If you want to be a writer, you really need to enjoy reading as well. To me, it’s natural that a love for writing would grow out of a love for books, and exposing yourself to a wide variety of material is a great way to develop your own voice, as well as make sure that you’re not ripping off something that’s been done to death. At the same time, another benefit to being a reader first is you get to see about all of those annoying habits that some writers manage to pick up. I decided to make a little list here to remind myself that when I get published, whenever that may be, to not do these things!
1. Responding to Bad Reviews– If you can’t take criticisms, then you shouldn’t be publishing your writing. The best way to show that you can’t take criticism is by responding to bad reviews. I’m sure there are some situations where it might be okay to do this, but these are clearly the exception, not the rule. Even if you think you’re responding level headily, you’re going to look whiny and immature to everyone else. On a related note, there are some authors out there that don’t seem to understand the purpose of online reviews. Yes, a good reviews might help sales. A bad review might even help a writer become more aware of their faults, resulting in them becoming a better writer. But at the end of the day, reviews are not for writers, they’re for readers. Writers that see a particularly nasty review and say “but this doesn’t help me!” or certain review websites that change their rules to better serve writers over readers, clearly don’t understand this.
2. Taking Self Promotion to an Annoying Level- You know what kinda bugs me? People that use the goodreads “give recommendations” function to promote their own books. That’s really not what it’s supposed to be for. I understand that being an author these days is really stressful. You need to have an established online presence, utilize social media, do giveaways, give interviews, and everything else, often with very little help from your publisher (or no help, if you’re going at it solo). It makes sense that some people might go a little overboard. Still, from a reader’s experience, it can be a little annoying. The goodreads situation I listed above is probably one of the more innocent examples. For a more extreme one, I’ll never forget a blog entry I read a couple years back. It was written by a woman who was reading her kindle in a park, when, without warning she was cornered by a man who shoved a couple of bucks in her hand and demanded she buy his ebook to help his amazon rankings. Not cool at all. On the other hand, a straightforward non-pushy explanation how how a reader can help out an author, as Laura Lam did recently on her blog, is rather helpful, and preferable.
3. Harassing Libraries– This is more of a professional gripe, but once every few months I’ll get a general “Dear Director” email from someone I don’t recognize.They’ll claim to be a resident of the town where I work as a librarian, asking me to buy a bunch of books. I’ll look the person up, and find that they don’t have a library card. I’ll send an email back explaining that they need to be card holders to take out books. When they don’t respond, I know that this is simply a blanket email sent out by an author looking for libraries to buy their books. This speaks volumes about their lack of knowledge of libraries. When libraries (especially small ones with minuscule budgets) buy books, they need to know that it’s going to circulate to justify money spent. Some book purchases are the result of patron requests, the key note there being “patron.” An author, writing under an assumed name from across the country, doesn’t count. If you need to trick people to buy your books,then you’re doing something wrong.
4. Lack of Information- Now going to the opposite side of the spectrum! Most authors nowadays are pretty savvy. They’ll have not only a website, but a twitter, a facebook, a tumblr, and everything else! But every now and then you’ll come across a writer that doesn’t keep up with things. Every writer should have a minimum of either a blog or a website that explains what they’ve written. If it’s a series, the books should be listed in the order in which they should be read. If they have anything coming out, there should be information on that too, even if it’s just “working on the next book in series X.” It’s awfully frustrating to fall in love with a book, and then have no idea of what comes next.
5. Just Plain Nasty Behavior– This doesn’t happen as often, but every now and then you’ll hear about someone just completely losing it. Sending harassing emails in response to negative reviews. Having their agent harass the reviewer on twitter. Hiring Sock Puppet reviews to write fake positive reviews (or, even worse, fake negative reviews on books that are written by someone the author may view as a competitor). You don’t hear about this stuff happening all that often, but when it does, I have to wonder what people are thinking. The internet emboldens us in ways that aren’t always positive. Try to keep this in mind: if you wouldn’t say it to someone face to face, then why are you even tempted to do so online?
So those are a few examples that I can think of. Hopefully, when I become published, I’ll remember my experiences as a reader, and now fall into these annoying habits. Did I miss any?