Saturday, August 24, 2013

The tools of the trade

You'd think writing a book would be the hardest part about being an author. Don't get me wrong, it isn't easy. You can't turn ideas on and off like a light switch. Sometimes words simply won't flow and you're completely blocked, staring in disgust and helplessness at a blank screen or an idle cursor hanging from an unfinished sentence. Writers never have to fumble for the backspace key. We know exactly where it is. Slapping that puppy is like breathing for us. Hopefully we don't have to hold it down for very long. Oftentimes we do. Then there's all the research we put into our books. Do we have the jargon down? Are the details meshing and accurate? Is this character's reaction appropriate given the situation? Can they move this way or that while in certain positions? When was such and such invented? A good writer will turn over all kinds of things in their minds, and on paper, to work out continuity and make a story believable and their characters emotions resonate with the reader. Unfortunately, all this is only half the battle.

Reaching our target audience is much more difficult. Publishers abound and each is putting out their own titles, not to mention all the self-published books hitting the retailers every week. We're all trying to be heard, noticed, and discovered by a finite population of readers. Writers are also heavy readers so they understand how overwhelming it can be simply looking at all the new releases, let alone the back lists of individual authors. Where are those readers we want and need to connect with? Amazon offers some reading communities as does Facebook, but a blitzkrieg of nonstop promotion can turn off even your most stalwart fans. Then there's Goodreads.

In truth, I'd never even heard of Goodreads until I began submitting my stories around. It was suggested that I get over there, set up a profile where I could interact with other authors, join groups, and meet readers. It was also a wonderful avenue to garner much needed reviews. Sadly, as with anything else, the lofty purpose of Goodreads has been sullied and a lot of authors simply refuse to use it. I think that's sad and unfortunate, for everyone, but I understand.

There's been a lot of outrage recently about the misuse and abuse of authors and their work on Goodreads. I've read some of the related blogs and if the latest events related are true, this is a very black mark on the service, especially if they don't revise their policies to prevent further abuse.

What can be done to ensure people don't misuse Goodreads and those who rely on it to reach out on both a personal and professional basis?  Personally, I'd love it if Goodreads required a review whenever a reader wants to dole out stars. How hard is it to back up your rating with a relevant review? You don't have to write a book report to stand behind your stars.

Of course that won't help weed out bad reviews -- and it shouldn't. Some honest criticism is warranted, but at least people would be able to tell when a reader's picked up the wrong book for their tastes when they rip it to shreds -- provided they wrote something.

Writers bend over backwards to share details about their books with potential readers so their work falls into the appropriate hands. We share snippets, teasers, excerpts, even entire chapters all meant to help make it easier for readers to make the right selections for them.

Ideally, Goodreads is a place where people from all over can connect and engage with one another over something we all love -- books. Some of us write them. All of us read them. I sincerely hope the misuse and abuse by some members of Goodreads is reined in because it has tremendous potential to serve the book loving community, even if it has fallen short on occasion. It would be nice to see Goodreads return to the invaluable resource it was meant to be.

Civility and respect is a wonderful place to start.
- Tara Mills

1 comment:

  1. I'm building up an account on Goodreads to reflect what I've already read and having to write a comment or two on the books I'm adding would be too much. I would agree that if you make the effort to add a book to the 'currently reading' shelf, you should be encouraged to comment more, but then again not everyone who reads wants to give feedback. Many people prefer to be more passive. I certainly do my best to write a mini review of my friends' books when I read them, but I have an inkling to write too and would hope that others would do the same for me!