Do you have a favourite author? Have you ever thought about meeting with, or speaking to them, and discussing their books? Perhaps you’d like to ask them for more detail on a character, or find out what inspired a scene, or share your opinion of the ending?
When I was a teenager, my mother published five children’s books with the Irish publisher Poolbeg. It was a very exciting time. I remember the day the editor phoned her to tell her she would like to publish her first book. We were sitting at the dinner table eating lunch, and my father didn’t believe that the phone call was genuine. I used to help her with her books – listening to her ideas, typing her handwritten manuscript into the computer, helping her going through the proofs before publishing. I got to go to her book launches and book signings. I got to meet other authors and – best of all – lots of free books!
The two instances from that period of my life that really stick in my memory were when my mother got direct feedback from her fans. This was before the internet and Amazon, there was no Goodreads or blogs to look up. The first instance was when I was sick (I was always sick as a child) and my mother was sitting with me as I lay in bed. We’d set up a tiny black and white portable television in my bedroom, and we were watching an Irish kid’s TV show called Jo Maxi. They had three or four children on to review books, and I remember watching without much interest, until one little girl held up my mother’s book. I looked at my mother, I think we both held our breath. Were we seeing things? The little girl proceeded to give a glowing review of the book, and the segment ran over time because of it.
I can’t be sure, my memory may be faulty, but I think my mother and I bounced up and down on the bed for about an hour after seeing that. We kept on pinching each other, not quite able to believe it was true. My cheeks hurt from smiling.
The second instance was when my mother got her first fan letter. It arrived at our house via the publisher. I think it was written on pink paper (again, my mind may be embellishing things) and it was a simple, heartfelt letter from a young girl thanking my mother, and letting her know how much she loved her books. It meant a lot to me, but I know it meant a lot more to my mother.
There are many ways to let an author you love know that you love them. You can write them letters, connect with them on social media, send them emails. I would love to have written to J.R.R Tolkien, and by all accounts he was a star at writing back to fans, but until recently I was shy about contacting authors I love. Why? Because I thought they wouldn’t want to hear from me, that they’d be too busy, and swamped with correspondence, to care what I thought about them.
But that’s not true.
We are fortunate to live in an age when it is very easy to connect with people. If you love an author, write to them! They will love to hear from you, even if you never hear back from them. But there is something else you can do for them to thank them, and show them you appreciate their work.
Leave a review.
Writing a review of a book on a website, or on Goodreads or on a blog isn’t just to let others know about the book (although it is a great way to spread the word, and I like to read the reviews before I purchase a new book from an unknown author), it also is a way to thank the author for writing the book, for sharing it with you, and is a way that you can give something back to them in return. Even if you didn’t like the book, your feedback can help an author see how their work is being received, and what people don’t like about it.
I am making a big effort to leave a review of every book I read once I’ve finished it. I usually only leave a few sentences – what worked for me, what didn’t work, and why I think other people should read it (or not). I want to thank authors for sharing their book with me.
Do you leave reviews? Do you read reviews and find them helpful? What ways have you tried to get in touch with favourite authors, and have they worked? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.