Today, it’s time to step out of promo mode and ramble about writerly stuff. See, recently, Evelyn Lafont and I have been going on about the same topic, but with entirely different interpretations. Now that I’ve read her blog summary of our debate, I realize that there’s something left unsaid that’s causing a lot of misunderstanding.
Here, let me quote Evelyn first from her post here: (In case you want to read the rest. It’s a good post, really.)
Zoe E.Whitten and I had a disagreement on Twitter last week over a post I wrote about what readers owe writers. Zoe and I talked, realized we weren’t going to change each others’ minds, and we moved on.
Okay, Evelyn’s article was about this topic, but it’s not what I’ve been talking about when I harass my readers. If Evelyn really thinks that what I’m doing is just begging for reviews for publicity, I’ve been an even bigger failure at communicating than I’d previously suspected. Evelyn’s interpretation of the topic makes it sound like a financial exchange between whore and client. I gave you the big roll with the happy finish, so you pay me and I go away. We will not speak of this again unless you want to buy something else, or unless I want to sell you something else.
Some of you may think of our relationship the same way. You’re the john, and once you’ve paid me for services rendered, I shouldn’t expect anything else from you. Which makes no sense. You asked me to court you long-term, and you asked me to give you full access to myself before you would consider looking at even one of my books. I’m no coy tease either. I’ve given you everything, every part of me. You folks on my blog have actually gotten deeper inside me than any lover ever will. But once I’ve got you to buy a book, you turn into a cold lover, ready to kick me out and move on to the next whore writer without so much as a “It was good for me, yeas.”
Writing has no one right path, and many writers are happy to take money from readers and let the relationship stop there. I’m not one of those writers, but I’m not one to point at others and whine, “You’re doing it wrong!” I just choose to work differently. It’s not that I want to be your best buddy and talk to you every day. I don’t want to try and sell you everything I’ve ever written either. As an artist, all I want from you is whatever reaction I can earn from you.
This is where I’ll lose a lot of you, because you’ll instantly huff up and go “how dare you demand a review!” I never said that. You presumed that asking for a reaction meant “demanding a review.” Many of you further assume that it has to be a good review. But I only want your reaction, not a whole essay. I want to get your bad reactions too, or else I’ll never improve in my craft. When I learn to write better is when someone writes back and says, “That didn’t work for me.” And because I do want to learn to be better, I am forced to prod you over and over for a reaction, even if you become resentful and wander off.
To be clear, I have requested reviews from you if you read and finish a book. But that is a request, not a demand. If you don’t feel like the giving a full review, I’d still prefer if you’d think about giving a reaction in a shorter form. Like what? Here’s some examples you could use in messages to me, or as status updates on your favorite social site/IM client:
“I read this book. Not bad.”
“I read this book. Not good.”
“I finished this book, and I’m getting the next soon.”
“I read this, and it was so dull I bleached my eyes to stay awake.”
None of these will take you longer than a minute to write. If that much typing is really hard on you cause you have severe arthritis in both hands, then you can just go back to the store you got the book from and leave a rating. That’s just clicking your mouse, and if you’re on my blog reading this, we both know you can handle the task adequately.
No matter how you deliver a short reaction, it shouldn’t require that much time. I’m not asking you to print up flyers for me and distribute them around town. I mention that because one of my fans proposed this as a plan, and she’s volunteering to do the work if I’m willing to make up the flyers. (I made them and mailed them already, of course.) While I’m THRILLED by her enthusiasm, I would never ask her to do that much work, or any of you. Some of you might think I’m a ball busting bitch. I am, but there are definite limits on what I would request from you. I expect nothing. I don’t feel you owe me anything. But if you enjoy my writing and would consider yourself even a casual fan, then I see no harm in asking, “Have I earned your support yet?”
I really don’t understand why so many readers are so resentful about giving your opinions on books anyway. Looking at most of your online interactions, it’s clear you have no trouble giving opinions on every other topic. But for books, most of you have zero passion. You don’t live-tweet about books, but you will live tweet your reaction to scenes in TV shows. You’ll argue all day and night over your favorite comic book characters, filibuster for your political platform, and proselytize about your religious faith. But asking for your opinion on a book makes most of you fidget like you’re giving a book report to your teacher. And really, you’re the one making a mountain out of a molehill.
Way too many of you think I’m stupid for asking for your opinion of my work. But I didn’t get into this self-pubbing gig to make big bucks. I did it to connect with people and get their reactions to my artwork. If I’m only getting money from y’all, then sorry, but I am going to get vocal in reminding you “I’m still waiting for your opinion.” If you think I’m greedy, then you’re confused. Greed is when I only want your money and don’t care what your opinion is. I’m the exact opposite of greedy. I don’t give a damn about your wallet. It’s your mind I want to pick, not your pocket.