Authors and readers need each other, so I like to think of the relationship between the two as a partnership. As we write our stories, we should always remember those who pay hard-earned cash to keep us in ramen for a few months. By the same token, readers need to let us know what they like or don't like about what we do. It can be done in a very straightforward, professional way, or the two can form a friendship on the side – just like you'll see in the business world.
How can readers participate in this partnership? First of all, thank you for buying our books. We appreciate you way more than the money you spend, even though we value that as well. What I like my readers to do, first of all, is to find a way to let me know your thoughts.
I want to see honest reviews on sites such as Amazon, Christianbook.com, or Barnes and Noble. If you love my latest release and leave five stars, know that I'm fist-pumping all over the place. However, if you don't care for something, please give my book the number of stars you think I deserve…and then tell why. Was my heroine unsympathetic? Did the hero's actions not make sense? Did the book leave you depressed?
Readers can also send notes via email or snail mail to the publisher. Most authors have links to an email address on their websites. However, if you are more comfortable with snail mail, please send your message to the address that you'll find on the copyright or title page of the book. Most publishers will forward these notes to the authors. Let us know what you like, what you didn't care for, and what you'd like to see in the future.
Authors need to take these messages to heart. Even though it's impossible to accommodate every single reader request, it gives me a better idea of who my readers are, what they like or don't like about my characters, and how willing they are to read my books in the future. I value my reader letters enough to keep them in a special file that I go back to read periodically so I can stay with what works.
One example of what I've done based on reader requests is add recipes when I mention special dishes in my stories. In Sweet Baklava (2011 release), I added a bunch of Greek recipes in the back of the book. One of my readers said that after she finished reading the story, she put it on her cookbook shelf. That made me smile.
How do you see the author-reader partnership? What else can authors do to make the reading experience more enjoyable? What can readers do?