Last week, I shared some pet peeves common among book industry people. (Except for a few that probably just bother me, but hey, still helpful information, right?)
Thankfully, very few readers fall into the categories I laid out in the last post, because people who love books are almost universally delightful. But there is also a small subset of readers who, as a publishing company employee, I especially appreciate. Read on for the ten things you can do to gain entrance into the elite, gold-star group of Bethany House’s Favorite Readers.
Defending an Author
Now, there are some people who are clearly trolling—saying something inflammatory just because they want to, and hey, fire is fun! Stay far, far away from those online conversations. Do not engage. Repeat. Do not engage. Over and out.
Also, this is not your moment to go all growling pit-bull over someone’s comments. (“I would never do that,” you say, but just you wait till someone calls your favorite book “sentimental trash,” my friend. Common sense can go out the window.) Remember, the person you disagree with might view the world differently than you do or just had a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day. And regardless, there’s a really good chance that person is, in fact…a person, and thus infinitely valuable and deserving of respect.
All that said…nothing warms my publicist heart more than seeing a reader commenting on a review or Facebook post with a thoughtful and gracious “Have you considered this?” reply. Especially when I really wanted to say the same thing but felt like I couldn’t.
This will shock absolutely no one, but sometimes I make mistakes. And sometimes another person on the marketing team makes a mistake. So, here is an open letter:
To Everyone Whose Copy Got Lost in the Mail or Was Sent Late, Who Got The Wrong Giveaway Prize or Never Heard Back or Otherwisely Has Good Reason to be Annoyed With Me or My Team:
I’m sorry. Really. And thank you for being gracious.
Because of my interactions with readers are sweet, considerate messages like, “I thought you might like to know about the typo on page 59 for future printings” and “If it’s not too much trouble, could you forward this email on to my favorite author?” and “When you get a chance, can you update me on the on the status of this?” All of that is very much appreciated by someone who has a thousand balls in the air and has never been a flawless juggler. (Okay, outside of the analogy I can’t really juggle at all.)
Supporting Your Local Bookstore
Obviously, not everyone lives near an actual physical bookstore, but if you do, make sure to stop in and buy there. Publishers and authors are thrilled about the access Amazon and other online retailers provide…but we also need stores to stay in business so there are multiple channels for books to get to the world. Plus, we like the people who own and work in bookstores—I’ve met dozens of them at author and retailer events and they are almost universally delightful—so we want them to be successful.
Commenting on Our Blog and Facebook Posts
I get it. Bethany House Publishers is more a vague-ish entity than a person, and it seems strange to have a conversation with an organization. Or, in the case of our logo, something that might be any one of the following, or a combination of two: book, flame, quill pen. (No one knows…take your pick.)
Since Facebook doesn’t show posts to most of the people who have “liked” our page, here’s one easy way to stay in touch. Go to our Facebook page, and under the “Following” tab, select “See First.” That way, you won’t miss the fun. (And don’t worry, I usually only post 4-5 times a week, so I won’t be spamming your feed.)
Then, if you see a question at the end of a blog post or on Facebook…answer! Engage! Talk to me! Otherwise I’ll feel like the lonely kid in middle school whose one friend was absent and she fled to the library so she wouldn’t have to sit alone at lunch. (Yes, that scenario is totally hypothetical. Totally.)
Beyond pity, it’s just fun to join in conversations like these. Readers need to stick together, and I hope we’re able to create a welcoming environment for interacting about all things bookish.
If this is not your thing, totally fine. Enjoy reading! Love the story and the characters. Post a simple (hopefully five!) star review and one sentence about what you enjoyed. Seriously, that matters, both to an author’s confidence and for things like Amazon algorithms—and hey, I see your eyes glazing over when I talk about boring things like that, but seriously, they keep authors in business.
BUT, that said…I have a soft spot for the readers who just clearly get it. They know what the author was trying to do. They explain, either at a book signing or in a review or to their friends on social media why the suffering in the early chapters was critical to redemption later. They phrase an insight about a book’s theme or characters so well that I learn new things. They pick the perfect quote to capture the heart of the story. It’s beautiful and makes me ridiculously happy.
This isn’t the opposite of what I listed above, but it is different. Maybe there’s not a single bit of analysis of how the symbolism relates to the theme or whatnot, but instead this type of review pours open the floodgates of reader-love emotion to explain exactly why you should visit the book’s setting right this instant, or how the cover of this book is frameable, put-above-your-mantle art, or why even if every other reader in the world falls in love with the hero, he is YOURS.
Super fun. I love it. And authors do too!
Obviously, social media has its downsides, but one of the huge upsides is that authors can hear directly from readers. I can’t tell you how much that means to all the writers toiling away at their next book. Your kind words might arrive at just the right time to make a difference.
So, I’m declaring today “Go Give an Author a Virtual Hug Day.” Go ahead. Find an author on Facebook or through a contact form on their website and send a simple message of thanks and appreciation.
(This is not a cutesy rhetorical device. Like, I obviously have no way to check on you and make sure you do this…but you should. Right now. Before you talk yourself out of it, because it really is not painful, and it will bring both you and an author joy.)
Getting Excited About Winning
Seriously, I love getting delighted emails from book or prize winners expressing their enthusiasm. And if you want to know about more giveaways, join our brand-new giveaway group! In there, I’ll only post about giveaways so as not to clutter up your social media feed and to give you a one-stop place to find out about where you can win free books. (And to those of you who think you never win anything…I’m with you. The only time I won something was when I pulled my own test email address from a BHP contest and had to disqualify myself. Which just proves that you never know what could happen!)
Working on Your Own Writing
I know we have so very few publishing slots open, as a traditional publisher with limited capacity and lots of authors who continue to be part of our Bethany House family. That can feel very discouraging to a lot of aspiring writers out there. But do know that we are for you in your pursuit of knowledge about the craft and art of writing. Even if we aren’t ever able to publish one of your manuscripts, every person who works at Bethany House loves stories and seeing them reach readers with truth. So keep learning and growing and writing!
Saying Hi at Events.
I love meeting readers. Not going to lie, partly because it makes me feel like a celebrity in front of my boss, but mostly because it’s fun to put faces to names that I’ve seen online. Also I like giving hugs, so there’s that.
So if you’re at an author event, the ACFW conference, the Christian Fiction Reader’s retreat, or any other reader place I might frequent, be sure to introduce yourself. (I’ll be at the Christian Fiction Summit in Grand Rapids tomorrow, hint to anyone who’s attending!)
Okay, readers and writers! Anything that you see fellow readers doing, in person or online, that makes you sure you’ve found a kindred spirit? (I almost put “Loving Anne of Green Gables” as a bonus item on the list, but I’m sneaking it in here instead.)