Today, I have for you another article about the rocky relationship between the author and their readers.
I got the idea after one of my Twitter friends unpublished her book so as to protect it from an avalanche of negative reviews written by a “professional” ARC service.
Now, let’s just stop being afraid and say the blunt truth aloud:
- Readers don’t respect authors anymore.
- Readers believe they have total superiority over an author’s destiny.
- Readers feel unpunished.
How do I know that these things are true? Well, let’s take a look at the following situations that every indie author out there is facing:
- Readers want to read books for free, or 0.99$ – which is an absurd price, if we take into consideration the fact how much money, time and effort it takes to write and publish a book.
- Readers expect authors to provide free book copies AND PAY FOR THEIR REVIEW. Of course, the positive outcome of this transaction is not guaranteed.
- Readers have no boundaries whatsoever when it comes to giving negative feedback – their reviews are heavily subjective, dependent on the mood, and often cruel.
- Readers do not seek to point out the good in what they are reading – on the contrary, it’s like they are scanning the books they receive for what’s wrong in them.
- Readers consider themselves “ultimate critics” and decide what authors should and shouldn’t write (or publish). They go even as far to point out the “things to correct” in their reviews and wait for the author to apply their advice.
Because of these (and other) things, many authors feel furious, vengeful, depressed and hopeless.
They are tired of working for ungrateful people who can only shit on everyone else’s work.
They are tired of being trash-talked, disrespected, invalidated.
They are tired of hearing that their skills are not good enough, just as tired they are of always selling short the fruits of their hard work.
I have a few theories why readers don’t respect authors anymore:
- Young teens in junior high schools are encouraged to criticise famous authors such as William Shakespeare during classes. If they aren’t taught to respect the authors of the classics, they definitely won’t respect modern authors (especially indies).
- Readers know that nowadays everyone can be published and feel excused to criticize all books they didn’t like.
- The internet is changing, but it had allowed anonimity for way too long, which had given trolls, haters a feeling of impunity.
- Instead of advertising their books as luxury goods, authors constantly lower their prices, offer free reads, and beg everyone to take a look at their work.
- Very often, readers who blog are more popular than authors who have just published. Since lots of authors want a shortcut to fame, they beg bloggers to let them show up on their stage. Bloggers learn that they have power, and they start overusing it.
- Amazon, Goodreads and other websites do not allow for removal of demeaning reviews posted under published books. This means that these reviews will slowly become chained to the title, and a further description of what the title is about. This is giving the reader the feeling that they can deter the author’s future readers, and it gives them a sense of power.
Now, let’s drop this subject to talk for a moment about teachers’ strike in Poland. It started a few days ago and hasn’t been solved yet. On the first or second day, I don’t remember anymore, only 4 schools in the whole country remained open. The teachers demanded better wages and more respect. They refused to organize final exams, and now everyone who had disrespected them – the students, the parents, the politicians – are in big trouble.
What this is teaching me, my dear authors, is that we should do the exact same thing. Go on strike to regain our power. Here are 10 ways, how we, authors, can do it:
- Stop giving out free copies. My arch enemy has told me once, people don’t respect things that they get for free, so, I don’t give anything out for free. I was surprised by that attitude, but now I think that she was right.
- Stop pricing your books below 2.99$. 2.99$ is not the end of the world, and the people who want to buy your book will buy it nevertheless. Don’t be a theater that lets just everyone in. Make the tickets expensive, so only the most faithful type of audience can watch the performance.
- Stop treating reviews as a must-have marketing equipment for your book. Instead, write a very long description for the page on which it is sold. All readers check the description first. If it’s well written, it will charm your reader and they will make a decision to buy your book. When the reader is decided, the negative reviews aren’t going to deter them.
- Stop giving book bloggers so much importance. Celebrities don’t bribe fans to ask their autographs publicly, and they don’t beg journalists to write articles about them. Be like a celebrity. Don’t beg, bribe or pay people to write about your work. If your work is a high quality product, well positioned online and advertised in the right ways, it will get the target audience’s interest – even if there are no reviews under it at all (or if the reviews are negative).
- Temporarily unpublish your books if they are under severe attacks. When the page with your book is gone, haters won’t be able to leave any more reviews. This will show them their place: without your book, their mean comments are completely meaningless and wouldn’t even exist. After some time passes and things calm down, republish the book. If the damage is significant, consider deleting and republishing your book under a different title. Problem solved.
- Block people from writing comments on your website / blog and YouTube channel and delete the contact form from your website. Don’t let just anyone contact you this easily. Start creating barriers between you and your audience. If they want to get to know you, they will have to buy your books. Be mysterious and available only for the chosen ones. The publisher dying to offer you a 1 billion dollar contract happens as often as Halley’s Comet, and if he wants to find you, he will, even without all doors and windows of your palace wide open. Don’t let the flies to come in.
- Build a significant social media presence. If a book blogger can do it, you can do it as well. I’ll tell you more: go to book bloggers’ Twitter accounts and start adding their followers.You will be surprised how many follow back because they are genuinely interested in your stuff.
- Show everyone how powerful you actually are. Appearing as powerful, when you are broke and broken, is a book-size topic – and I am an expert on it (haha). To make a long story short: post about your successes and about how much you are enjoying yourself. One of my favorite Law Of Attraction coaches, Melody Fletcher, had once recorded a video where she told anyone interested how she has it all. That feeling in your chest a moment ago – was it a pang of jealousy? Do it to those that don’t respect you. Got a bad review? Post a stock photo of a bright swimming pool with the appropriate caption. Voila! The blogger who had written a bad review is probably rotting in front of their computer, but you are (at least mentally) in Copacabana, enjoying your vegan smoothie.
- Defiantly keep doing your thing in spite of what everyone else says. Our parents, teachers and bosses disciplined us to do the things that they wanted us to do. We were conditioned for years to listen to what others say and respond to it in a positive way. While we should be considerate of other people’s needs and wants so we can have a peaceful existence in the society, we aren’t required to follow advice coming from people who don’t have our best interests at heart. Defiantly keep doing your thing.
- Don’t forget your other blessings. Yes, it is upsetting to see someone trash your work and the surname with which you are signing it. However, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy a person. Think about all the people that you have helped. About all these people who have told you an honest and heartfelt thank you. Maybe you donate to charity, maybe you helped your suicidal friend get through another night, maybe you gave your last money to someone who needed it. I don’t know. All I know is, writing a bad book is not a crime, and being trash-talked by mean readers speaks volumes about who they are, not about who you are.
We authors need to get rid of the need to please and impress every single reader. This is a task that we can’t fulfill, no matter how hard we try. There are some writers who claim that maybe the negative reviews are right and we need to polish our books. I will never put my signature under that. We authors publish our books only when we are 100% ready that everything about them is right. And most of the time, we get bad reviews because the book wasn’t written according to someone’s private expectations – which is definitely not fair. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to rewrite my books over and over again so as to please every hater out there.
We must learn to love ourselves and our craft, and stay faithful to it. To create something is a miracle. So let’s keep creating – and leave them all behind.
I hope this article has helped you feel a bit better. Stay inspired!