General Writing


Trust me, I knew about it long before today – when I found out it had a name:  THE DISCOVERY PROBLEM.

It’s the perfect name because that’s the problem —  how to be discovered.   You could call it THE FOUND PROBLEM but that implies that you’re lost and you’re not.  Not exactly.   You know where you are.  On a good day you even know who you are.  On a very good day you remember what  you’ve written.  But the readers, do they know?  No, and that’s the problem.  How does a new writer get discovered by readers?

Perhaps, it just takes the right project.  My favorite example is the McDreamy one – Patrick Dempsey.  He had some success in his younger years and then he fell off the radar.  I understand he even left La La land for a while and went home to Maine.  But he rebuilt his resolve and returned.  In 2002 he finally got his big break.  The project that would make viewers, producers, studio honchos and everyone who mattered discover him — or so he thought.  Getting cast in “Sweet Home Alabama” turned out to be not as sweet as he expected.  Well, if that movie didn’t get him discovered — would anything?  It took 3 more years before Shonda Rhimes watched him audition, knowing she’d found her Dr. McDreamy.  And yes, Grey’s Anatomy got him discovered – but he could have, so very easily, given up.

I guess you don’t get to pick your moment to be discovered — you just have to keep working and keep believing.

What brought all of this to mind?  A frequent source of information — a must read romance blog for everyone who loves love – Dear Author.   DA posted this today – their Friday news. The story about JK Rowling was interesting — but what set my insane little ducks to quacking was the piece about “The Discovery Problem in Crime Fiction.”  It linked to this blog by Nancy Bilyeau, which included this eye-opening paragraph:

It was M.J. Rose, author of the enthralling Seduction: A Novel and founder of Author Buzz, who first told me about the “discovery problem” in fiction. Novels by debut authors keep hitting the shelves, but some are having a hard time finding readers, no matter how well written. Newspapers and magazines have eliminated their review sections; bookstores are struggling; fiction fights for people’s attention as twitter, Facebook and cable TV series beckon.

Dearest Duck, what’s a writer to do?   Well, she might want to consider writing ROMANCE.  The article says:

“Among fiction fans, thriller and suspense fans are the most obsessed of all–telling us they primarily read authors they know and love most, to the exclusion of trying new writers,” Peter emailed me. The debuts ”have the greatest challenge trying to reach a new audience that simply isn’t interested in reading unknown authors.”

Romance readers are “more open to new voices,” Peter explains. Of the number of books bought last year by fans of the thriller genre, 19 percent were written by unfamiliar authors–but when looking at fans’ purchases of erotic romance, a whopping 45 percent were penned by new authors.

“Fans read their favorite category to satisfy different needs,” Peter says. “My personal view: thriller fans want guaranteed, consistent entertainment with minimal risk of disappointment–romance readers want new experiences, to experiment and take risks.”

So, romance readers are risk takers who are the most willing of all readers to take a chance on new authors.  I guess, I need to take a page from a McDreamy playbook then.  I need to keep writing, stay available and — wait for a call from Shonda Rhimes.  (Okay, okay, but a girl can dream, right?  I wrote Dangerous Relations:  Griffin’s Law as a tribute to Grey’s Anatomy.  Who better to film that movie that Shonda Sunshine?)

Romance may be risky business, but authors in this genre are mighty lucky to have a reading audience that will risk their hard-earned money on a new writer.  Someday — soon, very, very soon — maybe millions of readers will decide to take a chance on a historical or a contemporary romance by yours truly, MARY ANNE GRAHAM, a/k/a the crazy duck lady who believes that like life, love is best over-the-top.

 

As I write this, the trial of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin is about to go to the jury.  The State’s lawyers just completed their closing argument.  Tomorrow morning the defense will close, the state will get a brief rebuttal and then the Judge will charge the jury.  The jury should have the case tomorrow afternoon.

At issue is Zimmerman’s legal liability for the death of 17-year-old Trayon Martin.  The mixed race Hispanic/Caucasian Zimmerman, a member of a neighborhood watch group, spotted African American Martin walking through his neighborhood in the evening, during a rain storm, wearing a hoodie.  At the end of the encounter, young Mr. Martin lay dead from a bullet fired by Mr. Zimmerman who claimed he was defending himself.  For the last several weeks Mr. Zimmerman has been on trial in a Sanford, Florida Courtroom but the trial has hardly been confined to Florida.  The case has preoccupied the nation.

There is, of course, no question that the death of a 17-year-old is always a tragedy.

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It’s July – so y’all know what that means, right?  Yep.  It’s time for the annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale.

Books by many of your favorite authors are available at SW this month at discounted prices varying from 25% off all the way to free.  ALL OF MY BOOKS ARE 50% OFF for the promo.

As SW owner and all-around ebook Guru, Mark Coker says, “It’s that time of year again for our annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale promotion, running July 1 through July 31!  It’s summer here in the northern hemisphere, and winter for our reader friends south of the equator. The promotion’s cheeky “Summer/Winter” name acknowledges the fact that there’s a global market for ebooks…”

This year, there’s a special reason for everyone to LOAD UP on all my books at Smashwords — SW and Publisher’s Weekly just launched a monthly bestseller list. It will feature the top 25  highest grossing SW ebooks for each month and the top 10 from the list will appear in the print issue of Publisher’s Weekly.  The first month’s list rated the top 25 ebooks based on May sales.

I’m very proud to note that 16 of the top 25 on the list are romance novels.  A big congrats to the SW authors who made the first list.  HOWEVER, ahm,  **clears throat**  I must note that unfortunately — none of my books made the debut list.  And all of you know what that means, right?

It means you should rush over to the Summer/Winter sale and buy all my books – and if you own them already, buy several dozen copies of each book and give them to your friends as either Beach or Snuggle Under the Comforter reads, depending on your hemisphere, of course.

There are enough quackers out there to waddle at least a couple of my books onto next month’s list!  So head on over to Smashwords and be sure your button finger is nimble enough to set new speed records.

This sale is the best way to fill up your ereader with great books at prices that will smash your budget barrier.

Why am I the last to know these things?

There seems to be a 10-step plan for everything these days, but somehow, I thought the eternal quest for writing the Great American Novel was above and beyond all that.  Not so, according to a new piece from Huffpo by Ester Bloom, entitled:  “Write the Great American Novel in 10 Easy Steps.”

And they’re EASY steps?  Geez!  Just think of all the time I’ve been wasting behind my keyboard.  Worse- think of all that stress and strain on my wee, already-stressed and strained brain.  Come on Ms. Bloom – give a girl a clue, why don’t you?  OH, that’s right – she just did.

Let’s see – step one is to be a dead dude like Mark Twain, William Faulkner or Nathaniel Hawthorne.   Well, that doesn’t sound so easy.  It sounds pretty impossible.  Wait – there is a sub-choice!  If I’m not a dead dude, it’ll work if I’m Toni Morrison, a one-book wonder like Margaret Mitchell or Harper Lee, or a privileged, white drunk like Fitzgerald or Hemingway.  Well, I’m white – but I’m pretty much out of luck on the other qualifications for the first step.

I have more luck with step 2.  Reclusive I can do.  I can’t do masculine seclusion but feminine seclusion – that’s my natural state.  So I can be the female Pynchon or Salinger.

Step 3 is to tell a violent story set in rural America’s Southern or Western regions.  Well, most of my contemporary romances  are set along the coast of South Carolina and this is a pretty darned rural area.  And love is the ultimate violence, isn’t it?  Besides, in most of my contemporaries someone dies – which is a double whammy for violence.  I guess that equates me with Penn Warren, McCarthy and McMurtry.

Then I’m supposed to center my tale around a white male hero who wrestles with diversity – preferably involving brown people –  while he travels.  Well, in “A Magical Forever” the hero has to overcome his prejudices against love and magic and he takes a trip that’s literally out of this world.  I’ll count that.

Next, I have to title my book something with particular keywords like “Great,” “Wrath,” “Love,” “Fury” or “Death.”  Woah, Nelly – Eden is on the list.  Hot dog – “The Duke of Eden” fits that one.  We’re making progress!

Uh Oh – there are questions.

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This is a brief update because there’s been (yet another) plagiarism scandal.   In this one, a would-be writer of  fan fiction was (allegedly) ripping off work by Lorelei James (One Tree Hill) and Renea Taylor (Beyond Right or Wrong).  Rilzy has donned her detective hat, done the “Sherlock Holmes” thing, and dug up the dirt.  Rilzy has the dirt on display HERE on her blog.   I won’t repeat the details.  To get the low down on this one, check out the linked blog.

I heard about this one from the Romance Divas forum.  It’s the best way to stay informed on all things romance.  If you write romance, you really, really should join.  I think there’s a screening process but hey – they let me in!  I was interested to read from her blog that Rilzy is a law student who wants to be a writer.  Be careful, Rilzy – sometimes law students who write grow up to be crazy duck ladies who are practicing attorneys.

Anyway, Rilzy waxed eloquent about her feelings regarding this apparent plagiarist – so I’m gonna quote her:

In addition to being really angered I was really happy with the support that all the writers showed for Lorelei James. We all understand how precious our work is and how personal. We all understand that what this silly, little girl (who read for a Literature and Writing Degree ironically) did was deeply invasive and just plain out wrong.

I take comfort in the fact that no matter how long it takes me to hone my craft, I would never resort to stealing someone’s work. I write because I have stories in me that need to come out. I don’t write for recognition or fame which is clearly what Alison Gilmore was after. This is what distinguishes writers from frauds. This is what distinguishes Lorelei James and Renea Taylor from Alison Gilmore.

– Rilzy – again – HERE.

I share my thoughts with the Divas and decided to post them here as well.  By all the ducks in the pond – like the brilliant folks who devote themselves to writing computer viruses, plagiarists mystify me. Even aside from the amorality of stealing other people’s thoughts and work, the motivation behind the theft escapes me.

If you’re hard-working enough and creative enough to go to all the trouble this writer apparently did and to mount a whole campaign of sorts behind it —  wouldn’t you think that this author would prefer to apply that creative effort to her own work?  The same thing puzzles me with the computer folk who spend tons of time and go to a mad amount of effort to write a virus and to hide it in something people use or will open.

What’s the point?  The writer could be working on her next book and the programmer could be coding the system that will kick Microsoft, Google and Apple to the curb.  Then they would be rewarded or acknowledged for their own efforts.

I don’t get it.  I just don’t get it.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.  I’ve also been writing – 2 works at once.  I’ll write about the writing later.  This post is about the reading.  For a writer, reading is part of the job.  To stay involved and current, I’ve got to stay abreast of the trends and immersed in my genre, my only genre – ROMANCE. (Is there another one?)

My budget doesn’t stretch to pricey books these days, which is a big part of the reason that none of my books are pricey.  I’d never ask a reader to pay something for a book that I won’t pay myself.  While life on the short-end of the money line is never fun, there’s never been a better time to be a budget-conscious reader.  I get an email from Kindle Daily Deals and always check the romance deal.  I get an email from BookBub, only about romance deals – because that’s what I chose when I signed up – and I always check that one.  I check in with Dear Author and Smart Biches because both sites focus on romance and feature deals every day.

I ask for Amazon gift cards for every gift-receiving occasion, and thanks to the sites I mentioned above, a $50 gift card can stretch a looooooong way.  If you’re not signed up for emails from both Kindle Daily Deals and Bookbub you should stop right now and sign up.  Seriously.  And, Great Gorgeous Ducks – what kind of romance reader are you if you don’t check in with Dear Author and Smart Bitches every day?  If you do all of this for deals and pay attention, you’ll fill up your e-reader in no time flat and you’ll never be without a lovely love story to brighten your day!

But I boogled away from the point.  Y’all know – I tend to do that.  I’m headed back there now.  The point is that all those lovely love stories are NOT created equal.  Some have been amazing reads that kept me away from writing for periods that stretched much too long.  Others have been books that make me look at my Kindle, shrug, and turn back to my laptop.  All have been romances – because that’s not just what I write.  It’s also what I read.  It’s ALL I read, except for the occasional book by John Grisham. (My day job is practicing law and John does great legal thrillers.)

Why do some romances grab my attention – keep it – and make me sad to have finished the books while others I can take or leave?  It’s all about the SAP.

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I haven’t done a non-Grey’s blog in quite some time.  So, today, I’m emerging from the dark beyond to talk about – emerging from the dark beyond.  I haven’t actually “emerged” yet – but I’m hoping that writing this blog will help.

Help what?  I hope it will help put me back in contact with my readers and with myself and my writing.

I haven’t “felt” like blogging for quite some time.  I haven’t “felt” like doing a lot of writing.  In fact, I just haven’t “felt” like myself.  I’m not sure who I’ve felt like – but it hasn’t been the insane duck lady.  I’ve felt tired- like almost any effort is too much.  And I’ve felt like a teapot filling up with tears, never knowing when the pot might reach full and start to spill over – or when the tiniest little thing might tip my spout enough to start a crying jag.

I think it’s been caused by a combination of stress at home compounded by the stress of juggling various types of pressures at work.  On the writing front – I’ve been suffering from a bad case of “why bother” that’s been increased by that general sense of feeling tired.  It’s felt like too much effort for too little return.  If I can’t write my way out of the personal or professional pressures, would it be easier to just sit down, pretend to rest, and spend my time worrying about everything I can’t seem to fix?

I wish I was writing to say it’s all better now – but that isn’t true.  I think I’m writing because I’d really, really like it to get better.  Even if nothing changes, I’d like to feel hopeful enough to believe that it might and strong enough to want to keep trying.  And so far, wallowing and worrying has achieved nothing except making me feel more tired and less optimistic.

So, what’s the best way to get out of a funk?  My eldest is an Aspie and he gets through life figuring out how to react to things by watching the people around him.  He’s done well- he recently graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering cum laude and with honors in the major.  Figuring out how to act or how to feel by watching how others act and feel works for my eldest.  It makes me wonder if “fake it till you find it” might work for me too.

If I can act happy and energetic — will the fiction become fact? Can I will myself to skip jauntily over whatever piles of “bad events”  build up around me?  If I can’t fix it no matter how much I work and try and struggle, then there really isn’t a point in worrying about it.  If all the effort won’t fix it, then all the worry surely can’t help now, can it?

Should I just give myself permission to slow down or bloody stop?  Running in place isn’t getting me anywhere.  Or – if I keep up the pace and act like I’m getting somewhere, will the view eventually change?  If it’s all a giant hamster wheel and forward progress isn’t possible, then I’m better off sitting down and resting.

I’m not sure of the answer but that might be because I’m not even sure of the question.  Maybe, if I spend more time ignoring real life I can start enjoying the happily ever after I’m trying two craft for my two works in progress.  Reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  I guess that’s why I never understand readers who get critical of a work – mine or someone else’s – because it’s too far removed from reality.  Isn’t the point of writing a good book – or reading one – to take you as far away from reality as possible?

Maybe my whole problem is that I’ve been spending too much time worrying about the real world and too little dallying in my characters’ world.  If I just leave the real world alone and let it go to pieces – or not – it’s bound to matter less if that’s not the place that matters most.

I should have blogged sooner.  If I rant and rave like this to anyone in my real life I’m sure they’ll just bellow that I brought it all on myself – or they’ll say, get over yourself, already, because you really don’t matter that much.  So, maybe I’ve arrived at a solution – but I’m not sure which it is.  Do I act like everything’s hunky-dory because believing will make it so?  Do I keep on juggling problems until one finally bounces back hard enough to crack my thick skull and send me six feet under?  Or am I better off letting it all go and crawling over the pieces to get back to my keyboard where I can write about a place where nothing’s hunky-dory but everything’s about to be?

Maybe I’m best off keeping this blog active because it gives me a place to go where I know I’m talking to a bunch of other ladies dealing with similar issues.  If anyone out there has figured out the answer – or at least understands the question – please HOLLA.

In the meantime, I’m going back to one of my two works in progress and I’ll plan another blog entry where I do something other than bitch and moan….

And I can know that Mr. Duck and the Ducklings are grateful that I’m bitching and moaning here, rather than at the supper table.  Mr. Duck is making Fettucini Alfredo tonight and everybody knows that weeping and wailing doesn’t go with Alfredo a’tall………

 

 

See, there’s this author who is about 7 months younger than a certain insane duck lady.  You may have heard of her – her name is Erika Leonard.  Okay, most likely you know her by her pen name — E.L. James.  She wrote a little ole book trilogy that a couple of (Million?  Hundreds of Million?) people have read.  The trilogy?  Yes, that one – “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

To me, it sounds like all the hulla-boogby- balloo caused by the bombshell effect of these books has had the same effect on the life of the author – catapulting Ms. James past fame and right into infamy.   It must be a hell of a thing to deal with, particularly for someone who wasn’t out chasing fame.  One day, a little later in life than some others, Erika Leonard sat down at a computer and started writing a book.  I get that – I totally get that.  I, too, did all sorts of other writing before I (finally) sat down at a keyboard and wrote my first book.  ”Brotherly Love” didn’t catapult me into fame, fortune or infamy.  It was the first book I wrote and it quietly convinced me that I wanted to write others – and so I did.

I’m not sure what would have happened if “Brotherly Love” had hit the publishing world with even one-thousandth of the impact of “Fifty Shades.”  I hope I would still have written more.  I hope that I would still be writing.  I hope – but I don’t know.  Think about it.  Imagine it for a moment.  You write a trilogy that becomes the “E.T.” of the romance genre. It’s not a book that’s shoved down readers’ throats by a massive publicity campaign.  It’s a book that becomes a phenomenon because readers discover it on their own and they turn it into a phenomenon.  Some readers love it and others hate it but very, very few who’ve read it are unaffected.  The initial discovery and your growing sales numbers at first delight you — but then — the numbers keep growing and growing.  Those sales ramp up the discovery factor and soon the media takes notice.  And you wake up one day to find you can’t remain happily in seclusion behind your keyboard any longer.  You can’t because you’re “it” and your it-ness changes the way everyone looks at you and thinks of you.

And you know — you bloody well know – that the next time you sit down at a keyboard you’re expected to produce more than just your next book.  You’re  expected to produce a next book that will do better than that trilogy.  I’d love my trilogy – I love all my work – but I think I’d grow to resent it a little too.  In a way, the trilogy would become a great golden albatross or perhaps a snipe that I never meant to chase.

Suddenly, then, the world expects that trilogy author to morph into a cross between the late Princess Diana and the late Margaret Thatcher.  And all I’d want to be would be the same insane duck lady that I’ve always been.  What else could I be but me?  I don’t want to be anyone else – and I’ll bet Erika Leonard doesn’t either.  I wonder if she ever resents her E.L. James persona?  Erika can be whoever and whatever she chooses – but she must now do it within that bubble of fame, bearing the vast weight of those expectations.  No matter what she does or how she does it, she’ll always give some people reason to find fault.  IMHO, the world is far too full of folks who aren’t happy unless they’re finding fault with someone.

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My oldest, Zack, graduated cum laude from The University of Central Florida this morning, May 2, 2013. The kid is a smart grabber – he must have got all those genes from Mr. Duck. Zack also graduated “with honors” – meaning from the Burnett Honors College – and “with honors in the major.” The latter means he’s truly nuts and also completed a mini-thesis guided by engineering guru Dr. Ali P. Gordon of the Dpt of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering.

We got a chance to meet Dr. Gordon at the Honor’s convocation last night, 5/1.  He was clearly brilliant – a gifted professional – and yet he spoke so highly of Zack’s work.  Zack would be the first to say how much he was guided and influenced by Dr. Gordon.  Zack said one of his big motivations was not wanting to disappoint Dr. Gordon.  That speaks volumes about how gifted the good Dr. Gordon is as an education professional.  His guidance on Zack’s thesis attests to Dr. Gordon’s gifts as an engineer.

At the graduation his morning 7,800 graduated from the Arts and Humanities Colleges and the College of Engineering and Computer Science.  They got the ceremony completed in 2 hours – an amazing feat – and they did it without “shortchanging” anything.  This afternoon, 5/2/13, is another graduation of different colleges.  (Bill Clinton will speak at this one).  Our speaker this morning was Dr. Peter Delfeyett of UCF’s College of Optics and Photonics.  Dr. Delfeyett spoke in stories.  I understood the motivational parts of the tales and found them very inspiring.  I was very impressed by Dr. Delfeyett’s current work with DARPA (the group that invented the internet).  Dr. Delfeyett is working on a project using lasers and their color spectrum to make the internet faster.  Cutting edge stuff, right?

Zack’s entire experience at UCF has been first class and cutting edge.  He was a National Merit Scholar and UCF offers a full ride – full, no holds barred scholarship – to National Merit Scholars who put UCF down as their first choice on the selection form.  You know how most things that look too good to be true turn out to be a lot less than advertised?  Right after Zack accepted UCF’s offer, I scanned a copy of his scholarship to my desktops at home and at work because – I expected trouble.  You know what?  I NEVER GOT IT.  UCF said what it meant and it meant what it said and that’s a life lesson that all of our kids (and their parents) could use.

The ceremony was wonderful – bagpipes and all.  I cried.  Of course, I did.  But they were happy tears for my son’s grand achievement.  I’m very, very, proud of him.  They were also tears of gratitude to the University of Central Florida.  My son’s dream has always been to become an engineer.  Today, he graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and in the fall he will take the FE exam in South Carolina.  UCF isn’t at Disney and I didn’t see Cinderella’s coach anywhere, but the school surely must have absorbed a touch of all that magic.  Certainly, in many ways, UCF has been a “fairy godparent” to my son.  Wave a scholarship and poof – some hard work, a first rate faculty, staff and facilities and 4 years later —  my son’s dream is coming true.

If you’re looking for a University that can give you the keys to your dreams, I invite you to take a look at UCF.  AND IF YOU’RE A NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLAR OR THE PARENT OF ONE — you’re losing the opportunity of a lifetime if you don’t visit UCF and give it serious consideration as that “first choice” selection.  Yes, this is an emotional tribute to my eldest son who is one of my heroes, but it is also a real-life tribute to UCF from the mother of a National Merit Scholar.

UCF fosters and encourages an environment where children, fresh from high school, enter to explore, give, grow and learn – guided by a vast array of professionals who are the best in their fields.  Those high school children leave  as young men and women who have learned lessons that pave the path to their dreams.  My son is on his way to realizing his dreams. I hope that many of your sons and daughters find their “fairy godparent” at the University of Central Florida.

Thank you Dr. Gordon and Thank you UCF!!  We need many more places like UCF – where magic meets hard work and where a promise made is a promise kept.

A recent explosion in the writing universe, and a Dear Author post about the whole thing made me consider my views on fan mail and author meltdowns.  DA blogged about a couple of incidents.

One, in the “what was he smoking” category, dealt with an author who not only decided to track down reviewers and commenters on his blog – but he called their JOBS.  Yes, Virginia, you read that right.  An author responded to a blog comment by tracking down a poor soul who commented from their workplace.  He traced the commenter down to a County Education department and then called the person in charge of Internet security for the county to “out” the commenter.

Again, as to that author I ask – “what was he smoking?”  I’d also add – “I don’t want none!.”  That incident I write off to temporary insanity — I hope.  But I agree with DA who cautioned her readers to be careful about where they comment.  By All The Ducks In The Pond, I can assure anyone who comments on my blog that the most I’ll do, if I even do this, is to reply to your comment here, on my blog.  I lack the time and the motivation to track you down – digitally, virtually or in real life.  Geez.

The other incident I found disturbing enough to make me emerge from my recent blogging holiday, drag out my soapbox and pontificate.  It dealt with an author who recently blogged about how much she’d been “bothered” by certain questions or comments from her readers.   Seriously.

Sadly, I don’t think the particular author was smoking anything.  I think she was suffering from “too big for her britches” syndrome.  An occasional ego-driven quote, comment or blog is bad enough, but if a writer has a severe case of TBFHB, his or her friends or family should care enough to lock them away from contact with the outside world until it passes.  Otherwise, they might repay reader loyalty with derision or disdain and do their careers serious damage.  This particular writer wasn’t shut away, which is too, too bad.

This TBFHB author did a post listing a bunch of things about her reader email that bothered her.  She didn’t like being asked where she got her ideas or how much money she made.  I don’t see either question as a big deal – they’re easy enough to answer with an “everywhere” for the first and “not nearly enough” for the second.  Those answers would be true for most writers and I think most readers would be glad that their favorite author answered their questions.

Then the TBFHB pushed the author to do the unthinkable — she chastised a reader anxious to read more of her work.  Yes, Virginia, the reader loved one of the writer’s books so much that she went on to buy the rest in that series.  Then the reader took the time to find the author’s blog, email the author, telling her that she was anxious to read more.  The reader committed the unpardonable sin of asking the writer to write faster.  The author responded by posting the email on a public blog and expounding upon why it annoyed her.  Even worse, the author played editor for a reader who never tried to post or publish her email and who wrote it only to communicate to the author.  All of us communicate differently and I often use shorthand abbreviations I’d never use in a book or blog post.

The author said she wasn’t the reader’s slave and that had the reader done her homework, and “done a bit of intelligent googling” that the reader could have found all the information the writer gave her about her publishing schedule, etc.  What struck me most was that the author said she hoped the reader wouldn’t “address her mother/grandmother this way.”  The writer found the reader’s enthusiasm disrespectful.

Well, RESPECT IS A TWO-WAY STREET.  The author’s very public response to this reader was anything but respectful.

IMHO, if a reader takes time out of her busy life to contact me about one of my books, that reader deserves my respect, my appreciation for her patronage, and she surely deserves to keep her privacy.  Write me using any slang you like – I’ll understand you were trying to communicate a thought in a one to one exchange and that you were not writing for either public consumption or editing tips.  Give me your thoughts any way you choose and I’ll take the time to say thank you for buying my book and I’ll do my best to respond to your thoughts, questions or suggestions.

See, although I think my time is valuable, I don’t think its any more or less valuable than my reader’s time.

And that’s the key.

Walmart didn’t become Walmart by taking out advertisements or writing big posts on its website complaining about how its customers shop.  It became Walmart by appreciating and rewarding customers for their patronage.  Most Walmart’s retain a touch of humility even today, as a mega-ginormous-hugely successful business, by still employing greeters who speak to customers as they enter, welcoming them to the store.  Walmart welcomes customers however they shop, whenever they shop and lets the buyers know that the store wants their business.

If a writer doesn’t make the time to appreciate readers and to treat any and all contact with them respectfully and courteously, then that writer doesn’t want readers.  If readers are such a bother, the writer can confine herself to writing for her own amusement, on her own timetable.  Our books are designed to instill and encourage reader interest and enthusiasm.  If a reader cares enough to contact a writer – that’s a home run.

The author wanted to know whether that reader would have spoken that way or in that tone to her mother or grandmother.  The author should have asked herself if she’d have responded in that way or in that tone to her agent or publishing partners.  Let’s say Amazon emailed, saying  ”Ms. Writer, we purely double-dog love your stuff.  When can you get us some more?”   Would the writer have posted a public blog excoriating Amazon for its enthusiasm for her work?  Would she have edited and re-wrote their email?

You can bet your sweet bank balance that the writer would never have responded to Amazon the way she responded to that reader.  Yet, it’s all the readers that make up all the numbers that make Amazon and Barnes and Noble, KOBO and all the other retailers enthusiastic and interested.  Every single reader deserves the same respect that the author thought she deserved because respect either works both ways or it doesn’t work at all.

I’m going to crawl down off my soapbox and head back to my WIP, a Highland romance that will be the first of my “lovely lairds” series.  But if you want to reach me, there’s a contact link in the upper right corner of this blog.  If you email me because you bought my books, I promise respect and privacy and I promise to say “thank you.”

Readers are special people.  We need more readers who care enough to respond, not fewer.  If my work touched you, feel free to email.  I’ll always be glad that you did.

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