Recently, there was a big hubbub about bad author behavior. The author in question is a New York Times Bestseller and she told her fans she wasn’t their personal customer service. My day job is in customer service so I was so horrified reading her outburst. I want my readers to know they can come to me for any reason.
Last week at work, we had a three-hour presentation about how the five languages of love can be adapted to the work place to show appreciation to coworkers. I kept thinking about how this author dropped the ball on two of those important points. Quality time and acts of service were the biggest languages she fumbled with during her rant.
Not everyone feels appreciation in the same way. One person might not like a new pen with my logo on it, while another reader would love one. I took a quiz and learned the language I respond to most is gifts. I'm sure this is why I tend to give away a lot of swag.
I spent several days thinking about just how the five love languages can apply to the reader/author relationship. I hope I’m giving all my readers the appreciation they deserve in the love language that appeals to them.
Authors should show their fans love. Without book sales, an author has no audience and their stories just languish away. Readers deserve credit in the creative process. Without feedback (sales, emails, or social media contact) an author doesn’t know what she/he is doing right or wrong. My readers have helped my voice evolve. My readers have put food on my table; because without sales my income takes a hit (please don’t pirate books). I have developed quality friendships with readers. Social media interaction is wonderful, and it has enriched my life. An author who is pushing fans away is doing herself a disservice.
So how can authors and readers adapt these five love languages to the modern interactive reading experience?
Gifts: Do offer swag, signed free books, digital prizes such as eBooks, and Autography signatures.
Quality Time: Do go to conventions and online events. Facebook offers a great option for authors who can’t travel to attend real time chats. There’s always Yahoo Groups and Writers Space. Offer newsletters and don’t be afraid to tell readers about the reality of being a writer (without complaining).
Words of Affirmation: Don’t be afraid to like a good review. I thank everyone who reviews me. Bad or good reviews sell books. If a reader reaches out take time to thank them. You aren’t doing them a favor; they are doing you a favor. Even the biggest authors appreciate the people who bestowed celebrity upon them. Small fish like me are not even close to being a celebrity, but I appreciate every single reader for taking their time to try my work. Life is busy and taking the time out of the day to read is precious time. When you read one of my books, I know you’re taking a chance in dedicating your leisure time to me. You work hard too and not all authors realize the hours readers put into reading a book is a gift.
Acts of Service: Authors need to have a website with easy to find information. This allows readers to know what book is next in a series or when a new book is coming out. An updated website is easy to create and not very time consuming once the initial time is invested. If a reader reaches out with a question a prompt response is not just warranted, but it should be given with enthusiastic gratitude.
Physical Touch: I’m not suggesting anything perverse. I’m also not telling you to run around conventions hugging strangers. When you meet a reader face-to-face, a handshake might be appropriate. The world is full of germs and not everyone wants a handshake, so use this one with discretion. If you’re not well, don’t offer to share the cold, but if you’re fine and a reader extends a hand please take that hand and give them a firm handshake. They’ve given you the privilege of thanking them for all they do for you.
Gifts: Your purchase is a gift to the authors you read. Please don’t pirate books. If you don’t support authors by buying their work, they can’t keep writing. Each royalty check is a gift. No matter how skilled a writer becomes without people willing to buy the book they can’t support themselves.
Quality Time: Some authors don’t value this, as much as others, but most authors love reading emails and messages from fans. Everyone is busy, but if the author offers a contact page on his/her website or has a social media profile please feel free to reach out. Resist the urge to write a three-page manifesto on the mistake you found on page 147. I’ve heard of some interesting reader/author interactions revolving around issues like this. Mentioning it is fine, but do try to let the author know what you liked about the book.
Words of Affirmation: Reviews are important. Even if you buy the book second hand or from a local vendor, please don’t forget to go online and write a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads. Amazon won’t promote books with low or no reviews. Indie and obscure authors need this support the most. Don’t be afraid to be honest, but also try to frame the best of the book if you’re doing this to be supportive. Never feel obligated to lie.
Acts of Service: Street teams are becoming very popular in our connected world. Many authors will send you bookmarks and other small gifts to hand out to friends. Don’t be afraid to tell other readers about the authors you like. Helping boost an author from obscurity to massive success is a gift every author dreams their readers will give them. If you’re in a book club reach out to your favorite author. Many will even do a Skype QA. Given the opportunity, most authors love to talk about their books. We all have families and friends, but those people don’t love our characters as you do. My husband thinks I’m crazy when I talk about a character by their first name as if they’re someone in our community. My readers don’t look at me as if I’m crazy and that’s just one of the many reasons they enrich my life.
Physical Touch: If you meet an author, it is not wrong to offer a handshake. If you or the author look or sound sick, please don’t feel obligated to extend a hand in greeting because germs are nasty. If you know me from social media, I’m cool with a hug.
Every author is a little different. I’m outgoing and very open to reader contact. I’d have coffee with you anytime. If we run into each other in the big wide world please don’t be afraid to say hello. I make my public appearances known and I’m always looking forward to meeting you. I’ll even buy you a coffee and have a chat, so don’t be afraid to reach out and let me know you’d like that.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. If you’re interested in learning more about this concept, you can read the original book written by Mr. Gary Chapman in 1995 called The Five Love Languages. Here’s a link to his Amazon page.http://www.amazon.com/Gary-D-Chapman/e/B000APRF2Q