Mea culpa. I am guilty of this and I’m putting my hand up right now to accept that and change my position. I’m getting more than a little sick and tired of authors demanding things of their readers. Back in 2011, I wrote this blog post where I said such things as “You’re a reader and you have a new responsibility” and “it’s an act of true benevolence to leave good reviews of stuff you enjoy, or drop by websites and leave a star rating. You can write a single line or single paragraph review and copy that to all the sites you visit or shop at. If you do blog, then reviewing a book on your site is fantastic. But whatever you do, do something.” While I still believe that stuff has true value, the last part is bollocks and I take it back. You don’t have to do something. You don’t have to do jack shit.
I also posted a thing recently which listed all the ways readers could care for authors – it was a funky little infographic and had things like leaving star ratings at Amazon and Goodreads, reviewing, telling friends and family and so on. Again, all those things are great, but you don’t have to do anything.
If you bought a book, give yourself a pat on the back, because you are a fucking legend. You did all you had to do. Anything else is gravy. I do log all the books I read on Goodreads. I usually leave short reviews, and cross-post to Amazon if I can. I’m one of three contributing editors at Thirteen O’Clock, a dark fiction review site. But you know what? I really enjoy all that stuff. I’m happy to do it. But I don’t have to do any of it and neither do you.
I honestly believe that reviews are the lifeblood of authors. Whether those reviews are on a dedicated blog, at sites like Goodreads or over a beer in the pub with your friends, only honest word of mouth really works. That’s the holy grail of marketing right there. People talking up your shit is the stuff of dreams. But if someone bought your book, enjoyed it and never mentioned it again, anywhere, it doesn’t matter. They haven’t slacked off in their readerly duties at all.
Too often now I’m seeing things like the stuff I posted before, but it’s starting feel wrong. Where my intention in posting it was a genuine entreaty for mutual support between readers and writers (who are often the same person, incidentally), I’m seeing a more and more militant approach lately and it’s pissing me off. It makes the stuff I wrote before seem just as militant and I don’t like that. I don’t want to demand anything of my readers. Fuck me, you bought my book! I’m dancing like a freaking numpty over here, because that is the absolute top of the line result right there.
If you want to do more, like write reviews, tell your friends, even buy more copies as gifts for like-minded friends and family, then you shit solid gold and your breath smells like roses dipped in chocolate and don’t let anybody tell you different, because you went above and beyond, dear reader. You, sir or madam, are a diamond encrusted behemoth of a human being. Because you didn’t owe me anything. No one does. But if all you did was buy and read my books, you still have gold shit, chocolate-rose breath and diamond encrusted body parts, because there’s nothing “all you did” about it. You bought and read a book. You. Fucking. Rock.
So yes, I do still stand by the value of all those lovely things readers can do, but I retract any assertion that they have to do those things. Because it’s getting kinda creepy and nasty out there and the last thing we need to do is be creepy and nasty around our readers. Talk about taking a crap in your food bowl. Readers are awesome and that’s all writers really want – to be read. So buy the book, read it and hopefully have a good time. If you choose to signal boost that book in any way, you’re brilliant. If you don’t, you’re still brilliant, because you’re a reader. And you don’t owe anyone anything.