Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Establishing a Good Rapport with Readers: Brandon Sanderson

Picture from goodreads
Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve never read a single one of his books. I’m not proud of this fact. Everything I’ve heard of Sanderson’s writing is great, and what I managed to read of one of his chapters was impressive. However, busy as I am, it’s a challenge on a good day to read even a quarter of what I’d like. Despite this, he has seated himself in my good graces.

So why is Sanderson on my list of favorite authors?

I have met him three times: twice at book signings and once at a convention. Each time, he further solidified his place in my admiration for three simple qualities: respect, friendliness, and humility, three characteristics that are beneficial for any person, and particularly any author hoping to create a good relationship with readers.

Respect: In one of the talks he gave at the convention, Sanderson addressed the divide over Twilight. Many adore the series and will defend it with their last breath. But there are others, particularly in the general SF/F community, who curl their collective lips at the very name. To them, Twilight is an abomination. But Sanderson challenged this and took a bold stance. He pointed out how every story has those who love it and those who can’t stand it. No matter the perceived merits or flaws of a book, we still need to treat each other with respect and understand that we all are allowed to hold different opinions. Sanderson’s respectful approach and his daring to challenge the rest of us to share in that respect made him stand out and seem even more worthy of receiving respect himself.

Friendliness: Both at the convention and signings, I had an opportunity to briefly speak to Sanderson at the signing table. Not once did he lack in friendliness, a polite and open demeanor, or a positive attitude. All of these further endeared him to me and others with whom I spoke. They also made him very approachable, even for people like me who were nervous about meeting such a name in the fantasy field.

Humility: Despite the fact that Sanderson’s books are doing extremely well and that he, of all the possible authors out there, was chosen to finish the renowned The Wheel of Time series by RobertJordan, never came off as arrogant. Rather, he seemed like a fan made good. He spoke of himself humbly, never bragging about his own skills and success, but constantly praising his colleagues and Robert Jordan, the man he was chosen to follow in finishing the series. This further made him approachable and relatable.

At all these occasions, literally hundreds of fans crowded near Sanderson with armfuls of books they waited, on occasion for hours, for him to sign. For all the reasons that Sanderson has become a big name in the fantasy field, his skill as a storyteller or his fortune at being selected to finish The Wheel of Time, for example, Sanderson’s way of interacting with his fans has certainly helped bring about their loyalty.

So what does this mean for the rest of us writers? Sanderson is a great model. When dealing with fans, or anyone else for that matter, we ought to remember to be respectful, friendly, and to maintain a humble attitude. That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate our opportunities or success. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t portray ourselves and our stories in a favorable light, but it does mean we should remember those who helped us along the way. Without readers, no author amounts to anything in the publishing industry, for readers endorse an author with sales or condemn him by withholding their money. This is a lesson that Sanderson incorporates in all I have seen him do.

What other authors do you know who have a good rapport with their fans? What sort of things do they do to show their respect and appreciation for them?

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post, Laura. Thanks for the reminder.