Let me preface this post by emphasizing that it isn’t about any specific individuals, okay? Are we cool? Good. I’m part of several author groups, and these behaviors are things I’ve heard from pretty much every writer I know – and some I don’t. When I sat down and made this list of 3 Ways To Crush An Author, I wasn’t thinking “Oh, so and so does this. And so and so does that!” However, if while reading this you do happen to recognize yourself, don’t shoot the messenger. Because most, if not all, of these things aren’t done deliberately. The majority of friends and families of authors don’t set out to make those authors feel as worthless and ridiculous as a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of a shoe. Most people don’t want to crush an author’s spirit. The majority of the time it’s completely inadvertent. So if you do happen to recognize yourself here, don’t start jumping up and down and get all hot under the collar. Instead, resolve to do things a little differently from now on for your author friend.
3 Ways To Crush An Author
Don’t buy the author’s books. And for the love of God, don’t sign up for their newsletter. I mean, that one email a month from them is really gonna cramp your style, right? I can’t count the number of my author friends who are bewildered by this. Friends will say, “I really can’t afford it right now” while holding a $6 cup of coffee, or have just posted on Facebook that they’ve gone to see the latest blockbuster movie for the third time this week. Except for those by big name authors, most e-books are priced below $5. And most paperbacks are under $15. That’s one cup of coffee or one trip to the movie theatre. Now, if you don’t read the author’s genre, it’s understandable you wouldn’t buy the book. After all, you don’t go around buying books you won’t read. But if you do read that genre and you buy books by other authors who write that genre but don’t buy your friend’s book? Ow. It sends a subtle message that you don’t think your friend’s book will be any good. Crush.
A word about e-books: Not everyone has an e-reader, and we understand that. But did you know that you can buy e-books and read them even if you don’t own a Kindle or Nook or a tablet? Amazon’s Kindle Reader App is free, and you can install it on your laptop or tablet or smart phone. Calibre is also free and supports pretty much every digital book format. And for those with Apple devices, there’s iBooks, also free. There are more out there – these are just the three I came up with right off the top of my head. So even if you don’t own a dedicated e-reader, you can still buy and read e-books.
Don’t like the author’s Facebook page or follow them on Twitter, and if you do then don’t interact with them there. This also applies to Tumblr or Pinterest or Google+ or any other social media sites your author friend may utilize. I’m not saying you have to follow them on all these sites – pick your favorite and follow them there. Not sure if your author friend has a Facebook page (or Twitter account or Pinterest board)? Ask. Then hit that “Like” button and choose the setting where you’ll receive all notifications. Then help the author out by sharing her status updates. If you can click “share” on memes of cute kittens, you can click “share” on your friend’s author page posts. Same goes for retweeting their Tweets, etc. And, yes, I know that Facebook has gotten all shifty about showing updates from pages you’ve liked, but the more you interact with a page the more apt you are to see updates. Leave a quick comment. It can be one word, like “Yay!” or “Excellent!” or even “LOL.” It helps. It really does. But if you follow pages by your cell phone provider or your favorite snack food or your favorite television show but not your author friend? Ow. Crush.
A caveat: If your author friend is using social media for a continual bombast of posts/tweets/whatevers of BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK! BUY ALL OF MY BOOKS!!!! then it’s understandable that you’d become
homicidal seriously annoyed and hit the unlike or unfollow function faster than the speed of light. Yes, they’re going to mention their books from time to time, but if that’s all they do then Tell. Them. “Look, I’m trying to follow your page, but all the notifications are ending up in my spam folder. You’re so funny/interesting/smart/[insert appropriate adjective here] that I know you have more to talk about than that, right?” Or if direct confrontation isn’t your style, gift your author friend with a copy of Kristen Lamb’s book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. Tell your friend you’ve heard it’s an invaluable resource for authors today (and you won’t be lying because I’m telling you now that it’s an invaluable resource for authors today!) and hope they read it and learn how to effectively use social media. If they don’t? Well, then, you’re completely justified in not following them. They may be your friend, but that doesn’t give them the right to spam you.
Get wounded and/or annoyed when they tell you they’re working. Most authors, even those whose books have been traditionally published, aren’t making their living by writing. Yet. It’s their ultimate goal, but until that happens they have other jobs during the day so they can pay their bills. And they have families who expect to be fed and watered at regular intervals, too. So your author friend must cram her writing into her lunch hour, evenings after the kids are in bed, and on weekends. When you call her during those times with an impromptu invitation for lunch, a movie, a ballgame, a shopping trip, or even just to chat, there are times she’ll tell you no. Getting all huffy and offended makes her feel even worse, and it tells her that you don’t take her writing seriously. Does she phone you at your job and expect you to drop everything and walk out of the building to go to the movies with her? (If she does, then that’s a whole ‘nother beast right there.) Talk to her and ask what are the best times to call for a chat. Make plans well in advance so she can schedule them in. Your author friend wants to spend time with you, but if she’s on a deadline or if the words are really flowing then she’s working right then. Working. This also goes for authors who don’t have a second job. If the phone goes unanswered, or if she doesn’t reply to your text or email right away, understand that she’s working. But getting ticked off because “you can write anytime” with the unspoken like any other hobby, then ow. Crush.
A note for spouses of authors: Little help here, huh? It won’t kill you to clean up in the kitchen after dinner every now and again. And how about overseeing the kids’ bathtime a couple nights a week? If the phone rings while your spouse is writing, it’s perfectly okay to say, “No, she can’t talk right now” instead of tracking her down, handing her the phone and mumbling, “Here; they want to talk to you.” And what’s with turning on the television at top volume when you can clearly see she’s writing? That’s the equivalent of patting her on the head and saying, “Aren’t you cute with your little book?” I’m not saying you have to forego your favorite television programs, but you can set up that guest bedroom, or corner of the dining room, or anywhere out of the way as an office for your writing spouse, right? A desk or table or even just a comfortable chair where she can write without interruption. Authors need their spouse’s support more than anyone else’s, and if you’re not giving it then shame on you.
And here’s a 3.5 – writing a review if you liked the book. I’m ambivalent about adding this one, because I don’t buy books based on reviews. If I like the blurb (book’s description) I’ll buy it. Before I became a published author I never wrote a review because I didn’t realize that it’s become important for a book to have reviews from readers. But Amazon has pretty much made a large number of reviews mandatory these days. Some book magazines and websites require a certain number of reviews before they’ll feature a book, and some sites won’t accept a book for an award nomination without them. And authors hate asking for reviews! I know that whenever I do it I’m left with this slimy feeling, like I might as well have been prancing around saying “Praise me! Praise my writing! Tell everyone how great this is!” Yuck. Yuck, yuck and more yuck. I don’t want anyone to think that’s what I’m asking, and so I usually don’t say anything about leaving a review. But, y’all, it’s the way things are now. So if you like a book, leave a review. You don’t have to write a book report. Amazon requires only 20 words. That’s it. And that’s all I’m going to say about reviews because, like I said, I hate asking for them.
What it all boils down to is support. If you don’t support your author friend, it’s crushing. While it sends us over the moon when people we don’t know love our words – and have mercy, it sends us into the stratosphere! – it’s mind-numbingly disappointing when the people who know us best don’t support us first. So show your author friend some love and let her know you’re behind her all the way. It’ll help more than you’ll ever know.
You can also lend support by following your friend’s blog. 😉 To make sure you don’t miss a post, you can subscribe to this blog by email. I promise you won’t get any spam or a bunch of annoying stuff. Just sign up on the right hand side of the page near the top!