The Art Of Giving Readers Power

Kind of a sinister title for a blog post, don´t you think? The Art Of Giving Readers Power– Sounds dark and highly controversial. Well, I can assure you this blog post won´t be dark but I can´t guarantee this will be a controversial free read. That will be for you, as a blog visitor or as a dedicated follower, to decide. Either way, I hope you enjoy this topic as it´s been something I´ve thought about for quite some time.

The Art Of Giving Readers Power

One would think that readers are silent, harmless human beings. They don´t have any sort of power because they´re the ones at the end of the bookish stick. Readers and book bloggers just read and sometimes write reviews.

 

 

Many have failed to acknowledge the fact that readers are actually the ones who hold the imaginary golden fountain pen when given permission. 

Now, I know what you´re thinking. And you´re partly right. But hey, it´s okay.  Just know that I´m going somewhere with this post. Back to the imaginary golden fountain pen wielding readers.

When I say ” when given permission” I mean when authors consciously include their readers in their writing process or ask questions on social media regarding a new idea.

Sometimes we see posts that look something like this:

“If I were to create a Hero who has a temper, would you see the Hero as someone who´s abusive?”

“I´m writing a book. What would you like to see happen in this book?” 

Of course, these questions could be seen as an act of kindness. Maybe an author wants to honor their dedicated fans by letting them pick a direction for the author´s story. Or perhaps an author has lost their writing mojo and needs a little inspiration. You know, that certain push to get things rolling again.  Whatever the reason- Authors are giving readers the opportunity to give their input. Is this is a smart move? I think it depends on from which side you´re seeing this. 

As an author, I can imagine that having a reader´s input is extremely helpful. 

As a reader, I can imagine the excitement when an author asks for an opinion.

All this looks like a win/win situation for everyone. That is… If one wishes to see it that way. Personally, I´ve tried seeing author questions on social media as something special but failed because I can´t stop wondering about the reasons. 

Why on God´s green earth would an author want a reader´s opinion? Have they run out of ideas? Isn´t that the worst thing an author could do? I mean, authors come up with a story and write it. Is it necessary to listen to the crowd? 

 

The Art Of Giving Readers Power

Authors are artists. Some are desperately trying to make a living off of writing. Some writers are barely keeping the dream alive while others are still trying to set foot in the business. Let´s not forget that it´s 2020. We´re living in a fragile time where it isn´t as easy to be a self-published author as it was 10 years ago. Readers certainly aren´t the people they used to be. Even feedback has changed. 

Book feedback in 2020 is either extremely good or extremely hurtful or the feedback doesn´t make a whole lot of sense. “I´m giving this book 2 stars because the ink on page 23 was smeared.” * sigh * Sadly, decent feedback isn´t as popular as the extremes, so they often go unnoticed or are immediately forgotten. 

There seem to be three main types of reading tribes. The ones who´re overly sensitive. The ones who´re fairly neutral. The ones we don´t know exist because they don´t hang around social media. A pissed off reader will do all they can to voice their disapproval. Negativity spreads faster than a wildfire in our community. 

Some authors tend to think they can´t afford to receive negative feedback as this would jeopardize book sales. They can´t take risks in an already hot environment. 

And that´s what it boils down to- Book sales. At the end of each day, the artist needs to make a living. In our world, it´s become easy to offend and trigger people with the simplest things. In order to prevent that from happening authors ask their fans/readers questions and therefore give power. It´s also about keeping the existing fanbase happy. 

I agree- Greater crimes have been committed. It´s also good to mention that not all self-published authors take this route. But isn´t it still sad that many do?  

 

“If I were to create a Hero who has a temper, would you see the Hero as someone who´s abusive?”

This is clearly an author who´s unsure about how their character will be perceived by their audience. The author is aware that abuse is a trigger topic but doesn´t see their character as someone who´s abusive. To avoid future backlash they decide to ask a reader, thus giving a reader power. Imagine the author has a little over 1000 online fans/followers. 100 are regularly active but only 20 react to an author´s question regarding their work.

20 readers say that the author´s Hero is, without a doubt, an abusive asshole ( without having met the character ). The author has two choices at that moment:

    Not create a character with a temper

    Make a note to include abuse as a trigger warning
You see, the power had already been unleashed the moment the feedback came in. 20 readers voiced their opinions. 20 readers were enough to change the course of a potential bestseller. 20 readers are enough to fill an author´s mind with doubt. 

And because this system had proven to be useful for an author they repeat it. Authors are then unaware that they´re allowing their readers to influence them. In the end, readers will feel empowered that they made a change for the better. A change that wasn´t necessarily better for everyone else. And the more this happens the more changes we´ll see with writers. 

Tough subject, right? 

Now, I know there are readers/fans and authors who´ll find this whole blog post appalling. There´s no doubt in my mind that someone is reading this right now, cursing me from the comfort of their homes, for even having entertained this absurd thought. And that´s fine. 

There are readers who prefer when they´re asked for their opinions to make their reading experiences as pleasant as possible. And, of course, there are authors who are all too willing to cater to their readers’ needs. Which is also fine. I might not agree with that, but okay. 

Still, one simple fact can´t be ignored- It´s all about money. It´s all about sales. The dream needs to stay alive. Whether it´s a question about characters, the plot, content warnings, or even about the blurb… I don´t think it´s the best idea to ask about these on public platforms for everyone to see and leave a comment. 

In my most humble opinion, I believe it´s important for authors to write about what feels right for them. Writers create stories for us to read. They challenge us with their thoughts and ideas and push boundaries. Authors aren´t out to destroy their readers’ wellbeing in any way. I have yet to encounter an author who wakes up in the morning and thinks “Today I´m going to fuck em all over so they end up needing life long therapy.” I don´t believe that. Just as much as I don´t believe any reader has a right to think that authors SHOULD write stories the way they want them to be. Creativity should be encouraged and celebrated. Not restricted. 

The Art Of Giving Readers Power

Reviews from readers are powerful on their own and should be enough to help an author make any adjustments ( if necessary ). Social media should be used to interact with fans/followers in a fun way. But that´s just my take on the topic. 

Nonetheless- I wish each and every author all the success in the world. 


What are your thoughts?

Do you think authors should ask for a reader´s opinion?

Have you seen an author ask similar questions on social media? 

Let me know in the comments below. I´d love to chat. ❤ 

 


Thank you for reading this blog post. I truly appreciate it.

Keep sharing the book love,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Covers- What Happened?

Book Covers

Book covers / cover images are the first thing we see when we look for books. Whether it´s while we´re scrolling through an online shop or simply combing the bookshelves in a bookstore- It´s always the cover that grabs our attention before anything else does. 

Let´s get one thing out of the way before I begin:

Book covers / images are a matter of taste. Everyone has a different idea on what is great or what´s eye catching.

Personally, I like book covers that hardly give away anything from the story. I believe a cover image should grab someones attention, not give the story away. A book cover has to make me stop dead in my tracks. I mean- it’s the first thing a reader sees, right? And if a reader doesn’t like the cover, how fat are chances the reader will buy the book unless they´ve been forced by a friend/family member to read the book? ( The power of recommendations. “It has a hideous cover but awesome story!” )

All this means- I judge a book by it´s cover. I know I shouldn´t. No one should, yet we all do it.

I love to see covers with lots of color / color clashes, unique symbols or anything that stands out ( eye catching, remember? ) Contrasts are also brilliant.

 I’m Amazon’s Costumer Of The Year. Alot of my hard earned money goes for books. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this devastating condition. But if you asked me about book covers then I’d have to say that maybe half of the books I own have decent covers and half from that half have AWESOME images.In other words- I find alot of book covers / images boring and sometimes questionable. 

While reading books from the Romance, New Adult, Young Adult, Erotica and even Horror genre, I’ve come to learn that each genre has their preferred book covers or colors.

Young Adult usually has some teenagers holding hands in a meadow ( colors are usually light ), New Adult covers are a bit more mature ( colors are more bold ), mostly showing some skin or a headless figure… you get the picture, right? We don´t really need to mention Horror covers because many of those covers are just down right brilliant. Creepy but cool.

Also, one has to see the difference between traditional published and self-published book covers. It most cases, self-published book covers / images aren´t done well. But then again- alot of traditional published books have horrible, tacky covers. I can’t really speak for trad-published authors because most of them don’t have a say in the matter. The publisher calls the shots and authors have no power over what cover will be used for their story. That all depends on the publisher and how tight the contract is. Some published authors are lucky and get to chose a cover image themselves. Very few have covers that are able to knock me out of my socks.

There are 2 types of book covers that do not grab my attention at all.  

  1. shaded, oiled torsos with tribal tattoos
  2. covers that look like every other cover

I can’t begin to tell you how many books I have that have black covers with some tiny animal, a key, a keyhole, pearls, diamonds or has some shadowed body parts on it. It’s a nightmare that will not end. 

It´s a trend, I get it. Still… It´s annoying. And when I see certain covers I immediately say to myself ” Uugh. Not again.”.

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( Those are only a few taken from my private bookshelf from only God knows how many )

Many would argue with me on the fact that black book covers aren´t an issue. They´re practical because they look good on a bookshelf, etc.  It truly isn´t an issue. It´s just nothing spectacular.

Then there are those covers with half naked, totally muscular, tribal tattooed, well oiled and well tanned, headless guys. In short- eye candy in it’s tackiest form. I stopped counting those covers because they’re endless. I know I know…sex sells and all that stuff…..but can’t someone stop this nonsense? Tribal tattoos went out of style a while back. Plus, I like guys who have a head. Hands can be sexy, too. Also-  I’m also not a huge fan of character covers, which is when the cover has a face on it. That ruins alot for me and I will ignore the book, risking the chance to read a fantabulous story. Why? Because a character image ruins my own personal image I like to create myself of a character. 

Another thing that brings my blood to boil is when there’s too much going on on a book cover. 

I once saw a cover that was in full color and had an oiled naked, tattooed bod, except- the lucky headless guy had arms and hands ( yay!) and those hands were holding a suit which hung from a coathanger ( I have never in my life seen a suit hanging from a hanger on a book cover before…NEVER) in the background stood the Eiffel Tower. The title- Caged. Can you imagine how confused I was? After taking all the images in I knew what the story was about. But the real question was- Was I interested in the story although I knew there was some godly guy in it, who was probably going to wear a suit at some point, paying the Eiffel Tower a visit? No, I wasn´t. Not even the coathanger was able to convice me.

My point- There´s no need to overload a book cover with dozens of images. That´s only confusing. 

Copying. It´s not a secret that many self-published authors like to copy. Which is fine. I´m the last person to point a finger at anyone in particular. Whatever works best for an author, right? Right. No wait- that´s wrong. Copying is wrong and often doesn´t work out well for an author who wants to make money. What worked for author A doesn´t necessarily have to work for author B. Many writers seem to forget that. 

What happened to self-published authors wanting to be original, standing out and making their book cover better than others? Any, if not all, want to make a living ( eventually ) off of writing, right?

I understand that cover designers are costy. And, yes. I´m aware of how prices are sky high. But they´re worth it. If an author finds a good, professional designer, and both communicate then nothing can go wrong. No one in the history of writing said it would be easy, or cheap. Unless writers don´t value quality and focus their attention more on their story. Then I´d say ” Whatever floats their boat.”.

Still, many don´t or are financially unable to take that path and invest in a cover designer. And if an author doesn´t have a clue what they´re doing when creating their own cover I´m 100% positive it will affect sales. Because, let´s face it- If I notice bad quality / a copied image then other readers will too.  There could be a chance people will ignore a not so great cover and read the story OR they´ll skip the book because of the cover. Who knows. I´m not an expert. But I´ve been watching this business for the last 10 years and can say that covers mean alot. 

I´m not out to ruin self-published authors. I´m not even out to diss traditional publishing houses for their often lack of taste in cover images. Just remember this before the next book hits the market:

1. Sex doesn´t always sell. ( Keep them well oiled studs in the late 90´s where they belong.)

2. Less is ALWAYS more. ( Be tasteful. Be creative. Be original. )

It may not be up to me to decide what cover image is acceptable for a book cover or not. After all- Cover images are a matter of taste.  But since I spend the majority of my money on books I can skip a cover that´s not original or won´t grab my attention.

My wish for the future? For writers to be more creative when deciding on a cover image. Or, invest in a designer. Although, I have seen a small inprovement in the past year ( see Colleen Hoover´s cover image for `Too Late`, for example. What a color explosion! ) so my hopes haven´t died completely.

( NOTE: A cover image alone won´t influence sales. Titles and excerpts play an important role as well. The cover is just what we see first.)