Reader responses

When you write a story you have no control over how others are going to react to it. Sure, there are buttons you can press and levers you can pull to try and initiate a particular response but, ultimately, a reader’s personal experiences and preferences will determine their tastes.

We all like different stuff. People won’t necessarily enjoy what you do/write/compose/think/paint… Toughen up and move on.

That’s easy to say but I had a moment that really took me aback not so long ago. An adult reader smiled at me and said, “I started reading your book … but I’m not 10 or 11 so it wasn’t really for me.”

I was gob-smacked by her thoughtlessness. She was a family acquaintance of several years. I couldn’t care less that she didn’t like my novel. It was her attitude I found offensive. I almost had to physically restrain my loyal wife.

My response was to smile back and say “I’ve had readers as young as nine and old as 97 enjoy that story. But it’s not for everyone. Each to their own.”

Since joining the Twitterverse I’ve enjoyed all sorts of insights into how authors handle different situations.

Here’s a ripper from James Ellroy, courtesy of Paris Review (from memory) that talks about how to handle critics:

“If you’re confused about something in one of my books, you’ve just got to realize, Ellroy’s a master, and if I’m not following it, it’s my problem.”

Now you’ve got to like that sort of authorial thinking.

4 thoughts on “Reader responses”

  1. Yeah, I’ve been there too. My book – being a Dummies (yes, the real deal) and all, means that I’ve heard, “Oh I probably need something a fair bit more in depth than that, but good on you for putting it out there.”

    My personal blog has been written off by a family member as “I don’t have time to read blogs and yours has far too much swearing in it.” And THIS from an SMS-obsessed twitterer who rents 4 DVDs a week….

    I also review books occasionally for The Big Issue and Readings and always tread very carefully if it’s a book that I don’t believe has been written particularly well. After all, how many people actually make their fortune from writing and is denigrating a book for the sake of an amusingly acerbic review do anything other than be unnecessarily hurtful to someone whose achieved something just by getting it in print? Overly-lauded and commercial successful writers, on the other hand, aren’t spared any criticism and it’s not as though my views are going to dent their sales figures.

    Oh and I like your response to the adult reader!

  2. I am completely mystified that anyone could be that tactless. Aside from that, it was also a grossly ridiculous statement!

    Firstly, I struggle to think of a single 10/11 year old that would be able to comprehend Game As Ned. I place it regularly into the hands of 13, 14 and 15 year olds. (They LOVE it!)

    Secondly, Game As Ned may have been written for a YA audience, however, every adult I have given it to has gushed about how beautifully written it is and the fact that they were hooked from the outset and remained so right through to the end speaks volumes to the diversity of your books audience.

    Thirdly, as a Librarian, every single set of hands into which I have placed your wonderful book has thanked me profusely and asked if you have anything else they might read. I am delighted to tell them that yes indeed you will soon.

    Sigh. I dont know how you managed to restrain your lovely wife, I dont know that I would have restrained her AT ALL. Constructive criticism is one thing, but thoughtless uneducated tactless rudeness is quite another thing all together.

  3. Thanks Kath. I take a similar approach to reviews. If someone has invested the time and energy to write/create something then it’s not my place to attack it, even if it’s not to my taste. My opinion is just that – one person’s opinion. As for your blog, maybe you could mention how well it’s doing or that you have plenty of followers so family support is not required! T

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