Obviously, these are not hard and fast rules and there will be some people who disagree with me, but in my experience, these are common sense things that each author will have to find their own way of dealing with:
You are going to get one or more superfans. It happens to everyone. There will be one person who loves every word you write, every cover you have and will get a little cray cray about it. Don’t let this boost your ego too much, because for every superfan there is the not-so-superfan who will hate everything you write, downgrade all your awesome covers and go all cray cray about that. No author can please everyone – people are so individual that what one person hates another will love and someone else will be a bit ‘Meh’ about it. That’s the nature of our line of work. So while you shouldn’t let superfans boost your ego, don’t let the not-so-superfan deflate it either.
Beware the subtypes ‘sockpuppets’ and ‘trolls’. See here for more info.
NEVER reply to reviews. This is my hard and fast rule, but not everyone will agree. I used to reply to individual reviews, when my first book came out and it was insane. Here’s why – there will inevitably be one person who thinks you’re being an egoist if you reply to them, on the flip side there will inevitably be someone who feels personally slighted by you, if you reply to someone else’s review and not theirs. There will, also, be someone who wants to start an argument and you may end up saying things you don’t mean or have them start calling you names that will then stick to that review like glue.
Whether it’s a thank you and a :D or if it’s to defend an accusation that your book ‘copies’, is similar to or reminds them of another book, don’t do it! I once had a guy compare my vampire book to a particular book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. I tried to reply and explain to him that I had never read the series or watched the TV show, when I wrote the book – it would have been impossible, I’d spent the last 10 years shopping my book to publishers, so it was already complete way before either became popular. He apologised because he never meant to imply that I’d ‘copied’ the work, only that if someone liked the Sookie book then they would like mine, except he realised he hadn’t worded it that way. It became a really uncomfortable apology chain – I apologised for misunderstanding, he blamed himself, I blamed myself. It got messy and stupid. If I’d just left it alone, it would have been a lovely compliment.
Different from individual reviews, there’s one more thing you have to take into account – each reviewer is a person on the other side of the computer screen. No matter what they say about your book or you – even though you’re a real person with feelings on the other side of their screen – you have to take it like a man and deal with it. You can’t go all Rambo on them and spread their review around Facebook, Twitter or your other social media platforms, degrading them. That’s bull and it’s going to make you look like a real tool to every author, reader and reviewer who follows your page. It should be common sense to not even jokingly tell the world it’s a bogus or unfair review or that you hate what they said, but believe me, it’s not. I’ve seen many people do the sly -name and shame the reviewer- thing, while painting a bright sparkly flower on the top. Example -
“Oh, this sucks, but I really appreciate their honesty’ when they’re blatantly slagging off the reviewer. Or the ‘How dare they say this about me? But funny, right?’ as if this reviewer is a total moron, who doesn’t know any better, who has provided you with great entertainment for the afternoon. This reviewer took the time to read (and probably) buy your book. They paid money to criticise your work or praise it – just as you do, to go see a movie at the cinema and then trash it or revel in it with your friends. For all you know, what they found wrong with one book, they might be willing to overlook in the hopes that your next book will be better. But if they see you trash talking their review online, what are they going to do? It doesn’t matter how nice you were about it, if you’ve inspired a few dozen people to talk smack about them and their *opinion* of your book, then they’re never going to read your work again. WORSE if you actually replied to their review, to tell them your *opinion*.
Notice the **? That’s because an *opinion* is subjective and different for each individual. Just like you wouldn’t like anyone telling you that you shouldn’t have enjoyed or found fault with a book you read, you shouldn’t do the same to others. You may think it’s a nice way to acknowledge their review, but it’s not. Everything you say on the internet is dangerous, because no one can tell what tone you’re using. Forget the cutesy emoticons. How many times have you seen a comment or status on Facebook and read through the bull sarcasm of the emoticon to see the truth? It’s super easy, so ignore these – ♥ ♫ ❤ :) :D :P ❥ Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ – as indicators of what you mean and instead use your head. ALWAYS say what you mean and ALWAYS be prepared to back it up, if questioned on it. If you can’t do either of those, then don’t say it!
You wouldn’t believe how often I’ve see this online. I may even have done it myself, without realising it. That’s why I always read my comments or status’ before posting them. Never post in the heat of the moment or when you’re at your lowest, unless you really mean it and are willing to stick by it, even when you’ve cooled down.
If you’re not sure what this means, it’s this – “gratify or indulge (an immoral or distasteful desire or taste or a person with such a desire or taste).” In other words, it’s when a person/writer posts a status or comment in a group or on their page, that is designed to gain attention and praise for their own work or for themselves. It is generally done by way of sympathy votes. An author or writer will do the age old ‘I’m crap’ or ambiguous status update, to have every reader, author or follower then comment and say ‘You’re not’, ‘You’re brilliant’. It’s an ego boost, for sure. And, it can be done innocently, without the intention of asking for praise.
Generally, however, it’s done on purpose. Especially in relation to the above. A bad review comes out, so you post it and do the whole ‘woe-to-me’ routine, by claiming the reviewer just ‘doesn’t understand you’. Then you get all your superfans and readers commenting on how great that book is, how the reviewer is talking crap and giving you a 2-3 hour ego boost, as you read all their messages of love and devotion pouring in.
Trust me, you don’t want to be one of those authors. For every fan who comments with praise, there will be one who realises what you’re up to OR who thinks you’re pandering on purpose, when it’s innocently done, and they will lose interest in following you. I’ve seen it happen many times and I’ve unfollowed an author or two, myself, who has done this continually, only to then mention a week or so later, to praise themselves and call it ‘humble’ when sales of their book skyrocket. It’s a cheap and lazy way of selling books. You want to be better than that – YOU ARE BETTER THAN THAT – and trust me, if you do it honestly and build your rep professionally that will pay off in the end. No one wants a kiss ass on their team, but even worse is someone that they have to praise all the time. It’s exhausting and you’ll soon find that word spreads – this person doesn’t want to collaborate on an author takeover on FB, this one doesn’t want you in their anthology…it’s not good and once you start, it’s really hard to stop.
I have only one thing to say about superfans – they will only last so long. Eventually, another great new author will come out and they’ll move on, or you’ll write something that they genuinely don’t like and they’ll lose interest. Very rarely will a superfan of one book be a superfan for life. Don’t believe me? Look at Charlaine Harris. She has millions of superfans, but when her last book came out, they all turned on her, because it wasn’t what they wanted or expected. Superfans can really easily become the non-so-superfans mentioned above.
Beta readers, in this day and age, are a MUST! With self-publishing, Indie publishing and traditional publishing routes, readers have a high expectation of their writers. Typos and grammar mistakes are a pet-hate of readers more often now than they used to be.
Beta readers take the stress out of releasing a book. Yes, they create more work and sometimes they be as much a pain in the ass as they are a saving grace. I actually re-wrote about 50% of Decadent, book 1 in my series, because of my beta reader, Tracy. I’d been in such a rush to get my book out there with a new publisher, that I forgot to pay attention to what I was writing. Tracy helped me tone down my enthusiasm to get to the romance and to build the story. Decadent may not be a masterpiece and it may not be the best book I’ve written, but it was a real learning curve for me. Each book I write teaches me something and this one taught me to focus on the story and forget what I thought the readers wanted.
Trace is one of those ‘dedicated readers’, that I’ll mention below. Although she didn’t like Cormag, my love interest for my MC, she reader the book and was a gem at pointing out when it stagnated, when it flew too fast and when I waffled nonsense – which I have a bad habit of doing. But overall, she understood that I was still learning and that she was giving an opinion that I may or may not agree with. I didn’t want to change Cormag and I didn’t, in the final book, but she understood that and we’ve both agreed that he’ll never be something we agree on. So we agree to disagree and everything is great. She doesn’t read poly- or menage books, yet she read The Cellist for me, like a trooper.
Why do you care about what Tracy does for me? Because she’s the kind of beta reader you want. Read her interview if you want to get a feel for what a beta reader does. I currently have a team of around 10 beta readers. That will change, according to which book we’re working on and who has an interest in it. Those who don’t, might come back for a later book. I advertise that I’m looking for a beta reader in all the FB groups that are relevant to my genre – M/M romance. I also advise what I’m looking for, as I did with these:
(Feel free to use either of these, if you want.)
Ah…the Clark Kent of superfans. :) These are the readers who respect and appreciate that you have flaws. The readers who will read your work, but who will never 5 star your books, unless they deserve it. They are the kind of reader who may not read every book you release, but when they do, they will give honest and fair critique. They will share your releases, whether they want to read them or not and they will be there when you’re in the midst of writer’s block and urgently need advice.
There is only one thing to do with a dedicated reader: