile, I'm working on it and enjoying it.

  • Ekta khetan says:

    I so much agree…however there are certain boos that needed to be read and talked about to seal their existence!

  • Every book is read, even if it's only by the author. This doesn't somehow make it less of a book.

  • Art is long and your art of writing is sweet

  • Lan says:

    I hadn't even thought about that to be honest! But I agree with you. A book doesn't need to be read for it to exist at all. This post explains that perfectly. We all get so caught up in the numbers when we should really just be enjoying the moment.

    • Damyanti says:

      That's what I hold as well– enjoy the writing process, and write the best book you can. Try to get it read, but don't be devastated if it isn't a bestseller. And certainly don't question the existence of the book if it isn't wildly popular 🙂

  • Difficult. If it is for the sole purpose for recording what the author wanted to convey, then it will be a journal, not a book. But a book should be what the author wanted to write, not what the readers wanted to read .. err am confused

    • Laura W. says:

      Famous diarists also wrote their journals with the expectation that they would one day be read and published. Anne Frank edited her diary, for example. Does that make their journals books?

      I think a book can be defined as something that we write with the intention of others reading. The "when" and "by whom" probably varies with each writer's goal.

    • Damyanti says:

      That's interesting, again. The intention to write is important. Thank you for contributing so much to the discussion!

  • Damyanti says:

    Priya, the discussion has intrigued me too. I'm firmly on the side of "the book exists, even though the only reader is the writer himself or herself." Thanks for dropping by to comment!

  • Priya says:

    I love your question and the discussion that has followed is fascinating.
    I do think a book needs to be read to exist. I think that a book starts with the writer, and ends in the reader's mind. Without the reader, a book wouldn't be complete.
    A book creates a spark in your mind, it spirals off into other thoughts and has an impact, so to say, on any reader: and without that, the book might as well not exist at all. Of course, the reader may be the writer himself…
    Now you've sent me into this spiral, where I'm not sure what my answer would be!

  • klahanie says:

    Hi Damyanti,

    A book doesn't even need to be written to exist. For the book within the mind is written and not read or published.

    Does a tree fall down in the forest and make a noise because it notices it's being watched?

    Be well and I hope things have cleared up where you live. Hopefully, a lot clearer than my comment.

    Gary 🙂

    • Damyanti says:

      Gary, the blogger who sparked off this post did start his post with the tree falling in the forest.

      In your own inimitable way, you've carried this discussion to another extreme– does an unwritten book exist. I guess it does, if only in the imagination of the writer. We then move on to an argument on the nature of reality, and that's a whole different can of worms, isn't it? 🙂

      Things are good here. The haze has moved from Singapore to Malaysia and my friends there are now suffering what I went through last week.

  • Laura W. says:

    Just because no one is reading it now doesn't mean no one will read it later. Look at Emily Dickenson and Edgar Allen Poe, for instance.

    Also, the unread book still had to be written. Its existence impacted the life of at least one person: the writer.

    For that person who was so concerned with sales, I would ask: how much would he consider enough? Or would he never be satisfied? Even if his book made the bestseller list, would he later panic if it dropped off a year later? Would he be disappointed if a movie wasn't made? By what standards does he set "existence"?

    • Damyanti says:

      "the unread book still had to be written. Its existence impacted the life of at least one person: the writer."

      I can agree with that.

      As to the rest of the questions, we'll have to ask the original blogger. I understand his concerns about sales, but I'm not in a position to speak for him.

    • Laura W. says:

      "If a tree falls in the forest, with no one there to hear it, did it really fall?"

      "Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."

      It's better to have written a book that no one has read than to never have written a book at all. At least you have the experience of writing it and the hope that someone, somewhere, might read it in the future. 🙂

    • Damyanti says:

      Laura, I absolutely agree. It is better to write a book than not 🙂

  • Terrific post!! I completely believe that a book exists even if it isn't read, someone will always be able to find it, somewhere, somehow. Our technology is such that there are long-forgotten, unnoticed things brought to light all the time. A for me, exists the moment it it is finished and birthed into the world.

    • Damyanti says:

      Melissa..more than technology and coming to light later and so on– I think for a writer the book exists in a big way, in the faith of finding something that makes sense in this often senseless universe.

  • shelly says:

    Loved this post! Even if it doesn't sell, when you die it still exists. Think about all the writers who became known and famous after they died?

    Hugs and chocolate,

  • I believe a book does not need to be read in order to exist. I may not have read every book but I know lots exist and I intend to read them all 🙂

    • Damyanti says:

      lol, yes, but I was talking about books which are unavailable to anyone other than the writer to read 🙂

  • The person who wrote it also read it, therefore it exists.

  • Not at all. I would hate to lie on my death bed and wonder "What It." By writing the book at least I pursued a passion and followed through with it.

  • Jo says:

    That is a deep question. I would say that once it is written down it exists. But I can see the other side, if it isn't read it doesn't exist. I guess it is all in the perception of the writer.

    • Damyanti says:

      I guess, it is a matter of perception, everything is, one way or another. I'm simply asking for which way people lean, cos I'm curious.

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