Monday, June 26, 2017

You're Very Kind

One of the very nicest things about being an author is getting emails from people who have read your book – at least the complimentary ones that make up the vast majority. In general people don't email to pick holes in the plot or say what rubbish it was or how they absolutely hated the heroine. In fact I only remember a couple, one of which pointed out that there was a typo in the blurb – 'seperately' for  'separately' – and as a consequence my correspondent wasn't going to read my book. For spite, I think.

Happily, most of the emails are lovely, often thoughtful and sometimes even touching. They make my day and I settle down to work glowing with pleasure, once I've sent back a suitably grateful reply. No problem there.

But when I'm at events and meet readers who are kind enough to tell me face to face how much they enjoy my books, it's different. The more generous they are with their praise, the more awkward and 'Oh, shucks,' I get and the glow this time is a most unbecoming blush. I look a total idiot.

I had a brother-in-law who had beautiful manners and in response to a compliment would murmur, 'Thank you. You're very kind,' and I've adopted that, but it only takes you so far in a prolonged conversation. I can't agree, 'Oh yes, it's awfully good, isn't it?' and I can't say, 'Oh, not really,' without calling their judgement into question. And despite the fact that afterwards I will go over in my mind and treasure what they have said I find myself changing the subject by doing a Queen Elizabeth  – 'Have you come far today?'

I don't know why I find it so difficult to take a direct compliment, or even if I'm the only one who does. If readers didn't like what I write I'd be out of a job and I do, I really really do, appreciate their kindness in telling me. I'm enormously grateful for their good opinion, but I just wish I knew what to say.

I'm asking for tips here. How do the rest of you respond to these great, and obviously highly-intelligent and perceptive people with becoming modesty?


Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Like you, I'm always delighted to receive an email from a reader who enjoyed what I wrote. I sit there with a big silly grin on my face -- sure it must be, even though I'm not looking in the mirror -- and read the email several times. And then I send a reply right out, thanking the reader.

But, yes, the face-to-face compliment is more difficult. I feel I should respond in a way that goes a bit beyond "thank you". At the same time, I don't want to babble on, telling the person more than he or she wants to know. This has to do with not wanting to make the person wonder if someone who is such a airhead really wrote that book :).

Sybil Johnson said...

I agree with Frankie. I'm not sure I have any wonderful insight on what to do beyond saying thank you, that's nice to hear. But I can tell you what one author said to me after I said I loved a series of hers. After thanking me, she talked a bit (in general) about what she had in store for the characters in the future and then asked me what I thought about a title she was thinking about using. It was nice to have her ask my opinion. And, yes, I loved the title.

Aline Templeton said...

Sybil, thank you for that tip - it's a really good idea. And finding someone who could provide me with a good title - my bugbear! - would be an amazing spin-off benefit.