Authors and readers. Wielders of the mighty pen, and turners of the wondrous page. We’re all a part of the same book world, here.
Dear Authors. Dear, dear fellow authors:
We all know from Day One that not everybody is going to like our books, that no author can please every reader.
And, sure, the age of the internet and social media has familiarized us with internet trolls. People who post negative comments that nobody needs. Cyber riffraff who seem to have nothing better to do than to say bad stuff about stuff.
Then, up pops a new review for one of our books. Yay! Oh…wait a minute. Not so “yay,” this time. The new review is cutting. The reader did not like the book. The reader does not recommend the book. The reader rated the book with two stars or less. So, because of the undeniably negative, not-so-“yay” effect the reader’s cutting words and low rating have on the author, that reader must be a troll with nothing better to do than to say bad stuff about something the author worked hard on. Right?
Well, not necessarily right. A reader’s cutting review and low star rating do not automatically make that reader a troll.
But what about readers who post totally irrelevant reviews, with complaints about retailer shipping, customer service, or other things that have absolutely nothing to do with the author’s writing? Readers like that are trolls, correct?
Okay. This might be a good time to advise that an author shouldn’t be so quick with the gavel and the “troll” label. Don’t forget what a troll actually is: a person who is intentionally antagonistic online. Someone who makes disruptive attacks on purpose, merely to cause trouble and to get a rise out of folks. Yes, book reviews are a huge, important deal for us authors, and since our books and reviews are constantly on our minds and we know how reviews should be, knowing what or what not to include in a book review may seem like basic, universal knowledge to us.
But, dear authors, most readers aren’t living in our author universe. Or, maybe better said, our author bubble. Most people aren’t thinking about book reviews all the time. They’re not looking for ways to become savvy or expert book critics. They’re just decent, everyday folks, taking a little everyday time to post something online. Not being up on Best Book Reviewing Practices or Customer Review Guidelines does not mean that a person is intentionally antagonistic toward authors.
Likewise, expressing cutting opinions about a book doesn’t make a reader an attacker. Yes, authors, our work is deeply personal to us, so, naturally, it’s hard not to take reviews about our work personally. Still, it’s wise to recognize when a reader is making no personal attack on anyone but is simply saying what they think or how they feel about something they’ve read. Just as we authors are free to write the books we want to write, despite who may not like them, readers are free to choose what they read, free to think or feel the way they do about the books they’ve chosen, despite who may not agree with them.
And, trust me, we would not want to live in a world where only our professed fans would be allowed to buy and read our books, and no one else could have access. A world where people would only be allowed to say when they like something, where all negative opinions would be unwelcomed, censored, or silenced.
Dear Readers. Dear, dear fellow readers:
The age of the internet has made a lot of stuff more accessible to us. It’s even become easier for us to get books right on the spot, without having to wait around or go anywhere, thanks to the invention of ebooks and instant downloads. Yay!
Oh…wait a minute. Not so “yay” all the time. While some of us have totally fallen in love with the convenience and efficiency of digital books, others of us still don’t consider digital books to be real. We can’t really hold ’em in our hands. We can’t smell ’em. We can’t display an ebook on our bookshelf or pass the copy around to as many of our friends as we want.
Since an ebook doesn’t quite seem real to us, we might not be as ready to pay for one as we would a “real” book. Despite the fact that it takes an author just as much time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice to write an ebook as it does a print book. Despite the fact that an ebook still needs an editor, a cover designer, someone to format the files, and whatnot. Despite the fact that it takes finance to market and advertise a book, no matter what format the book comes in. Despite the fact that when traditional publishers publish an ebook, they still have to pay everyone on their publishing staff, pay their company bills, pay royalties to the author, and all that. The cost of printing, warehousing, and shipping a print book is only a fraction of what goes into that book’s retail price.
No, ebooks are not cost-free to produce and publish just because they’re not made of paper. Yes, an author still deserves to be paid for the work they’ve put in and for the art–the words–they’re sharing with the world, even if a reader can’t hold those words in their hands.
It’s much like when we pay to go watch a movie or to see a play in a theater. Or when we pay to attend a concert. To browse around a museum. To see a ballet, a tennis match, or a basketball game. We can’t hold a concert, a ballet, or a basketball game in our hands. But we still pay for the experience, for what people in their profession are sharing with us.
Whether a book is published physically or digitally, the author’s words are there. That’s what a book is really about: getting someone’s words out there to other people.
Besides, whether we like it or not, the world we live in is becoming increasingly digital. Book publishing can’t survive if we, dear readers, are willing to download digital books but are unwilling to pay for them. An author or publisher isn’t being mean, greedy, or unreasonable when they charge us to access an author’s words, just like a host of other kinds of artists and professionals charge for their work.
Now, there are plenty of other points I could raise on this author and reader topic, but my main point is this: we shouldn’t make a habit of thinking the folks on the “other side” of a book are out to get us, to cheat us, to make our life as an author or as a reader more difficult. Authors should extend consideration and respect to readers, and readers should extend consideration and respect to authors.
Don’t let it become about “us” vs. “them.” Authors and readers need each other to keep the world of books turning. So, we may as well read and write, buy and sell, give and receive reviews, and enjoy this book world we share with as much grace as possible.