In this week’s edition of the weekly Writer Wednesday post, I want to talk about the concept of reader space and author space and the crucial difference between the two. It’s not gonna be a super long post, because this isn’t that complicated, and yet it’s something I see newbie authors get wrong. That’s because it’s simply something they don’t realize and the reason I know, is because it took me a while to figure this out as well.
What is Reader Space?
Reader Space is the term we use for a digital space that is primarily aimed at readers or where readers are the majority of our audience. Examples are most social media in general (Instagram, twitter, Facebook), Amazon reviews, Goodreads, etc.
What is Author Space?
Author space is the equivalent but describes digital spaces where readers are generally not “allowed” or are not there because they’re a reader (I’m saying this because most authors are also readers). Examples are specific author groups on Facebook, writers forums, etc.
Why Does Reader and Author Space Matter?
Here’s the hard and fast rule of reader spaces: don’t bring author business into reader spaces, especially negative stuff. Reader space is for reader business, meaning those topics that are relevant to readers, of interest to readers, that will help engage readers, etc. Author business does not fall into this category. And in case you’re not quite clear on what author business means, I’m talking about Amazon messing up stuff, disappointing sales/earnings, negative reviews, readers who keep returning books/audiobooks, etc.
As an author, what you do online is not your personal life. It’s your business, your professional life. If your writing is just a hobby, sure, do whatever the hell you want. But if you’re serious about your writing career, you’d damn well better be serious about your online reputation and image as well. EVERYTHING you post, share, like, comment on is a part of this, and readers are watching you. research shows that people prefer to buy from people they like, that they have a favorable opinion of.
Guess what, how you present yourself online influences whether or not readers like you. It’s not just about your books, the quality of your writing, your blurb (no matter how important), and your cover. It’s about you as a person as well, and for many readers, that means your online persona. Ask yourself: if a reader got to know you just from what you post on your social media, including your posts on your timeline, your comments on what others post, etc, how would they see you? Would their impression be favorable? Professional?
Keep Author Stuff in Author Space
We all have days where we get super frustrated and need to vent. Trust me, no judgment here. But when that rant is about author business, make sure to do it in an author space. vent in private in a Messenger group. Post it in an author group. Share it with your author friends. But don’t do it where readers can see it as well. It’s not relevant for them, and chances are, you’ll only frustrate them.
Are there exceptions? Of course there are. Sometimes, author business does become relevant for readers. But I think we all know the difference between drama and relevant information, between complaining and making sure readers have the information they need to make an informed decision. When in doubt, ask someone for a second opinion. How I wish I had done that a few times.
Let Readers Have Reader Space
An equally important rule is that you let readers have reader space. Don’t bring author business there, as stated above, but also don’t criticize them. The most important application is for reviews, obviously. Do not ever, ever, EVER, respond to negative reviews in reader spaces. That includes Goodreads and Amazon, by the way. Both are reader spaces, not author spaces. You can debate whether blog reviews are reader spaces, but I tend to think they are. So are rec groups on Facebook and similar groups.
Exceptions, at least in my opinion, are the spaces that I own or facilitate. In the comments on this blog, for example, I don’t accept super critical ones. It’s my blog, my space, and I don’t have to allow negative comments here. The same is true for my reader group on facebook, though I’m fairly tolerant there. I’m fine with people not liking one of my books, but I draw the line at being mean or personal about it. That’s my group that I’m hosting, so I don’t have to accept that. But if someone ranted about one of my books in another group, I wouldn’t dream of responding. It’s not my place…and not my space.
Before You Post
Before you post anything online, whether it be an update, a comment, a reaction, ask yourself this: is this reader space or author space and does what I’m posting fit here? Does this make me look professional…or not?