I often get emails from people who like my books. It’s still a thrill, even with six books in print. Hey, I say to myself, this person isn’t even related to me—in fact, he lives three states away—and he likes my book!
Anyone who takes the time to thank an author deserves a special place in heaven. We are needy people with fragile egos (well, most of us) and sometimes that email from a fan is just what we need to keep going when the muse is slacking and the words won’t come; when we find our books on the clearance table and our agents don't return your calls. Opportunities for humiliation are legion. Kind words are treasured up against those days.
My favorite emails are from those who tell me my books made them into pleasure readers. How cool is that? Because for me the notion of going through life without books is horrifying. Because books changed my life.
Sometimes readers will write to alert me to errors in a book. For example, "I’ve noticed that Leesha has different colored eyes in each book. What gives?" Or—“what’s up with the two Christmases in one year?” If the error is serious enough, my publisher can correct it when the book goes back to print.
Readers email comments about what they especially liked (Han is SO hot!) or concrete suggestions about what I could have done differently, e.g. Why did you kill off my favorite character? (or, conversely, why didn’t you kill off more people?) Or, Raisa should dump Nightwalker.
They’ll tell me that the love scene at the end of the book should have been a lot longer. Or that I should have put in some dragons.
While I can't go back and change the book in print, specific feedback might give me guidance for future books. Of course, some people tell me just what they think should happen in that next book.
But sometimes I get emails from people who basically say, I read your latest book and it sucked. Or--I liked your old series but I don't like your new series. Or--I read your new series and liked it, but when I went back and read your old series, it sucked.
It would be easier if they at least agreed on which books suck and which don’t.
I’m not talking about reviews. Negative reviews can be painful, but at least they serve a purpose. Reviews are intended to help readers find books they might like and avoid the ones they won’t. A public service of sorts.
I'm never sure what I'm supposed to do with this sort of big-bore, non-specific negative feedback. I don’t expect everyone to like my books, but this is like telling someone her child is ugly and stupid, too.
I mean, it’s not like there’s gonna be a do-over.
Should I say I'm sorry? Promise never to write a crappy book again? Get all defensive and tell them that if they think it's easy to write a book, mr. smarty-pants, they should try it themselves? Look them up on Goodreads to see if they give everyone one-star reviews? Google the sender's name to try to figure out it’s really Harold Gallagher from third grade who always hated you?
Hit delete, eat chocolate and drink hard liquor?