Though we writers may write principally for our own pleasure we would all dearly love to be read more widely and for our work to be enjoyed by strangers – thus establishing our work has some merit. That first time someone you have never met is prepared to actually pay good money to read your work is like reaching the dizzy heights of Everest. The climb was hard going, the temptation to give up powerful, but the reward exhilarating. You have reached a converted goal.
Writers are an insecure breed
As I was reading Margaret James’ article about courage in April’s ‘Writing Magazine’ this morning, I had to stop and highlight the phrase, “As a standard-issue insecure, and borderline paranoid, author, I’ve always felt writing fiction and putting it out there was akin to taking your clothes off in public.”
I thought it was just me!!! Alone at my desk, especially when the writing is not going well, it’s so easy to think – what is the point? Will anyone want to read this when it’s finished?
The more I talk to writers, the more I realise that the majority of us feel like Margaret. The trepidation doesn’t end when the novel is published. As she writes, “I’m exposing myself to the humiliating possibilities of ridicule, condemnation or worst of all – being totally ignored.”
That rang a bell for me! For the last few days, one of my books has been on free promotion on Amazon Kindle. I’ve read many articles and blogs suggesting that writers should do this frequently. I know from Facebook that many authors do. However, it took me some time to pluck up the courage to do it. What if nobody bothered to download it even when it’s free?
Authors need support
How do you support the authors of the books you read?
Easy. If you enjoyed their book, tell them.
Few things can equal that glow when someone says how much they enjoyed your book. It spurs you on to keep writing.
But what if you are never likely to meet the author? They probably have a website or a Facebook page and you could send them a message and ‘like’ their Facebook Author page. As a writer, I always reply to such messages and ‘like’ ticks, as I’m sure most writers do.
When people come up to me and say how much they enjoyed one of my books, I always ask them to write a review on Amazon for me. They say they will, but few do. Does that mean they didn’t really like it?
Authors are desperate for reviews. Every review on Amazon helps to nudge the book a fraction higher up the visibility charts. It’s a simple equation, the more visibility an author has the more likely they will achieve a sale.
I can register every book I read or even want to read on the wonderful Goodreads. It’s also possible to rate it and write a review once you mark the book as read. At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, I always write a review for every book I finish reading. Especially if I’ve downloaded it for free. (I’m addicted to the wonderful Bookbub which sends me discounted offers in my chosen genres every day.) Surely the authors deserve something in return? If I’m honest, I am probably more generous with my stars for indie writers than those with a mainstream publisher. They need my help.
If I don’t like a book, I don’t finish it so it doesn’t get a review. 1* and 2* reviews strike me as vindictive. Every writer receives them and they hurt, even more so when they are unjustified. I’ve had several writer friends in tears and deeply wounded by bad reviews and it can knock a fragile confidence to smithereens for a long time. Even four* reviews can contain a painful sting in the tail. Why do these people do it? If a book I read is s so bad I can’t in all honesty give it at least three star* but there is something that I think can be improved, I send a private email or Facebook message – not to wound but to offer supportive suggestions. I’m not holier-than-thou. It’s a case of do-as-you-would-be-done-by.
No serious writer will refuse constructive criticism. They may choose to ignore it but I for one, always welcome it.
I once made a serious mistake and uploaded a draft file, full of typos, onto Amazon Kindle instead of the final copy. To compound my error, I put it up as a Kindle free promotion and 7,000 plus copies were downloaded worldwide before I could upload the proofed copy. To my surprise, though it justifiably received some bad reviews, they were outnumbered by the good ones from readers who enjoyed the story. Nonetheless, it’s taken awhile to creep up and will probably never achieve the level of stars of all my other books.
Re-reading all this, I feel I must come across as sanctimonious and smug. Or is just my self-doubt kicking in? Either way, I’ve decided not to change it.
As a reader, what are your views? As a writer, what support would you value?
Margaret James is the author of the Charton Minster Trilogy (Choc Lit). I first met Margaret when we sat next to each other on a course at the Writers’ Holiday in Caerleon several years ago. I knew of her from her regular monthly column in Writing Magazine. She had always struck me as such an authoritative (in the best sense of the word) and assured figure and to hear her speak of her fears so candidly came as a surprise.