My Unpopular Opinion on Book Discussions and Author Involvement — and an attempt to explain it
So, I ran a poll about author interactions a little while ago. My images/results below were grabbed the week after it opened. I have had more votes, but the stats are still pretty similar, so I decided to keep it. I’ve come back to this write up/article a couple of times, and keep debating if I want to post it. I decided to go ahead and try to voice my side of this. I suspect from some of the responses, there are some that will not agree with me. But here it is. My attempt to explain.
I really tried to think how to best word my options. I found just wording my Yes/No question quite difficult (and still believe I could have done a better job). Pretty much it came down me trying to gauge if people think there are places that could benefit from an author NOT participating. But in a way that doesn’t make you feel like jerk for selecting it. Because I think anyone that is looking at genre sites and blogs is going to be both happy and grateful for the authors that take their time to interact with us peons. 🙂
I had already figured my opinion was going to be in a minority, but I was hoping it would be a bit closer than it was. Turned out to be about 70/30 split at the time of writing this follow up. Now what I find interesting is the second poll.
Here, you can see at least 26 people voted (not as many as the first poll, but I expected that some of the people that answered No would skip and let us assume they would select every option). But, only one option got 26 votes meaning that a number of people that voted No above, did not select every option in the second poll. That is fair game because my wording for the first was if you think there should be author free zones, and my second question focused on where you enjoy seeing authors interact with readers. Not selecting every option in the second poll absolutely does not change the fact they may still have a solid No answer for the above question. There is a difference between enjoying the interactions and believing they should not be there just because you personally wouldn’t seek them out.
But, I also think the answers to the second poll can highlight the reason behind my unpopular opinion. I have to admit, even in my own poll, I felt a bit like a jerk answering Yes, I do prefer some author free areas. But my reason for this opinion is absolutely NOT because I do not want to hear from authors. I do want to hear from authors. Just not in “all the places”.
This is because I also want to hear from fellow readers. And there is actually only one place where I hold this opinion strongly. Those of you that ‘know’ me won’t be surprised to hear that it is book club discussions. For me, an organized book club discussion works best when you get a diverse set of opinions and everyone feels free to comment on both the things they enjoy as well as the things that aren’t quite working for them. I want the positive and the negative comments to be able to be exchanged. And these opinions and impressions often evolve to something else as readers get further in the book.What I may say in the first week of a book club discussion may evolve to something else entirely by the end of the book. These are not the thoughts that I am ready to “share” with an author.
Also, while some people are perfectly comfortable posting less than positive thoughts on a book when the author is present, many are not. I have had several instances of people telling me they chose to not participate in a book discussion because the author was present. They didn’t necessarily have something negative to say either, they just felt awkward discussing their opinions with along side the author. Not everyone one on the internet is a blogger, not everyone on the internet is as comfortable voicing their opinions and thoughts, and it doesn’t take much to make them shy away. But I’d like to hear from them, and just having a separate Q&A outside the discussions can allow readers a more ‘closed’discussion amongst themselves can foster that better.
I DO want to hear from authors. I AM very grateful for the time they take to interact with us. I LOVE when they come and answer questions and gives us bits and pieces of their process and how their stories evolved. So, this is absolutely not about not wanting to hear from them or trying to exclude them. It’s about trying include readers that we might not otherwise hear from. It’s about being able to freely exchange and discuss positive and negative reactions that may evolve as we read. Its about fans having a little place to freely discuss a book as they read it. Yes, it happens to be in a place where the author can see, so I would hope the comments remain respectful, but once they jump in it turns from feeling like a discussion amongst readers to a discussion with/to the author. They are different, they get different participation and comments. For some readers, it makes no difference, and they will say what they would say otherwise. But unfortunately I know that is not the case for everyone.
So, there you go. My unpopular opinion, and quite a long winded way to try to explain. Pretty much: I do want to hear from authors. But I also want to hear from readers that might not normally speak up, readers that don’t blog and share their opinions as freely others. I want to exchange and discuss ideas, theories and opinions and see how they evolve over the course of a book with other readers as we journey together through the story provided by the author.