Before I started writing, I read a great deal. My predominant recreational activity has always been reading--I prefer it to TV,movies, talking, and certainly any kind of athletics. No matter how late it is at night, I can't go to sleep until I've read at least a few lines of whatever book I'm currently reading. When I do yard work or exercise, I'm nearly always listening to a recorded book, and often listen to a recorded book when driving, which is frequently.
In other words, I have derived a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction, enlightenment and entertainment over the years from books. While not everyone is into books to quite that degree, I think that many of us at least have books or authors we particularly enjoy and cherish.
Until I became a writer, though, I didn't think much about the relationship between readers and writers. I didn't even consider that it was a relationship--in the sense of there being give-and-take and that each party had, or could have, a part to play.
Now that I'm an author and know some other authors, that has changed and I spend a great deal of my time thinking and worrying about how to connect with readers, how to start and maintain a relationship and so on.
One other thing I didn't realize was just how much a reader can help a writer--which seems only fair since the writer has worked so long to bring me so much enjoyment.
On the assumption that there are readers out there who are like I was, I thought I'd post a few suggestions on how you can help the writers or the kind of books you really like.
I'm going to tell you how, in about 5 minutes a day you could seriously help authors you like.
Some writers have big publishers with big marketing budgets. Most don't. Consequently, most books live or die by word of mouth. If you have a book you like, or an author you like, talk about it. Tell a friend or two.
This is easy to do in the age of Facebook and Twitter. Just write something like, "Reading xxxx by so-and-so. Love it!" Little things like that can go a very long way. Many books and authors have pages or groups on Facebook and liking those can be a good way to help as well. You can also follow them on Twitter. Some agents and publishers pay a lot of attention to how many blog followers, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers authors have.
You can also join Goodreads (www.goodreads.com). It's very easy to go on and rate books. You can leave a short (or long) review if you like, but that's optional.
Another very helpful thing to do is to rate books you like on Amazon. Getting good ratings helps the book get more attention and signals other people they might like it.
I've started writing a short review in a word document. I then paste it in on Goodreads, give it a rating and do the same on Amazon. It's fast and easy and many authors would appreciate this.
One note: if you are going to rate a book, please read it all the way. Every author I know has received bad reviews. This is part of the business and it's life. Wise authors learn from these and improve.
But it's incredibly frustrating to write something and get a bad review and then realize that the person writing the bad review has not read the book all the way. Or has missed something. I got a tepid review that drove me crazy--not because of the lower rating, but because the reviewer completely missed a major plot point, and the commented on how the book wasn't believable. That was maddening. Honest criticism is fine, but if you are going to do a review, be careful that you are accurate.
Those things are incredibly easy and fast and I have decided to do this for every book I read that I like.
One other thing that is important to realize is that most authors make very little money. Some lose it. A few make huge sums--but that is extremely rare. Most authors write because they like to and hope that what they read will please someone.
I don't hang out with big-time authors like Stephenie Meyer, J. K. Rowling, or Orson Scott Card. I'm sure they get more fan mail than they can manage. But most authors in the middle and lower ranks really enjoy hearing from readers. It's incredibly personal to write a book and there is a great deal of vulnerability that comes with publishing your work. Beyond that, it's something you spent hours and hours working on. So, hearing that someone liked it is validatin was enjoyable to someone out there. Most authors have websites or blogs and it's easy to write a quick comment: "Hey, I really loved xxxxx."
Many authors enjoy talking about their work--the characters and worlds in their books are so real to them. Likely, though, their family and close friends are tired of hearing about it all. So if you have a book club, an author might be thrilled at the chance to come discuss or answer questions. A lot of authors do this via Skype. Some will come in person. Some will at least answer emails. Of course, everyone has their own preferences and most authors are working other jobs and so they can't always do stuff like this because it takes away from writing time.
But every author I know (and again, I don't know every author) enjoys getting thoughtful questions about their work.
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Please don't steal my words! Whatever I lack as a writer, it's still one of the few skills I have.
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