And this is where you say, “I don’t know, can you?”
The answer is — yes, yes, I can.
I read the discussion over on Dear Author, called The Hysterical Reader, along with all the pertaining comments. It’s a long bunch of stuff, which you can read (or not), as you like.
Well, I’d never tell other authors how to do their jobs and any attempt to regulate their behavior according to my standards certainly falls under that heading. But for me? That’s something I’d never do.
I’d never post an excerpt from an email I receive, good or bad, without permission. If I get a fan letter that’s particularly exciting, I still email and ask for permission to use a snippet on my blog or website.
I think it’s matter of trust, honestly. I don’t know if other authors feel this way, but I see readers as my customers, my clients. And if you work at Nordstrom, what’s the first thing you learn? The importance of good customer service. That doesn’t include using my ‘status’ to try and prove my own superiority.
The fact is, I’m not superior. I just write books. True, it’s my dream job, but I still find myself dazzled to have it. Perhaps that will change, the longer I go on. But I hope not. I don’t want it to.
Each letter I receive is important to me and I answer every one. Maintaining a good relationship with my readers is important to me. No, not everyone will like my books, but when I do get that sort of mail, I’ll write back with, “Thanks for taking the time to express your thoughts. I hope you’ll like the next book better.” Now chances are, this person won’t buy any more of my books. And that’s okay too. If he or she goes on to harangue me further, I simply won’t respond. I’ve acknowledged the first letter privately, and to my mind, that’s all I need to do.
Further, it’s all I should do.
I would never want to behave in a way that makes readers feel they can’t trust me. I want them to be sure I can be relied on to keep their confidence (not that I necessarily want to become a personal confidante), but I want to be seen as an ethical person, someone who wouldn’t share private information on impulse or because it might benefit me in some way.
I just wouldn’t do that, in the same way I wouldn’t kill off a beloved character on a whim. These are trust issues, and whether authors want to acknowledge it or not, there is a certain rapport that ought to be present. When authors consistently display disregard or disdain for their readership, it gives me a sinking feeling. Without readers, I’d just be jilling off by writing my books, a specialized form of mental masturbation.
And so it behooves me to treat readers with the same sort of respect I’d want to receive. I don’t get to indulge in hissy fits, at least not in public. Because I’m a professional, and I don’t roll like that.