Sunday, January 09, 2005

Self-Importance 101

For my romance writer pals who fret over those readers trashing their weblogs as self-important and obnoxious: remember when we were in high school, and there was that group of girls who built their little ranch houses of esteem by tormenting other girls? You know, the ones Carrie killed in horrible ways in the Stephen King book?

This is who you're caring about, guys. People who will dump pig blood on your tiara just because they can't have what you've got.

If you're going to be a pro writer, one of your first tasks is to stop worrying about what other people (critics, writers, reviewers, board posters) think of you. Readers who trash your books or your weblog on a public discussion board have every right to do so -- remember the double standard, you have to respect whatever they write at all times -- but don't waste valuable time by responding to them. These are not your readers, and you don't want them as your readers.

Your readers write to you directly, and the really great ones often end up helping to steer your career by saying things like, "Would you make those vampire stories into a novel?" or "I would kill to read the next StarDoc book, can I write to your publisher?"

Your readers will complain, but it's a different kind of complaining. It's real, and it's about the books, not you. Sometimes it's reasonable and occasionally insightful. Sometimes it's useless. Thing is, they're communicating because they care about your characters (like everyone who has written to me begging me to kill Reever off, immediately, in some spectacularly gruesome way.)

You have an impact on their lives, too. Often books are the only pleasure your reader gets out of life. Think about that. They collect your novels and display them with pride. They really do tell all their friends to buy your books. They harass book store clerks three days before a laydown date to get cartons opened so they can have the first copy of your latest release. They send you holiday and birthday cards (that's my definition of a truly devoted reader -- when they care about your birthday.)

Readers tell you when they've had a baby, found a job, or lost a spouse. They name their kids after your characters (want to know how many little girls out there are named Cherijo now?) They tell you when they're sick, and when the hope dwindles. Once in awhile you get a note from a family member to tell you how much the letters you wrote and books you sent meant, and how you gave that reader a little pleasure all the way until the end.

Compare these readers to the ones who bitch about your weblog or trash your work. Who really deserves your time and attention? It's a no-brainer, ladies.

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