Saturday, May 16, 2015

Do you communicate with your readers?

Do you communicate with your readers? Those who are other than Facebook friends that is?

I remember when I was a kid, I'd read some book and there was an address in the back. As I recall, it was something like 'you can contact the author through the publisher'. Being impressed I guess, I fired off a letter. I don't even remember what I wrote - probably some kind of gushy fan thing. Anyway, I have no idea if the letter ever got through - I never got any kind of reply. For all I know, the publisher chucked it in the trash.

When I first got internet out here, I put some thought into what kind of online presence I wanted. Since we got internet primarily so I could make a stab at marketing my own book, my goal was to promote myself as a writer/author. And since I fully believe in helping other writers like me, I went to great lengths to find and share important writing tips and tricks. I also vowed to be as communicative with my readers and fans as I possibly could.

I have always believed that honesty really is the best policy, and I put a good deal of effort into trying to be diplomatic about it. I won't blurt out the truth, knowing it will hurt someone's feelings. However, I learned early on that telling a writer their work had mistakes, hurt some feelings. I also learned early on - it is big advice out there - that a writer needs to grow a thick skin for that very reason. Their baby just might not be the gem they envisioned it being - not yet anyway.

Not long ago, I got an email from a writer, asking me to read and review their book. Early on, it sounded like the main characters were gradeschoolers, but I suspect someone told him that he would sell more books if the characters were older. So, pretty much the only change he made to the book was the age of his characters. He made a few more changes that were age-appropriate like one of the characters could drive. The biggest mistake he made with this story was not changing any of the behavior of his characters. Ten-year-olds just act different - like kids, and where twenty-year-olds might make some of the same decisions - a few might even act like they were still ten, but on the whole, they have outgrown the adolescent behavior. Not so with these characters. The story read like he'd made a quick alteration and then threw the book out there. Needless to say, I sent him an email saying as much long before I was even half way through - I mean, really, the book was very annoying, though really there didn't seem to be anything wrong with the story premise.

Did I hear back from him? Not a peep. Were his feelings hurt? Probably. But it was better he hear this from me in an email rather than have me post what would have been a rather scathing review, not that I would have listed a bunch of details, but like I said, I believe in the truth - I would have said as much.

Most recently, I contacted two different authors to inform them of mistakes I'd found in their kindle edition books. One was an entire scene repeat of two or three pages, as if the scene had been copied twice in a row. The other was a hyphenated word that happened to fall at the end of a page and the second half was just gone. I didn't know if the word was the end of the paragraph or not, and I wasn't sure what the whole word was - for this one, I went to Amazon and looked inside the sample available there. It was the last word of the paragraph too, and apparently it didn't occur in the paperback edition.

Just so you know, if you ever spot a mistake in one of my books - LET ME KNOW. I want to go fix it as fast as at all possible. Frankly, I'm surprised no one ever contacted me about anything in my first book, though I did get one review that told me the writing was rather rough - Thanks for that. When I read back through it, I could only cringe - I'd learned a thing or two since publishing that book, mostly since we got internet here.

Over the years, I've gotten a handful of emails concerning my books. So far, those notes have all been good, and to show that I am approachable, I replied to every one. I fully intend to continue in that vein. You will get an honest review from me, and if it's going to be a bad review, I'll let you know in an email, or if I can't do that, I won't post anything. I have no desire to hurt another writer's sales. I also generally don't review a book that already has hundreds of review. What's the point?

What do you do? Do you talk to your readers? Do you hear from any?



William Kendall said...

I'm not a published writer as of yet, but I do have a contact feature on my pages. My photo blog sometimes gets email traffic that way- the author of a book found me when I posted a statue of a man who was central to his book, or people who have turned up in my images have also contacted me.

Anna L. Walls said...

That's kind of cool. My hat is off to you.

Willow Drake said...

You do a fabulous job of keeping in touch with your readers and set an excellent example for the rest of us.

Anna L. Walls said...

I'm just blundering along trying to do my best.