Okay, readers. Let’s talk publisher pet peeves.
Now, I know none of you reading this are the sort of readers I’m going to talk about, because you all love authors. I’ve met many of you in person and enjoy watching your enthusiasm for all things books, so no worries, your names are written firmly in the book of “Bethany House’s Favorite Fans.” Still, I thought I’d share in case you ever see discussions about some of these topics online. You can now contribute with authority on some of the major no-nos for interacting with authors and publishers.
Harassing Authors Online
Maybe “harassing” is a strong word, because I’m including not just spammers and stalkers, but also people who find the need to go directly to an author to air their various grievances. These include, but are not limited to: why charging for an ebook is highway robbery, why the author’s latest Facebook post was SUPER OFFENSIVE, and how they are unsure about the state of the author’s soul/eternal destiny because of what was written on the fifth page of chapter 17. Authors tend to be a sensitive lot, and messages like this can send them into an existential crisis, so I’d recommend ranting to your friends instead and only messaging authors when you can say encouraging things.
You know when I like pirates? When they are animatronic and part of a Disney World ride. That’s basically the only scenario. Frequenting sites that rip off authors by giving away their books for free is not only illegal, it’s maddeningly unethical. If you like books, logically you should want to support their authors so they can write more books. (Also, libraries exist and are totally legal ways of reading free books. Because we all know buying all the books we want would cost our annual salary and turn our homes into the library from Beauty and the Beast. Which, come to think of it, wouldn’t be all bad.)
Missing the Point
This one may be personal, but when I see a Facebook comment or blog post that argues something I feel is hopelessly off-base—like saying that literary fiction is the only sort with value or all romance novels are emotional pornography or that a particular book affirmed something that it really didn’t or that the fantasy genre was probably started by the actual devil—I get really sad. Like, I just want to sit down and have coffee with that person and ask questions and calmly exchange opinions and circle all of their logical fallacies with a big red pen that I stole from editorial.
Pitching Your Book to Us Online
So, clarification: I never mind when readers politely ask on our Facebook page if our editors will be at a particular conference or whether we accept unsolicited submissions (no) or if we publish picture books (not at the moment), and so on, even if a bit of research would have given them the answer.
But don’t be that person who, after being sent a link to our submission guidelines, chooses to tag Bethany House on Twitter, link to the whole manuscript in a Facebook message with an attention-grabbing graphic, calls our receptionist multiple days in a row, etc. It won’t work. We still won’t look at the manuscript if you don’t follow the rules, and it only makes a bad impression.
Although I do have a file of hilarious typos from pitches sent to me via social media. Like the novel I was sure was the Christian version of Jurassic Park when it turned out that the “book about the army after the raptor” was actually supposed to the be “the army after the Rapture.” Disappointing. Very disappointing.
Sometimes, due to trying to use the marketing budget or my time wisely, I just can’t open up a giveaway of expensive-to-ship items to international readers or send your book club autographed postcards or guarantee Dee Henderson’s latest novel will be published in Portuguese. If I say no, that really means I can’t, because I love saying yes, so please have pity on my people-pleasing little heart by being gracious and not telling me you’ll never buy another Bethany House book again. (Yes, that’s happened.)
Specifically on turning down requests for free books: trust me, if it was up to me, I’d be on a parade float shoveling out copies of our books to the waiting masses like they were literary confetti. I love readers and giving away books. But…I also love authors, which tempers my love for giving away books, because if I want them to make money and keep writing those books.
Burning Down a Library
Oddly specific? Yes. But on the last book tour, we stopped at a library where this had actually happened, and it made me so mad that I was almost shooting flames myself. (But not at the books in their temporary location.) Say no to arson!
That’s it for general readers. If you happen to review books (either professionally on a blog or informally on retail sites like Amazon or Goodreads), these next ones might sound familiar. Most of them apply with an extra exclamation point for those who are receiving review copies for free from the publisher or author.
I get the dilemma here. You picked up a book that you had every reason to think you’d like (see “Should-Have-Known-Better” otherwise), but you didn’t. It was boring or confusing or just not your style, and now the review is due. What should you do?
A. If you’re on a blog tour, ask if you can post an excerpt or feature instead.
B. Summarize the plot, say a few things you liked, and graciously explain the ones that you didn’t.
C. Talk about the sort of reader who would enjoy the book even if it wasn’t for you.
D. Rant about the book’s faults, insult the writer directly, or detail what you hated in painfully vivid terms along with supporting quotes.
(Hint: There is only one wrong answer here.)
Come on, guys, we’ve known since grade school that you don’t take others’ work and pass it off as your own. At Bethany House, we’ve caught a few people who get free books from us and then copy-paste a review from another blog onto their own. Nothing makes our marketing assistant madder, and you don’t want to mess with her when she’s mad.
Making Should-Have-Known-Better Book Choices
This doesn’t always overlap with the mean review, but usually there’s a flagrant red-flag that should have told the reviewer not pick the book up. Saying, “I hate this genre, but for some reason I hoped this book would be the magical exception” or “Every other book by this author has been on my Worst Book Ever list, but I decided to request this one anyway” is a clue that maybe you should’ve passed. Sure, if a fellow reader recommends “a romance for people who don’t usually like romance,” I get it. Or if an author is clearly changing directions in a way you think you might like, fine. But otherwise, it’s seems a little unfair to read a book you’re already biased against and then roast it in a review.
Reselling Review Copies
There may be different rules out there, but here is a fairly standard list of dos and don’ts when you receive a free review copy:
Totally fine: donating the book to a friend or the church library, using your copy for a giveaway, putting the book on your keeper shelf with large warning signs that even if it looks like you have too many books that is totally false and DO NOT TOUCH THIS ONE.
Not fine: reselling the book online, burning it (unless you’re snowed in and literally have no other fuel).
Why? By receiving a street team, influencer, or review copy, you’re signing up to help the author’s sales. Even if you end up not caring for the book, making a profit off of that free copy is both stealing a sale from the author and kind of just cheating.
Okay, that was all the negative stuff. Follow the blog (by entering your email in the box to the left under the list of posts) to read next month’s post where I’ll stop ranting and talk about all the delightful things that readers can do to make a publisher happy. Thankfully, there are many, many more items on this list, and more people who fit into them.
Authors and readers, do you have any pet peeves to share? This can include: treatment of books, infuriating comments, unanswerable questions, and anything else that disturbs your writer/reader peace.