Over at Miss Snark's blog, there's an interesting debate in the comment trail about her link to Robin McKinley's rant about reader mail. Since I had to squash my compulsion to send yet another comment, I felt I better take my stirred-up feelings and stick 'em on my blog.
I'm not saying that authors are obligated to respond to reader mail. But to denounce it, in the way Robin McKinley does, seems the epitome of ungratefulness.
It's a cliche, but it's true: don't bite the hand that feeds you.
I don't know why my feelings are so stirred up about this. I TREASURE my reader mail. I can't understand why anyone would rant about it, publicly. Yes, sometimes I'll get an email that I'll share with DH, and we might laugh. Or we might say, Ick! Does he think I'm a prostitute because I write erotica? But I would NEVER publicly denounce it, and the fact of the matter is, I LOVE it when my readers write me.
To put down a reader because she didn't research your married name? Whether you're a Mrs. or a Ms.? To put down readers for writing you at all? To put down readers for misspelling your title? Getting the name of a character name wrong?
Give me a break!
My opinion? If a reader writes you, say thank you or shut up. But what sense does it make to insult your readers??? And publicly, even? That's just beyond me.
And if you don't have time to respond to mail, just don't. Or send a form letter. But to insult them? I just don't get it!
One commenter said that an author doesn't owe a reader anything. To that, I say that readers provide your income. They don't owe a reader anything beyond the book, but I would go one step further and say that I hold a human being responsible for being kind to a human being who is looking up to them. The author doesn't have to do anything, doesn't have to respond, doesn't have to do any favors. But they can at least be kind and NOT bite their heads off. Another commenter fretted that an author shouldn't have to put on a public persona, shouldn't have to be polite to their readers.
I'm not asking anything of the authors I read. I allow them their moments of humanity. Publicly posting a rant on your webpage--not blog, where it's fine to slip, IMO--is not a moment of humanity. It's not losing your temper, and it's not saying that writers aren't human beings.
I'm saying that I hold authors to the same standard I hold every other single human being. When someone tries to be nice to you, or someone compliments you, no matter how annoying it is to you, you don't rant at them!
Life sucks. We all, in all our jobs, have to 'act' a certain way to stay in our jobs. We all have to do our fair share of nodding and smiling while we're annoyed inside. Being a writer isn't any different.
I haven't written many authors in my life. Now that I've joined a few organizations, I'll pop congratulations on the list for the things that they announce. It's the polite thing to do when someone announces good news, at least the way I was raised. Actually, I sent a brief, two-line email to JA Konrath once, and I believe that's the only mail I've sent to an author, except for friends who are authors. I tell them how much I enjoyed their stories in our regular chat, you know? That doesn't quite count.
But I've received plenty of email. Some people send me paragraphs about their relationships, and their hopes and dreams. Dear goodness to heaven, that's something to be treasured, not ranted about! Yes, readers have asked me to read their stuff. I'm flattered they asked. I almost always have to say no, but I'll be damned if I don't put in a very sincere thank you. And yes, some readers have asked me to do some very inappropriate things. (I write erotica; comes with the territory.) Again, they bought my novella. I can say a firm no, and thank them.
I guess I can be grateful that I don't have to put on a public persona in order to be appreciate and flattered that a reader writes me.
Because I treasure reader mail so much, I recently told myself that I should pop a thank you card in the mail when I'm particularly touched. Or send a quick email. But now I'm re-thinking that. What do you think?