What Readers "Owe" Authors – A Counterpoint
In early April 2013 there was a spate of posts from readers/bloggers which protested some of the more egregious and pushy methods that some authors use to promote themselves ("The Care and Feeding of Authors", for example). I wrote one such post, and I largely focused on how the pushiness can fail in its purpose by annoying readers.
Today I am going to take a step back from the diktats I issued in that post. I’ve come to realize that there were more nuances to the issue than I had known at the time, and I have revised my opinions on how authors should promote themselves and their books.
My new insight comes via The Passive Voice blog. That blog excerpted one of those protestation posts from a month ago, and the ensuing debate raised points that I had not considered. I have pulled together a couple comments from that debate, and I think they add a new context to the pushiness/self-promotion issue.
For example, one commenter pointed out that none of the bloggers protesting the pushiness are doing so from the viewpoint of readers; we’re all industry insiders of one form or another:
Your experience is not typical. I know this because if you are reading this comment, you are not a typical reader. PG isn’t, I’m not, the book blogger who wrote in the HuffPo isn’t, and Nate isn’t. If you’ve seen something 100 times, the typical reader may have seen it once or twice. If something is annoying you because you’ve seen it too many times, get over it. That’s the price of being "in the business".
If, however, it annoys you the first time, that might mean something. Or it might not. Just because it annoys you doesn’t mean that it is bad idea. You might just be having a bad day.
I don’t know about anyone else but this is certainly true for me.
Take the graphic at right, for example. When I first saw it I could not help but think of the several times I have been bugged by authors on Twitter. Coming from that viewpoint I can’t help but feel hostile to the checklist in the graphic.
This was wrong because the target of my irritation should have been the pushy authors, not the graphic or the idea that readers can do something to help authors they like.
If that graphic is simply posted to an author’s blog and not pushed on people, it is not necessarily a bad promotional tool. Here’s why:
To a certain extent, a blog is there to say, “Hey, if you love my books? Here’s how you can help me support myself with writing.” If one is eager to help that particular author because their work just pushes all the right buttons, and/or one is a new reader who has just realized that authors ARE ON THE WEB EEEEE!, hey. There’s data. Otherwise, if one isn’t willing to skim a certain amount of self-promotion? Don’t read that blog! Promoting outside one’s “Space” is one thing, and on the author’s head. Complaining about the promotion when you walk into the author’s “space” goes back to the GRRMartin song.
I could easily see that a reader who has just discovered an author might appreciate knowing how to support that author. But at the same time I don’t think that reader wants the checklist shoved down their throat.
The point I am trying to make here is that I realize now that my issue isn’t with authors promoting themselves nor even in what they say. It’s how some authors communicate that is the issue. I think that point was lost in the complaining about pushy authors last month, and it is a distinction worth making.
I suppose some bloggers are going to read this and disagree with my new position. I can understand that; the graphic mentioned above and the idea it embodies can come across as little demanding.
But I’m not so sure that those outside the self-pub community would agree, and that is what we should really be considering here. After all, articles on "The Care and Feeding of Authors" are not intended to be read by those in the self-pub community; they’re written for readers.
When we debate things like "The Care and Feeding of Authors", the question that needs to be asked is whether the average reader is bothered by that type of promotion, and to what degree. I am not sure that the bloggers and others in the self-pub community can answer the question from anything other than their existing insider viewpoint.
And when it comes to discussing how authors interface with readers, that insider viewpoint might not be relevant to the discussion.
What do you think?
image by www.theedinburghblog.co.uk