Writer’s blog: Stardate: 21.06.2013
It is my policy to comment on all the Amazon comments that my Romney and Marsh Files encourage – the warm, the tepid and the frosty. It wasn’t something that I determined to do from the outset, from the moment I went off the rails (self-published). It just sort of happened. I got a couple of good comments and I thought that it would be polite to say thanks (I was feeling a bit euphoric, naturally).
Of course, when one starts something like that one can start to feel obliged to continue the practice in case one hurts someone’s feelings. Like buying flowers for a spouse, or giving pocket money to offspring it can become a rod for one’s own back. That’s one reason why I do neither.
But to my mind, it has to be done for all the comments – the good, the bad and the fugly. If you ignore a comment that isn’t very complimentary, people would soon probably start thinking of you as some variety of chicken-shit – all right all the time things are going well, sucking up to the five star reviewers, but as soon as someone has a pop you retreat behind the curtain of invisibility that is your ISP number and sulk.
After I’d been commenting on comments for a few weeks, I started to see it as quite a good thing to do. Mostly, they don’t take longer than a text message or a tweet. It’s not a chore. Clearly, hardly anyone reads them – I’ve only had a handful of replies to my comments on comments – but those that noticed them seem to have been pleased at my engagement. And I’ve had some very interesting discussions with a couple of readers that I know led to a revision of the reader’s thinking of me as an author and more importantly of my writing – in a good way.
I still think that it makes sense and I cannot understand why more authors, especially the self-published desperados like me, don’t use the opportunity to engage with readers and, in so doing, demonstrate to other prospective downloaders who might be thinking about taking a chance on one’s books that one is a seriously nice bloke who, although one is obviously a really busy creative type can still find time in one’s cramped schedule to ‘reach out’ to one’s readers. Also, prospective downloaders might be persuaded to take a punt on a book if they see the author as prepared to engage with readers and show some gratitude for their time and trouble and purchase (if relevant).
So this week, I would really like to hear from self-publishers who do or don’t reply to comments and their reasons for their policy. Go on, share. Or are you a chicken-shit?
For those who are interested, I am still working on my two Acer Sansom novels. They are shaping up very nicely and I’m sure that they will be worth the wait.
Interesting post Mr Bond – I used to comment on every review, then in my crippled-by-sensitivity-and-fear-of-breaking-the-selfpub-author-anti-spam-rules way stopped doing it for fear of thinking: maybe that’s a little too close for comfort. Maybe readers like to keep the book as a buffer between the reader and the author. Maybe I’m a stalker. I suppose in yesteryear readers and authors meeting/engaging was a relatively rare event, but these days the internet makes everything a click away. So I suppose the question is, really, should the reader/author relationship be direct and personal, or should it all be slightly removed i.e. routed through the book itself?
Not that anyone ever replied to my review comments either.
Glad the AS books are going well – great feeling innit? Enjoying Rope Enough very much too.
Thanks for the reply. I’m really interested in other people’s take on this, which is unusual for me because normally I’m only ever interested in my own opinion about anything and everything.
I’m sure that you are right, some readers don’t particularly want the author creeping them out with comments. I can imagine that it is also possible that some prospective commenters might be put off leaving a comment if they thought it might earn them some author attention (read angst).
The day that someone reports me, I’ll probably look again at what I’m doing. In any case, I’d be quite busy hunting them down for hedgehog food.
Sorry I’m breaking the rules, as I am not a self-publisher, but I wanted to reply to an earlier part of your post. I did appreciate your reply to my review, but I did not comment as I was embarrassed by my review. You see it was late at night and I had stayed up to finish the book. I was tired and hadn’t had my Kindle app long, so didn’t realise that what I was writing was actually an Amazon review. If I had have realised, I would have taken a lot more trouble and care. So here is a belated thank you from me. It was lovely to hear from the author 🙂
I’m so glad that you have commented here. A couple of days after posting the above I could have kicked myself for not thinking to also ask for the opinions of any readers who might see this. A real oversight. Reader’s opinions on this are just as valid as self-publishers. But then it was too late to do anything about it. In my next post I will be rectifying that by encouraging readers to have their say if they wish. So, certainly no rules broken.
I’m glad that you didn’t object to my comment on your comment, which I valued like I do all comments. Thanks again for taking part.
Dear Mr Tidy,
I’m sure that I must be the only one of your readers in Madagascar. However I spent my childhood in Deal and a happy adolescence in Dover. I have just finished reading Rope Enough which I hugely enjoyed – and indeed found to be of a far higher standard than many of the books available on the internet. Your book brought back many memories of Dover (which I left in the early 60s) to travel around the world. I remember all too well the fights between the ferocious Cameron Highlanders from the Duke of York’s Barracks and the gentler Kentish Buffs from the Western Hights as well as my walks along the windy cliff tops. My father was the Rector of St Barthomews (now sadly demolished) in Templar Street.
Thankyou for a good read and bringing back many memories – and Bon Courage for your future writing.
Hello Richard and welcome,
Indeed, I think your location is likely to be a unique one for a Romney and Marsh reader. A little while ago I rang my dear old mum and for something to say reeled off the locations around the world that WordPress tells me my blog is accessed from. We were both amazed. I have a cherry to put on top of that cake, now. Do you mind me asking what you do there?
Naturally, I’m very pleased to learn that you enjoyed Rope Enough. It’s always good to hear from readers familiar with the area who haven’t been disappointed with my attempt to depict it. I must admit that I haven’t visited for some years and my memory is a little hazy – thanks to Google street view. It brings it all back.
I’m very interested in your mention of the inter-regimental fisticuffs. I am thinking of using something of that period of the town’s history in a future book when long dead bodies are discovered in tunnels, perhaps.
I can’t think where Templar Street is off-hand but I will look it up.
Thanks again for getting in touch and your good wishes for my writing.
Many thanks for your reply (on seeing the number of posts I cannot help wondering about about your risks of getting Repetitive Strain Injury.)
You asked about me. After a career in HM Diplomatic Service I retired to Madagascar in 2002 and, when our Embassy was closed in 2005 I was asked to become Honorary Consul here. The Embassy is now re-opening (at God only knows what cost to the taxpayer) and I am in the process of yet again being recycled as the Embassy’s political Counsellor.
A few vignettes for your future plans about a new book set in Dover.
In 1956, the year of the Hungarian uprising, I remember the long queues of refugees waiting for help from the local National Insurance office. There wasd no trouble and indeed great sympathy from the people of Dover.
As a schoolboy I went to Dover College as a day boy. Schoolruns took us to the extensive network of caves beneath the castle. These were fascinating; abandoned dormitories and lethal ammunition scattered around everywhere. (One boy managed to blow off a finger when trying to fire a round using a vice and a nail as a firing pin). The caves were transformed shortly afterwards into an RSG (Regional Seat of Government) to be used by the great and the good once Britain was nuked. Other runs took us to the Western Heights fortress and the remains of its Roman beacon matching that in the castle grounds. The main attraction for us 14 year olds was the ‘picture gallery’ – some 20 or so well drawn pornographic frescoes with detailed texts. Probalbly whitewashed over by now but we were very hot and bothered by them!
Dover College was a miserable place, poorly managed by a headmaster with no real experience of managing adolescent boys, bullying was rife and with a few honorable exceptions, poor teaching staff. It was expensive and favoured for the sons of the nouveau riche. One feature of the place were the frequent shoplifting trips made to local stores. I was relieved to leave after only 2 years and finished my schooling at Ashford Technical College which, in spite of being a mediocre student, I loved.
It was fun digging up some of these memories and I hope that, one day perhaps, they may find greater fame in your future books.
Very pleased to hear from you, again. Believe it or not, it gives me great pleasure to communicate with readers of my books. It’s a novelty factor that is still going strong and has not developed into a chore. And without wishing to sound a little sickly, much of the contact has been very pleasurable, informative in one way or another, and certainly interesting on the whole.
Speaking of which, you have some fascinating memories of old Dover. I appreciate your time to relay those to me. You may be pleased to know that I have scribbled them down in one of my Romney and Marsh notebooks. I’m sure that I can make use of some of them when I write that book that involves the long dead discovered. Maybe something involving former pupils of Dover College who have grown up and now enjoy influential positions in the town, but who share a dark war-time-tunnel secret. There, you’ve started me off.
I also appreciate you letting me know what you do. All sounds quite fun, enviable and not a little glamourous, although, I would wager that you would seek to persuade me otherwise. Many positions sound great; having to work them is often a different story. Still, can’t be too bad if you have allowed yourself to be ‘recycled’. I’m back in the UK for a few weeks and am dining with my dear old mother tonight. It will make for a good topic of conversation to take our minds off the stewed veg and burnt potatoes that we will inevitably be forced to make our way through.
Once again, thanks for getting back to me with something for me to enjoy and a few ideas to boot.
Best wishes and best of luck in the new position.
In fact I feel I have been very fortunate with my career (particularly as I managed to do it with a mere 4 O levels) and I attach the text of a talk I gave a couple of years ago on the subject. I hope it both amuse and enlighten you.
I am however going to bore you with one further Dover vignette, a variation of which, with a bit of luck, may find itself into the next Romney and Marsh. At the age of 16 I did a summer holiday job as traffic warden in the customs shed at Dover docks – complete with an official looking cap at least two sizes too large. I directed a car into one of the customs bays and 3 or 4 customs officers turned up with an enormous white sheet onto which the car was driven. Over a period of some 4 or 5 hours the car was literally taken to pieces – with each element carefully laid out on the sheet according to size. Nothing was discovered but the driver missed at least two ferries. On asking for the customs officers to put the car back together, he was simply given the business card of a local garage. Presumably he had been guilty of a previous misdeed and the customs wanted to teach him a lesson. (More sadly I saw an old Italian lady who had brought in a extra bottle of red wine which had broken inside her suitcase, ruining all of her clothes and being given a hard time. The Chief Customs officer, on seeing the scene boomed out “Officer Smith. Instead of bullying old ladies, please will you concentrate on catching smugglers.)
All best wishes,
Good to hear from you again. I hope that you are well.
I’ve just got back to Istanbul after a five week break in UK. Weather was great for all but four days. Usually, it’s the other way around when I visit. During my stay, I made time to go to Dover.
I took the bus and thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the view from the top deck. Spent the day walking the streets and around the harbour reliving a few memories and doing what a ‘real’ author would call a bit of research for the next book. I probably should have done all this before I put pen to paper for the first because I noticed with some embarrassment how wrong I have got some of my descriptions of the town’s geography, especially my description of the cop-shop. Oh well. Can’t do anything about those now.
The difference that I noticed about Dover, above all else, was the people. When I was there in the late nineties the immigrants from Kosovo were making themselves known. Today, Dover seems to have embraced a far more diverse and multi-cultural population. Just walking around the town’s streets I was struck by the variety of skin colour and languages that I overheard. Polish and Romanys featured heavily in my day. Dover even has a couple of shops advertising Polish goods for Polish people.
I spoke to one shop-keeper who was happy to talk to me about the way things are in the town these days. He didn’t paint a very pretty or encouraging picture. Make of that what you will. Still, I suppose that shop-keepers are always lamenting the good old days for one reason or another. Of course, for me it all makes for writing possibilities.
I did enjoy your customs shed anecdotes. I can certainly see Romney doing something of that nature to a villain that he held a grudge for. If you remember any more, please relate them to me.
I could find no attachment to this message, but perhaps WordPress doesn’t work like that. If you can send it to me at email@example.com I should be very pleased to receive it. Thanks for the thought. I look forward to it.
Best wishes for now.