Author/Reader Boundaries

Hey all! Santino here. Welcome to my monthly blog spot at Love Bytes. I’ll be sure to try my hardest to keep you entertained. I was going to start with a bang by posting some short fiction, buuuut I decided to discuss author/reader boundaries. Because why not.

It is my completely unfounded and unscientific belief that everything you could learn about author/reader boundaries can be found in the famous Dance Space scene from Dirty Dancing. Don’t know what I’m talking about? I am providing a handy dandy YouTube clip before we go farther.

If you’re not sure what the difference is between our dance spaces in the confusing world of closely associated social media accounts in a close knit genre, I will give you my perspective:

AUTHOR DANCE SPACE: Any space that was created by the author and where the author 100% controls the content. For example: their social media accounts, their email address, FB groups run/created by them, etc. (although, authors, please keep in mind that you’re a Public Figure so you will be called out for saying any kind of craycray shit).

READER DANCE SPACE: Pretty much everywhere else in the world and on the Internet. For example, any and all review sites, social media, FB/GR groups, etc. All of the things.

So, unless it’s run by or created by the author, the world is the reader’s oyster. But as we all know there are times when the author or the reader gets a case of spaghetti arms and drifts into the other person’s dance space. And then we have shenanigans.

Let’s do examples!

  1. An author sees a review on Goodreads wherein a reader claimed the author was clearly putting a fantasy version of themselves in the book, thinks the themes are problematic, and finds the portrayal of female characters to be misogynistic. The author is aghast and replies to explain how they would never be sexist! It’s all a misunderstanding!

GET OUT OF READER DANCE SPACE. They can basically interpret the book however they want. Do you think Jane Austen intended for some readers to consider Mr. Bennet a rotten father in Pride and Prejudice? NOPE. If Jane Austen’s characters get torn apart and analyzed, so do yours. Get over it and go vent to a friend. In private. Not on Twitter.

  1. @SantinoHassell Stop tweeting about pasta and cookies, you bastard. You’re making me hungry! BTW, I can’t wait for Raymond’s book! I love him being bicurious 😉
    @AwesomeReader I WILL NEVER STOP TWEETING ABOUT THE foODZ! (SUNSET PARK comes out on Dec 11th! 😀 less than a month!)

This is the part of social media that I love. Getting to make random small talk with readers is amazing. I love finding out I have things in common with people, and it’s even better when we develop banter. Also, our interaction is all in public so it feels safe. I’m paranoid about doing too much chatting because of Unfortunate Incidents in the past wherein people thought chatting meant they owned my ass. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me… like four times… and I be like:

  1. A reader writes an exhaustive Goodreads review in which they go out of their way to explain why the entire novel didn’t work for them. Many other readers find this review helpful and it sparks a big conversation about why this book could have used better editing and the state of editing in the publishing world. The reader then proceeds to tweet/message/tag the author on multiple links or copies of the review.

WARNING! TREACHEROUS TERRAIN AHEAD! I’m all about reviews that do critical analysis, but forcing your negative review on the author is pretty rude. At best, they’ll be gracious and thank you for taking the time to write a review. At worst, it will ruin their day. There’s rarely a good reason to ensure an author reads a negative review.

HOWEVER, I fully stand with people speaking out against any book that is offensive or disrespectful.

  1. @santinohassell judging from SUTPHIN BOULEVARD (ive decided you are Michael), I suspect you like to bottom. Those scenes were so hot. Do you? What was your most memorable experience? What lube do you use?

Don’t be creepy.

  1. A reader is so moved by a novel that they proceed to write to the author to share their own experiences and explain how they related to the characters. The email is kind of long but there wasn’t a shorter way to get it all out, and they really wanted to tell the author how they felt. They don’t necessarily expect a long response.

I can’t speak for everyone but I love when readers do this. Unless it’s about your sex life. At that point you can put the brakes on that freight train of TMI. But many writers HOPE to get these kinds of emails. It means a lot to know our words are reaching people and making them feel all the feelz.

  1. A reader tweets or messages an author to say hi and hopefully engage in small talk. The reader has recently read the author’s entire backlist and wants to become friends. However, the author takes a while to respond. The reader feels the author is ungrateful and proceeds to send angry messages and bitterly subtweet.

While authors are incredibly grateful for ANY reader buying and reading their book, that doesn’t mean the author will ever be anyone besides that one person who wrote that book one time. You may not become besties. Authors may not even want to interact privately at all. Or their inboxes may just be massively swamped. Assuming reading a book entitles you to an author’s personal attention and time is sort of dangerous territory to enter. It doesn’t hurt to try but don’t be shocked when it doesn’t pan out. (I say this while still waiting for George RR Martin to respond to my love letters. Ahhh the nature of social media makes it so easy for parasocial relationships to form.)

  1. An author sees a flood of negative reviews on Goodreads that seem to have been written by people in the same group of friends/book club. They’re ranty, full of mocking gifs, and insult readers who DO like the book. The author knows better than to publicly get involve themselves but they know their street team might be willing to say a thing or two about a thing or two…

Do not be a bad. REMEMBER: reviews are for readers. Readers can say whatever they want. You inciting drama and anger between reader camps will do nothing but start a shit storm. And people will almost always suspect the author was behind it. This is not okay and it never will be. Stop reading your reviews if it’s going to inspire this kind of behavior. Take a step back, bruh. Go eat some Hot Cheetos and chillax.

**This blog is brought to you by an author who took the time to make Dirty Dancing memes instead of reaching his NaNoWriMo goals.

Santino is an author of gay romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences. His new book, SUNSET PARK, will be released on December 11, 2015.

21 Responses

  1. Sandy
    Sandy at |

    As a reader, I totally agree. I’m amazed whenever I see any of this happen, but it seems to so often. I read reviews after I read the book, mainly to see if others agree with my thoughts. I know people can be mean (I have teenagers!), but still some of the reviews make me sad. The last thing I want to see is my favorite authors hiding out in caves to avoid people like that. Twitter convos are way too much fun:)

  2. Shelby Reed
    Shelby Reed at |

    This was so completely entertaining while addressing some touchy issues. I love love love hearing from readers! I’ve been lucky than no one’s gotten all up in mah dance space. 🙂 But truly, I read your blog post more as a READER than an author. It’s great advice on all levels.

  3. J.p. Barnaby
    J.p. Barnaby at |

    This is, without a doubt, the most brilliant blog post in the history of blogs.

  4. Heather C. Leigh
    Heather C. Leigh at |

    Hilarious! As an author, thanks for making my day, Santino. *runs off to watch Johnny get Baby out of that damn corner*

  5. JD Ruskin
    JD Ruskin at |

    Great post!

  6. Jeff Adams (@hockeyguynyc)
    Jeff Adams (@hockeyguynyc) at |

    This is an epically awesome post. Thanks for making a fun read about what can be a quite serious matter.

  7. El @ Just Love
    El @ Just Love at |

    Thank you so much for the fantastic post! I know most of this is common sense, but there are always people who don’t understand it. (I used to work in the convention industry, and the number of people who thought it was okay to grope an actor during a paid photo op, or who lingered in a celebrity’s hotel lobby, is frankly terrifying.) Also A+ use of graphics, you should just include this post in your NaNo wordcount today 😉

  8. cyncapone
    cyncapone at |

    First off, the DD memes are brilliant and now I must stalk you further, I mean they have endeared you to me even more! 😉 Great post, and the points make so much sense. You would think it’d be common sense but sometimes people don’t know when to quit.

  9. Princess S.O. Obriot
    Princess S.O. Obriot at |

    bwahha, great way to sum up the space. (sorry, I just had to share the whimsical video of Dirty Dancing without the music, because it was playing in my head as I read this, LOL )

  10. Skye Jones
    Skye Jones at |

    Great blog post.

  11. Sadonna
    Sadonna at |

    This is a great post 🙂

    I am an avid reader and reviewer. I can say that most of the reviewers that I know WANT to love every book we read. Who wouldn’t? For me, having very little time to read these days, I especially want that to be true. That being said, one should still review honestly. But in my opinion, that NEVER should mean being spiteful or mean or petty or trying for snarky humor at someone’s expense and most of all, it should NEVER be personal to the author. In fact I’ve watched some people do that and I have to say, I don’t consider them to be friends or very nice people and my reaction has been frankly to steer clear of them.

    I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of my favorite authors in this genre and I never ever want to be seen as “that guy” – Ok, I’m not a guy, but you know what I mean – the not so nice person who instigated some unnecessary dust-up over a book or review. Don’t get me wrong – I’m passionate about the books I love but I can discuss differences of opinion rationally. If I don’t love a book, I will spell out why or what specifically about the book didn’t work for me personally. There have been books by authors I simply adore (as both writers and people) that I haven’t enjoyed. There are people who I don’t care for at all who write brilliant books. Not really my business.

    I also try to be careful about crossing a line with authors. I’m really a pretty shy person and I would never want to interject myself where I wasn’t truly wanted. Maybe it’s because I’m 50+ and I was raised a certain way that is probably too self-effacing for my own good to my detriment careerwise. But to me it’s always better to err on the side of caution. My sister once asked me about this when she was going to go full-time at her job and she was worried that she was going to step over the line with her opinion and get herself in trouble. I told her that her opinion on everything was not truly needed or necessary for her to voice. Every thought in her head did not need to escape via her lips. I told her to ask herself “is this the hill I want to die on?” If the answer is yes, that I cannot live with myself if I don’t express this, then OK, go ahead and deal with the consequences. Otherwise, it might be better to weigh the consequences and think a bit more before spewing. I really wish more people would do that. This is fiction and reviews. It’s not saving babies,

    Wow, what a long and rambling reply 😉 The longest way to possible to say that I completely loved your post and agree wholeheartedly with the content 😀

  12. Tina Marie
    Tina Marie at |

    I’m so laughing but trying to keep my serious face on. Favorite movie of all time. You perfectly captured the nature of the writer/reader/ and BTW, editor relationship. I’m an editor, so I guess I’m like Cynthia Rhodes holding onto Baby’s hips all the time.
    Seriously, very well put. Having edited a book that got called out about commas (complete with examples) when there really were errors, but I had a four day deadline! It was the author’s fault! But I should have told her no! Come on people! Wait, I digress. Thanks for writing this. Now let’s see if we can hammer it, I mean get it into the right hands.

  13. marygrz3
    marygrz3 at |

    That was brilliant. Saying so much good in a witty, humorous way! Thank you! I also love Sadonna’s “is this the hill I want to die on?” I can use that all the time, not just on FB.

  14. A.D. Ellis
    A.D. Ellis at |

    This was an awesome post. Love it! “Don’t be creepy” was perfect 😉

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