Just a few days ago, I received an email from a reader who wanted me to know that she was throwing my book in the trash. I’d offended her, somehow, and she wanted me to know it. I thanked her for her feedback, like I would thank a friend.
When I first started getting published, that kind of reader email would have thrown me for a loop. I would have felt hurt or misunderstood or defensive. Probably…all three. And my already shaky confidence about my writing ability would go off-kilter, not unlike a wobbly spinning top.
Years later, with a few books under my belt (and lots of reader emails—mostly good but some not-so-good), my perspective is entirely different. That reader cared. I admire that! I don’t agree with how she communicated her outrage, but I genuinely appreciate her feedback. And respect her feelings.
This author gig can feel like you’re standing in front of the world in your underwear. Your imagination is on display, open to public opinion. Being exposed, feeling vulnerable…it’s part of the package. While I’m not saying that an author has to accept every reader email as correct (after all, they’re just opinions), benefits come from not taking reader emails too personally. Not even the glowing ones, the ones writers print out and keep in a file to re-read on a bad day. Here’s the thing: if we believe the negative remarks as gospel truth, then we have to believe the positive ones. And those, too, are just a reader’s opinion.
Better still is for the author to realize that, in those reader emails, the tables turn for a brief moment. The reader now becomes vulnerable to the author. A reader is revealing her imagination: how much she cares about a book, its characters, theme and plot. Good or bad, savoring a book or tossing it in the trash, the fact that a reader bothers to track an author down and let her know how she feels about it is a gift…if only because she cares enough to do it. That reader deserves a thank you, like to a friend.
Like a Thank You to a Friend Suzanne Woods Fisher (Click to Tweet)