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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, June 6, 2014

How Not to Drive Away Readers: Author Attitude

Before I begin, thank you to everyone for your patience for last week and this last Monday. I had a series of family emergencies come up in swift succession and was unable to write and upload my usual posts. But we’re back on schedule, or so I hope.

Today on the next segment of how to endear yourself to readers, or at least not immediately offend them, we’ll take a little sidestep from the story structure and elements we’ve discussed in previous weeks. Today, we’ll discuss the author’s demeanor and attitude.

Authors by nature are usually introverts. That means that most of us are rather uncomfortable when it comes to interacting with anyone we didn’t invent. As a general rule, we also have eager, fragile egos, which means, while we get nervous around others, we crave adoration and praise. Another way of looking at this is that we can easily get ourselves into trouble when it comes to interacting with readers and fans.

Ideally, an author carries himself with a friendly demeanor that endears him to fans. He remembers names, laughs at all the good jokes, and makes his fans feel as appreciated as they make him feel. In the best world, he is social, humble, gracious, considerate, confident, jovial, and at ease among his adoring fans. However, this type of author is almost mythical in his rarity.

More often, authors might be awkward, nervous, arrogant, reserved, uncertain, and thinking longingly of their empty hotel room for those precious hours alone where they can write, often some combination of these.

Granted, these are extremes. Most authors fall somewhere in between. But as it’s a rare person, even outside the writing world, who fits the ideal above, the rest of us need to be conscious of our choices and attitudes to ensure we carry ourselves well. But how, with our introverted natures, do we manage? Here are some ideas.

First and foremost, remember that your fans are the only reason you eat.  They allow you to remain on bookstore shelves. They picked up your book, deemed it worthy of some modicum of attention, spent their money on it, and made the effort afterwards to recommend it to their friends. An author’s readers, specifically his fans, are his life’s blood. However odd some of those readers might be, however much we may long for the comfort of our solitude and our writing, those readers deserve respect and appreciation. Starting from an attitude of respect and gratitude will carry anyone far.

Next, remember that all the uncertain, uncomfortable necessity of appearing in public or sharing ourselves online, it isn’t forever. We will still get to retreat to our dark caves with our muses for comfort. Appreciate the interaction the best you can as it happens.

Then, remember that your nervousness will get you in a lot more trouble than letting your natural personality shine through. Nerves tend to make us false with others, arrogant as a defensive measure, and far less likable. Yes, I know this is so much easier said than done, but with practice, it gets easier. People tend to like others who they feel express themselves honestly.

In addition, yes, the book may be your baby, and yes, you are the author, but that doesn’t mean your readers can’t have opinions and valid desires. Taking forever to get out a sequel, without good reason, is inconsiderate of readers, and they will notice. Refusing to respond to reader questions or responding with indifference or dismissiveness will make readers far less likely to buy your next book or recommend your current one.

Yes, it’s your book. This also means that, despite your fans’ opinions, you are the author and have final deciding power. Go with your initial gut instinct on plotting and characters rather than trying to please your fans. They’re your fans because they like what you write, not what they would write. Appreciate readers, but don’t pander to them.

And lastly, respect and appreciate your readers in whatever form this takes. Yes, I know I already said that. But this is such a huge element of building reader trust and a good relationship with fans. From this attitude, the rest can follow.

On Monday, we’ll resume our read of The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. Then next Friday, we’ll look at another aspect of how not to drive away readers.

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