Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Friday, 12 April 2013

Mark Edwards - Author Guest Post - Relationship between writers and readers

I am delighted to welcome crime fiction author Mark Edwards to the blog today! 

Mark has written a guest post all about the relationship an author has with their readers - would love to know your thoughts about this.

I Want You to Shout it from the Highest Mountain Top…

a guest post by author Mark Edwards

Recently, this meme sprung up on the web and was shared and commented on by numerous writers.

Entitled ‘The Care and Feeding of an Author on Amazon’ it asks readers who have enjoyed a book to share it on social networks, write a review and like it on Amazon. The idea is that by doing this you help to keep authors whose work you have enjoyed ‘fed’ so they will and can write more books for you to enjoy.

This made me think about my own relationship with my readers and what we writers expect from the people who enjoy our books, and vice versa. Of course, ‘expect’ is a strong word. It’s more what we would like to happen. Or rather, seeing as we writers are a needy bunch who crave praise like vampires crave blood, it’s what we would love to happen.

Until recently, readers had little access to the writers whose books they read, and little opportunity to share their opinion of their books. Cast your minds back to the mid-nineties, before Amazon was founded, long before Facebook and Twitter existed. Back then, a book would be published, the writer might go on a tour of bookshops and festivals, and very keen fans might write letters using these antiquated tools called paper and pens. Apart from encounters at signings and the occasional receipt of a letter, the only feedback writers received was from professional critics and their mums.

Then, as now, the most powerful marketing tool was word of mouth. Back then, it was really was passed from mouth to ear. Most of the books I read in my teens had been recommended to me by friends or family, or because I’d read about them in a magazine or paper. You recommended a book to one person at a time rather than tweeting about it to your thousand followers.

When I walked into a bookshop to browse the shelves, I had to trust the blurbs on the back of books. I had no way of knowing what the masses thought about this book in the way I do now, when I can skim the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, or Google bloggers’ reviews. 

The internet changed everything for books and writers. Now, we writers are available 24 hours a day for readers to chat to. Most of us have websites, Facebook accounts, Twitter, Goodreads… We are easy to reach and communicate with. I personally respond to every reader who contacts me or tweets about one of my books, usually within hours or minutes.  On the Louise Voss and Mark Edwards Facebook page, I chat with readers every day. For me, it’s a hugely enjoyable part of being a writer.

Then there is that double-edged sword: the Amazon/Goodreads review. Now anyone can express their opinion – it’s like walking into that old-fashioned bookshop and finding thirty people standing by each book telling you what they thought about it. For writers, this is scary. When you notice that your review count has changed, you scroll nervously down the page, eyes half-averted, to see whether it’s a five-star winner or a one-star stinker, ecstasy or agony following.

Apart from the effect of all this on writers’ egos, and how much easier it is to contact authors, social media and reviews have a strong practical effect – and can make the difference between whether or not a book is a hit. There are so many books published every week, both traditionally and self-published, that getting noticed is a huge challenge. Most books vanish without trace, including many great books, because most readers don’t know they exist. It is not true that cream always rises. Yes, a book needs to be good – to connect with a lot of people – in order to break out, but the hard part is letting people know it exists.

This is why Sherry Snider, the creator of ‘The Care and Feeding of an Author…’, put together that graphic. Because she understands, as an author herself, how much we writers need our ‘fans’. If you don’t have a huge marketing budget, you are completely reliant on people spreading the word for you. So every good review, every tweet, every Facebook share, every face-to-face recommendation – they all make a difference.

In America, some writers have street teams – groups of fans who they ‘employ’ to spread the word about their books. They send the members of their teams free books, bookmarks, name characters after them in books, send them vouchers and so on, in return for favours, which could involve telling everyone they know about their books and asking their local bookshop to stock them.

Hugh Howey, author of Wool, has said that a large part of his success was being nice to his readers. He says writers should not concentrate on trying to get new readers but on nurturing those you have. This is a simple rule of business – your best customers are your existing ones, and it’s interesting to see a writer talking about his fans in such a way.

So what do you think? If you are on this blog, you must be a book reader. You must have favourite authors. Do you think that it’s fair for authors to expect so much? Do you resent being asked to share and help. Do you do it anyway? Or has this article made you think that you should do more to spread the word about authors you love? I’d love to hear what you think.

Many thanks to Mark for this very topical post. Please do share your views in the comments.

Mark Edwards’ most recent book is The Magpies, a psychological thriller about neighbours from hell, which is currently in the Amazon top twenty. If you have read it and liked it, please tell all your friends! Mark has also written three novels with fellow writer Louise Voss.


  1. Book bloggers fall into a grey area between the reading public and the professionals so I'm not sure whether I count as a 'normal' reader or not. I'm constantly talking about books I like - and those I don't - via FB, Twitter and our blog but often feel it's only other bloggers that I interact with.

  2. My non-blogging friends view me as some sort of book muse/oracle and I love giving them recommendations so word of mouth/text/e-mail still plays a big role. I think it's great that authors can now interact more with their readers as they discover which elements of their work particularly resonate with the reader. Of course, the author will hear negative feedback too bit that's life! Bringing the authors out of their ivory towers can only be good for both them and their readers.

  3. Very interesting post. I think its great that we now have interaction between readers and authors. I've bought so many books after seeing them recommended on here and Twitter. I've never clicked the "like" button on Amazon though - didn't really occur to me to but I will pay more attention now!

  4. I think it's great that we the Reader can interact with Authors now via the various methods available. Surely it's a two way street for both of us as it shows how much we appreciate you the Author and the work that you do. Being able to write and post our reviews whether they are positive or negative ones can only be a good thing especially if it encourages other Readers to by the books. I do use the Like button on Amazon.

  5. I love to share by word of mouth. I'm still convinced that this is the best way to find out about a good book. When you actually know someone and get and give recommendations. Book blogging only works if your following is loyal and connect with the types of books that you enjoy. If they trust you enough to actually buy the book.

    There is a bit of a grey area with bloggers/authors. I do get asked if I would do this and that for them. Post here and there. I'm happy to do it except.... I'm doing this all fr free. I think author's are forgetting that. They are being paid for their work {no matter how small} but I'm not receiving a dime. It wouldn't be an issue if I was a regular reader and I posted something about my favorite books here and there. But, with book blogging we're doing it with every book we read. Every single author wants us to roll out the red carpet and do our very best for them {and they alone}. I don't think they understand how much is actually on our plates. We do have other lives. We are busy. We fit reading in because it is important to us. BUT, they're asking more and more and more of us. I've had author's ask me to change my review a bit here and there on Amazon or Goodreads to help them. That's where it gets shady for me.

    We are busy just like they are. I think we deserve a bit more than a free book here and there. Even if it is just appreciation.

  6. I've never actually thought of authors needing our help to promote their book. Probably the main reason I wanted to start a blog is because I love to talk about and recommend books and my friends got kind of fed up of me badgering them. I've always talked about books on social media sites so to keep doing it doesn't feel any different for me. But really I've never felt like I'm doing it for authors, I'm doing it for readers. If I say a book is good it's because I want other people to enjoy it and share that experience. I'm hardly even aware of the fact that when I recommend a book I'm, in some tiny way, helping out the author. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing! Interesting topic.

  7. Hi everyone - thanks for your comments.

    Ellie's comment: "I've never felt like I'm doing it for authors, I'm doing it for readers." I think that's the right stance to take - it's that thing about how when you read something you love you want to press it on other people. As a reader (and I read a lot of books) I have always enjoyed recommending books to friends. Now that I'm also a writer, when I recommend books I do think about how it might benefit the writer.

    Here's something I'd like to know people's opinion about:

    These days, I would never publicly criticise a book, even one I hated, because I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end. I never write negative reviews because if I do, I could be damaging that writer's livelihood. We rely on royalties to pay our bills. Of course, if nobody ever wrote negative reviews, all reviews would be meaningless. But my stance is that if I like something I will tell people about it, and if I dislike it I'll keep quiet. I suppose it's the equivalent of Facebook's like button. I only rate positively.



Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. It's great reading your comments and I really appreciate them :)