Breaking Down the Reader/Author Barrier

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Nope, this isn’t a how-to post for authors. No tips or advice for doing this in your own work…and really, it has nothing to do with the act of writing at all.

This is simply a silly little ranting post of excitement on my part, and of course, I made a few connections through this excitement which felt cool enough to share.

Today I got an email newsletter from another Indie Author out there whom I admire quite a bit. I’ve read samples of his Supernatural Mystery novels and have them lined up on my TBR list, but it was a single non-fiction work of his which specifically attracted me. Not only did that book help me within some technical aspects of being an Indie Author, but it also greatly improved and widened the scope of work I’m now able to offer my own clients. Win-win.

Anyways, this email today offered a link for me to sign up to get a free copy of his next book coming out, which is essentially a follow-up to the last non-fiction work. Of course I signed up – who doesn’t like free books from authors they admire? And of course I got excited.

So excited, in fact, that I copied the tiny URL and wrote up this huge post about how awesome this opportunity was. I wanted to share with everyone I knew that free books from this guy could be had!

And then I stopped myself.

My overactive imagination (and admittedly sometimes over-empathetic daydreams) convinced me that maybe, just maybe, this author really didn’t want a huge sign-up list for free copies of his latest book going out to whoever I wanted without him having any control over it. The subscription form didn’t appear on his website to the public, nor was it mentioned anywhere else. And I thought: If I chose just a few people to offer this deal to, would I want them hijacking my subscription form to potentially override all my plans?

No. The answer was no. I’d be thrilled that someone wanted to share my work with the world, but if I’d planned something like sending emails out to current subscribers for a free giveaway, chances are I’d have planned specific next steps for it, too (don’t know what that would be, but I trust my future scheming).

So instead, I wrote the guy an email. I explained my appreciation of his work, my gratitude, how it’s helped me, and recounted all my shocking woes of halting the whir of excitement to consider what he may have wanted. And I asked for his permission to share it.

Yes, of course it was (what I thought to be) a hilariously witty written display of my experience of crazed share-mongering, and I threw in a few great lines I thought he’d enjoy reading. I’ve never met the man. Never talked to him. But I figured – hey! This email is totally something I’d love to get from an anonymous reader, and I’d be compelled to reply to something like this.

I’m not going to share any more details until I hear back from him (I’ve got a gnawing hunch I may look back on this, months from now, and slap myself in the forehead with a laugh of defeat). I anxiously await that reply, and I also know there’s a chance it won’t happen. Just because.

But here’s the connection I made through this that I thought was cool enough (at least for me) to be my post today.

I’d been compelled to write this awesome email about something I’m totally invested in, and then I realized that’s exactly what I want from my readers. And I check my email for his reply as eagerly as my readers await the responses from me. Woah.

There really isn’t any difference – there’s no big, looming, titanium-mesh-wrapped concrete wall between authors and readers. It takes just as much effort for a reader to reach out as it does for an author to say, “Hello! Thanks for sending me this, for reading and loving my work. Let’s chat!” (of course, taking into consideration the fact that said author may not write as much in reply as their fans do…or maybe so. Long-winded writers and all).

It’s not actually that difficult or weird to have written an email to another author, because I understand what it feels like to receive them. And really, the one thing we all share, reader and author alike, is the capacity to completely geek out on books!

To those of you who find themselves very much like me – not wanting to step on anyone’s toes, annoy them, or overreach some preconceived notion of ‘respectful boundaries’ (especially when someone puts their email address up there for all to see and says, ‘Email me!”) – just try it out. Send that author/entertainer/artist/public figure a message. Share how much of an impact they’ve had on whatever parts of your life get excited about their work.  Ask them questions, interact, offer something of yourself. It feels like a super weird, pseudo-stalker role to fill, but look at it this way:

You do what you do because you love it. So do they. How would you want someone to share that with you?

(I’m not-so-secretly hoping this author sends me an email even more entertaining than the one I wrote him. I want to be one-upped so badly.)

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