Readers Don’t Owe Authors Anything
As a long time reader I have been more than little dismayed at some of the recent changes to the culture of books.
There seems to be a growing sentiment among some authors and writers that readers "owe" authors something. I don’t just mean the time we spend reading a work, the respectful attention we might give it, or even the money we might spend on an author’s work.
I’m referring to the assumption of a few misguided authors that readers "owe" authors things like: gushing praise on social media, book reviews on ebookstore websites, and other investments of our time and money.
Update: Before you read any further, you might want to read a post I wrote a month later. It offers a much more nuanced view of this topic.
And what’s even worse is that not only do some authors believe this, they’ve taken to making graphics like the one at right. That graphic was made by an author so other authors can use it to berate their readers.
Oh. Hell. No.
I’ve had my own run-ins with pushy authors, so naturally I think the idea expressed in that graphic is complete and utter nonsense. I’m glad to say that I am not alone. Over the past week or so I’ve been sharing a number of links from readers/bloggers who are pushing back against needy and demanding authors.
Today I read a post that finally jelled my position into a single statement:
- I won’t ever steal books, digital or otherwise. Not ever.
But I won’t (a) not use the library, (b) not buy used books, (c) not borrow books from friends. If I choose to do any of those things, I don’t (a) owe a tweet, (b) owe a blog review, (c) owe a word of mouth review. I am not betraying bookish culture if I (a) buy from Amazon or Chapters or Barnes and Noble, (b) wait to buy the paperback, (c) don’t buy at all. None of the above things are unethical or amoral or indicative of my deep failings as a reader or blogger or member of the bookish community.
Now, we could get into a debate over who is right and who is wrong, but I would hope that the authors who read this realize something first. The fact that this point has come up at all and the fact I took time to write this post and that readers are taking the time to express their irritation should be a warning sign.
Readers don’t agree with this idea.
Readers are getting pissed off at the suggestion that they "owe" something to authors.
I want you to look past why we are pissed and accept the fact that we are, because my point is pretty simple:
Pissed Off Readers == Marketing Failure
If nothing else, that alone should end the discussion.
I don’t mean to criticize all authors here, but I do want to jump on this misconception with both feet. In this day and age authors are more dependent on readers than ever, and authors are also much more visible and interact directly with readers more than they ever have before.
At the same time authors are also outnumbered by readers as well as other indie authors, so I would think it would make sense for an author to try their best to not drive readers away.