I own over 200 hardcover books, 150 paperbacks and my Ebook library has reached a point where I’d have to read a book a day for the next 3-4 years to read them all.
I’ve been disappointed in many and exhilarated beyond belief by others. There have been books that hit so close to home that I felt my life changing with every turn of the page. There have been many times I wanted to reach out to the author and say thank you for a wonderful experience. But I never have. Nor have I ever felt the need to personally tell an author how much I hated their work.
When I decided to go Indie, I saw it as a way to interact with and know the people who read my books, a luxury that I, as a reader, did not have. Jackie Collins, Anne Rice, Terry McMillian, E. Lynn Harris…the only chance I had to “meet” my favorite authors was during book signings.
But it’s 2014, the digital age…the age of social media, and authors are much more accessible to their readers. This is the best and worst thing to happen to the industry.
Readers now have a forum via blogs, Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari, etc to voice their opinions of how much they enjoyed or disliked their book. Authors can build a dedicated fan base via Twitter and Facebook. It could be a beautiful marriage between author and reader.
There are really great readers out there. They read the work, cover to cover, form an opinion and write reviews that are sometimes the glowing reviews authors love. Sometimes they aren’t so glowing, but written in such a way that they benefit the author and other readers.
I love 5-Star reviews as much as the next author. I can even handle the 1 and 2-Star reviews that are written well and don’t say “this book is stupid” and that’s it. Constructive criticism is a good thing and we all need it. That’s why we reach out to critique groups, beta readers, and bloggers. An author is always striving to be better than the last book they wrote. By being accessible on social media, we open ourselves up for the critiques. And this can be a beautiful thing.
The accessibility to authors has an ugly side.
There are some readers out there who act that every book they pay for (or illegally download) was specifically written for them as if they’d commissioned the work like a painting. Good Lord, authors, do not disappoint this reader! They will scream from the proverbial rooftops of the Internet how much they hate you and your work. They will write poor worded and grammatically incorrect reviews (dis book iz dumb af. I iz disappoint). They will send you scathing emails (also poorly worded and grammatically incorrect) berating you, your characters, and spouting ways you could have ended your book in order to satisfy them. Because nothing else matters except them. The hours you poured into your book, the money spent…it’s trivial compared to the 3 hours it took for them to read it and decide you’re the worst thing that ever happened to the publishing industry. While these types of readers are few and far between (hopefully) their intentions are not to be helpful or critical. Their intention is to be hurtful and make you feel like shit.
Unfortunately, they succeed. They succeed because, even though we’ve been told time after time, to grow thick skin if we want to make it in this industry…authors are artists and we’re sensitive about our shit.
We try to ignore it. We try to respond to the nasty emails with a simple thank you. We try to keep our wits about us as we move on to the next book. Speaking from my own experience, nothing slows down my writing process (and by slow down, I mean, bring to a complete halt) than someone emailing me or FB messaging me and telling me how bad of a job I did on my last book.
In the Social Media era, where authors are opening themselves up and being more accessible to their readers instead of faceless names on books, it’s important for readers to be a little more sensitive and grateful.
I certainly am NOT saying that readers have to like every single book they read. They don’t even have to give it a good review. No one is going to enjoy every single book they read. It’s not possible and absurd to even think so.
However, the sense of entitlement has to go. Authors write because we love to do so. We have a story in our heads. We write this story down and tell it the best way we can. Sometimes, we don’t want to write where the hero gets the girl. Sometimes, we have a publishing schedule that we desperately try to keep to in order to maintain our own sanity.
Sometimes, we can’t write every day to finish that book you’ve so desperately been waiting on. We have jobs, kids, families, and friends that all need a piece of our attention too. We respect the fact that you paid your hard earned money and invested your time into reading the work we put out. We are grateful and appreciative. We love our readers.
All I ask is that there is more respect given to Indie authors in regards to how we are perceived and treated by readers. We catch enough hell from those who “don’t believe” in Indie or believe that being traditionally published with a team of people who run your Twitter, blog, and Facebook is the only way to validate an author.
We put a lot of work into maintaining that accessibility to and for our readers. But there is a leak in that ship and if it’s not plugged, it will sink. In the ever changing book industry, it can happen in the blink of an eye.
Because it’s true…one bad apple really can ruin the bunch.