There are many things that, as a buyer of books, you can do, but that is not to say you will do them.
As an author, what is reasonable to expect of readers?
Well, I’d like to think that people will access my books legally, whether by buying them or legitimately borrowing them. I get very unhappy about readers downloading them illegally - that makes me angry.
But that’s about it in terms of my expectations.
Amazingly, though, some readers have exceeded these modest expectations by reviewing or rating my books on blogs and on customer and reader forums. Not masses of people, but yeah, some. In fact, some people appear to have gone to some time and trouble to set out their thoughts in detail, and I’m grateful to them for taking the time.
We live in a world where we are constantly encouraged to share our customer experiences and to rate every purchase we make. We are invited to ‘share’ and ‘like’ every product and service we utilise.
Has this endless participation in sharing user experiences given us unrealistic expectations when it comes to our products? Have we reached a point where anyone with something to sell – whether it be a book or something else – thinks they’re entitled to some kind of response from their customers? As though the customer’s obligations don’t end at the point they part with their hard-earned cash?
A couple of times recently I’ve seen comments to the effect that readers shouldn’t leave 1 or 2 star reviews of a book without some comment to back it up. I can’t fathom that view at all. Firstly, if someone hates your book, they hate your book. Frankly, any comment they leave to explain their feelings isn’t probably going to make you feel any better. Secondly and more importantly though, once a reader’s paid their cash over, they can do whatever they want with your book.
Including saying nothing about it at all.
Every time Amazon sends me an email asking me if I’d like to rate a purchase, I feel a little frisson of rage. Then I delete the email.
Goodreads makes it really easy to rate and review books. But I don’t.
Facebook and Twitter make it simple to share the love. I don’t do that very often either.
This is how I feel about reading: I am not just a book lover, I am evangelical. If I love a book, I will press it on others. It’s why I kept a reader blog going for five years. Even now, I will occasionally have to blog about something I’ve read – see for example my last post on Captive Prince - but I still don’t rate my purchases.
That makes it all the more remarkable to me that anyone’s bothered to do that for my books (and thank you, by the way, even if you disliked my books).
It strikes me that, aside from the dedicated book bloggers, there are two main reasons for readers to rate or review. One is that they are frequent users of the particular forum or site on which they are leaving their rating or review and as such, they tend to rate or review many/most of their reads (frequent reviewers).
The second reason is that the reader had a strong enough reaction to the book (whether positive or negative) that they were motivated to write about it (motivated reviewers). I am a motivated reviewer.
So what do I take from all this, as an author?
Only that I’ll keep writing, keep trying to get better.
And I’ll do it with this objective in mind: if I motivate readers to speak well of me, maybe they will do so.