The Dreaded Question: Have You Read My Book?
One of the strange things about being an author is the moment someone recognizes your name and says, “I have your book.” My first impulse, often uncontrollable, is to ask, “Have you read it yet?” This can be particularly awkward if the person is someone I see on a regular basis, exponentially artless if it’s a social relationship. It’s similar to accidentally seeing someone naked, it becomes difficult to make eye contact when you cross paths.
I receive two reactions when I blurt out “Have you read it?” or “Did you like it?” Without fail, eyes dart, heart rates rise, and the fight or flight instinct kicks into action. This happens whether the person has read the book or not. As a reader, I’m not unfamiliar with the source of this anxiety. Reading is an intimate act. There’s no other activity capable of engaging your imagination in such a private space, well, no mentionable activity in any case.
Coming face to face with the author interferes with your relationship with a book. Even if you like a book, it can ruin the experience to feel pressured into an on the spot review. What if you hate the book? What if my book is one of a thousand on your kindle or the bottom in a stack of six on your night stand? Admitting to not reading it can feel as awkward as not liking it, especially if you’re someone I’m going to meet regularly.
I’m practicing a more sophisticated response. Something along the lines of a nod with a warm smile, followed by a mild “I hope you enjoy it.” Or maybe “I’d love a review on Amazon when you’re finished.” I’m focused on keeping it mild and inviting. I avoid direct eye contact, perhaps smiling at The Beard or glancing down in a deprecating way. It’s not my intention to put the reader on the spot.
I’d sincerely like you to read my book. I wrote it to be read. Where do I start but with the people I meet? Please, don’t feel flustered upon realizing you have my book and haven’t read it. Just read it! You don’t have to commit to any adulation if you have read it. Recommend it!
I’m selling a product, a product I’m proud of and hope you take delight in. I happily offer my postcards to anyone who asks what I do. Once you have the book, you don’t have to say anything beyond a nod and a polite, “Uh huh.” Feel free to avoid engagement. It’s easy enough to change the subject to the weather. You’ve done me a favor buying and reading the book. I am asking for a little extra, leave a review.
Well stated, JC. At first I was flabbergasted someone would buy my book and then not read it. What the heck?! But readers are as finicky as writers. We do or we don’t. I often default to “I appreciate that you have it,” when I encounter the situation you describe. Sure, we authors would love instant readings, reviews, and purchases of our next work. Small steps, I guess. A shorter fall from grace that way.
I have to remember, as a reader, I’m terrible. I imagine your house looks a lot like mine….piles of books (although now I just have pages and pages of book covers on the Kindle). Good intentions to read, but little time to devote to the act.
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