Friday, March 7, 2014

The Author-Reader Friendship, by: Marissa Burt

Can I just say how much I LOVE getting letters or e-mails from readers?  Nothing brightens my day like hearing from someone who’s enjoyed my books.  Part of the thrill, I’m sure, comes from the way these e-mails soothe the insecurity all authors carry.  (It’s hard to send your writing out into the world to stand on its own!)  But I think most of the happiness it brings is in the discovery of a kindred spirit.  I sense this when I meet another reader who loves books that are favorites of mine.  Without knowing anything else about him, I intuitively perceive that he Gets It!  If she admires Anne, I immediately know we’re going to see beauty in similar things.  If he can get lost in the Wheel of Time world, we already have things in common.

And how much more so as a writer!  Perhaps it’s because authors spend several years creating a book-world and then continue to revisit the characters and setting during hour upon hour of revisions.  No matter how many drafts it has gone through, no matter how much it has changed: I love my story.  I love Peter and Una, and I want to visit the Land of Story, too.  So when I hear from someone who stayed up late to finish reading, I don’t just feel happy they enjoyed my work, I feel like they Get It. 

I love that the internet gives readers and authors an easy way to connect.  I think of myself as a middle-grade reader and how the thought never crossed my mind to contact the author.  I suppose I could have written them care of their publisher, but instead I hunted library shelves for other books they had written.  And hoped their next book came out soon.  What I would have given to have been able to write Joy Smith Aiken and tell her how often I read about Solo’s adventures!  Or join in some fantasy-world fan-forum and prolong the experience of reading beyond the pages. 

So I’m making up for lost time.  Having received those notes from readers, I’m making a point of letting other authors know if I’ve enjoyed their work.  Amazon and Goodreads reviews make it relatively easy to do, and sometimes I’ve even e-mailed directly. 


What about you, Mayhemers?  If you are an author, tell us what it was like to hear from a kindred-spirit reader?  And as readers, have you ever contacted an author? 

18 comments:

  1. Oh yes! Love this, Marissa. I never wrote to an author as a kid. But as an adult I've written many times to authors. They almost always write back and are so thrilled to hear from a reader. I also write to authors of picture books my little guy really loves. The Internet age does make it so easy to reach out - there's really no reason not to!

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    1. Oooh, I like the idea of reaching out to picture book authors. I agree - social networking makes other authors so accessible!

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  2. I've tweeted to authors a few times, mostly to congratulate them on a book release. I've also emailed and written to a few authors, which I was a little more hesitant on initially because I never wanted to impose. Yet, I've always received a very nice response.

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    1. I'm with you, Brenda. I still get nervous before sending an e-mail, which is odd, because, as an author, hearing from readers never feels like an imposition - it's so encouraging! Twitter definitely feels less intimidating.

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  3. I love sending letters/emails to authors, too. When a book really moves me, I feel like I need to reach out. Thanks for the reminder to be more consistent.

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  4. I haven't published yet but I love getting feedback on what others think of the cover and the story's plot. Getting feedback from readers is any author's dream and your enthusiasm is felt.

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    1. Agree! The thought that someone is actually reading one's work is always a bit astounding and definitely exciting.

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  5. To my mind, there is nothing that solidifies a friendship faster than discovering you love the same book.

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    1. Absolutely. And very quotable. :)

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  6. I'll never forget in the early days of T.A.A. when Project Mayhem's own Hilary Wagner stopped by when I did a blog post about a particularly horrid self-doubt phase I went through.

    I'd just started "Nightshade City" (Before "The White Assassin" was announced, so this was a bit ago)and I'd never had an author further along than me, who writes what I do, comment on the blog before.

    I'd always love to have written authors whose books I loved, but either they're not online (Yes, they still exist!) or they're so big I get too intimidated.

    I did once comment on Facebook to a musician I love and she replied back "Thanks" and that felt mind-blowing. Now that I've embraced Twitter (Though I still struggle with the character count!) if someone I read and love is on their I'm more inclined to send a quick message. Even if I don't hear back, I know now as an author myself that any encouragement we can get is appreciated.

    I hope I hear back from readers when GABRIEL comes out.

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    1. EDIT: "
      I did once comment on Facebook to a musician I love and she replied back "Thanks" and that felt mind-blowing. Now that I've embraced Twitter (Though I still struggle with the character count!) if someone I read and love is on there I'm more inclined to send a quick message. Even if I don't hear back, I know now as an author myself that any encouragement we can get is appreciated.

      I hope I hear back from readers when GABRIEL comes out."

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    2. In a lot of ways, the internet is the Great Equalizer, isn't it? I love the easy access it gives us to people in our field who are farther along the journey.

      Last year Maria from Sesame Street (Sonia Manzano) responded to a tweet I shared. It really wowed me. Imagine my three year old self knowing I'd someday interact with her! :)

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    3. OK, so I love that you follow Maria, and, yes, our preschool selves would be over the moon. So fun!

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    4. Taurean - Yes! Twitter is fabulous for this! And I love that you mentioned Hilary. :)

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  7. Well, I love Una and Peter, too! Visiting Story...well, could be scary... but here I am writing Marissa to tell her how much I love her work. And, yes, hearing from kids who love my books makes me blush and cry and feel like there must be some mistake and how could I be so honoured! I once heard from a parent saying his kids and their friends created their own Young Inventors Guild. It still floors me. Thanks for sharing one of the most important relationships in our writerly worlds, Marissa.

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  8. I loved this post, Marissa! I am right with you. I love hearing from readers--it is a uniquely joyful experience. And because of that, I've tried to be more vocal in telling authors how much I love their work.

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!