Readers can have a tendency to read books they don’t really want to… and as authors, that habit often grows a bit wild. We have friends we want to support, we have friends recommend books, etc etc etc. I’m not the only reader/author who struggles with this–actually, I questioned authors on Facebook and Instagram and was saddened by the results. It is easy to feel guilty for not reading every book that crosses our paths, especially if they are written by our author friends! So many friends are too busy reading what they “have to”, they don’t have much time for reading what they want, or heck, they lack time to even write their own books.
Guys… this is NOT how the book community should be. Change starts with us. In this post, I’ll give some tips and reasons as to why I stopped guilt-tripping myself into reading things I didn’t want to. I hope it helps you!
YOU WON’T “EARN SUPPORT” BY READING BOOKS YOU DISLIKE
If this doesn’t make sense, let me explain.
Authors have “tribes”, basically. Trad authors and Indie authors, we all have our groups of friends, usually in the same genre we write in. We read and review each other’s books. We support each other mutually. We want the others to succeed!
This isn’t always how it works. Over the years, I noticed a lot of readers, especially readers who are also aspiring authors, get sucked into a trap. The trap is basically: if you support a lot of authors, they’ll return the love one day! You’ll get into that crowd of successful authors if you just work hard at it now.
Long story short, no, they probably won’t give a hoot about your novel, and in case you missed the lesson in middle school, you shouldn’t be killing yourself to fit in with any crowd.
If you’re suffocating yourself with your TBR just to get noticed by authors you admire… step back. Your mental health matters more than a nice comment from a bestselling author. You WILL get where you want to be one day as an author, but if you’re drowning in review copies of books you don’t even like… How will you hit your own goals?
YOU CAN FIND YOUR TRIBE–TOSS THE SHEEPSKIN ASIDE!
You are not doing yourself any favors by trying to fit into every bookish crowd, or trying to fit into a tribe that really doesn’t accept you.
Some of you may know that when I first joined the writing community, I was in a girl only, Christian fiction group. It took time for me to find my tribe, but I’m here to tell you that it takes time. Tribes shift and change. People walk away, people enter your life. That’s life and it is the same for bookish tribes!
So, when I started struggling with the community I knew so well, I stepped back and started reading what I wanted. I dove into the Mitch Rapp series and became a Mitch Rapp Ambassador. I gobbled up the Brother’s Creed series by Joshua C. Chadd. I bought a few new thrillers by NYT bestselling authors that chatted with me on Twitter.
And I wasn’t guilt tripping myself into reading what I did’t want. I stopped wanting to slam my head against a wall after talking to fellow authors. I wasn’t worried about judgmental comments toward my own writing style. I wasn’t worried about gaining support from fellow Indies.
What did the change do? When I dropped the sheepskin, I started finding “my tribe”. When you find your own “kind” of people, and the audience that your book truly needs, you’ll see a change after a while. I started getting solid reviews, better sales, and more. The moral of the story: when you find your tribe, even if it takes a while, it won’t feel like torture when you guys offer mutual support. It’ll be give and take without the constant drowning feeling.
SET BOUNDARIES SO YOU CAN READ WHAT YOU WANT
Oof, right? No one likes the word “boundaries”. And I’ve been there, friend. I’ve been swamped with review copies before. I’ve been beta reading 3+ projects at once before. I’ve read books I strongly disliked just to support Indies.
Guys, please, reevaluate your goals if this is you, too.
If the joy of reading is gone, take a step back. If you’re reading more out of duty than you are writing your own novel, take a step back. If you’re having to read books you cannot stand in the name of “support”, take a step back!
A couple years ago, I really started exercising boundaries. This year, honestly, I’ve done much better. I stopped signing up for every single thing. I stopped supporting every single author that crossed my path (I mean, if I don’t feel convicted to read a novel, why suggest it to my followers?). I stopped beta reading everything.
Here’s your reminder that if you want to succeed… boundaries are key. If you struggle with saying no, take baby steps. If you fear you will never get support if you don’t give everything you’ve got to support others… that’s not really healthy, nor true. Find your tribe and the right support will come, if you give in healthy ways (aka, you can give, but set boundaries so you’re not wiping yourself out)! It honestly will!
If you’re already suffocating, I really encourage you to “mop up”. Email authors to tell them you can’t finish the book you said you could. Sell the books you don’t want to read anymore. Unfollow authors who you truly don’t enjoy. Small steps make huge differences when it comes to boundaries… and I believe you can do it, okay? I do.
Tips on how to read books you actually want:
- Avoid signing up for ARCs or beta copies. My general rule of thumb is no ARCs unless I intend to buy the book, but this has actually become me rarely doing it, anyway. I’m bad at reading digital novels so I usually wait to buy it in paperback, anyway. Another rule of mine, since I’m an editor, is to only beta read a VERY select few authors who are close to me, and only when I can truly fit it into my schedule. You can still review and support an author after the novel is published.
- Avoid Goodreads challenges. If you’re the type of person to panic when the Goodreads challenge tells you that you’re seven books behind, STOP! Delete the challenge, avoid Goodreads, or just use Goodreads to review books you enjoyed. (A side note: I actually downgraded my Goodreads friends list, and I cannot recommend this enough. If the bookish world gets you stressed, clear up your feed and watch some stress melt away!)
- Don’t force yourself to “try new genres” all the time. Yes, trying new genres is cool, and reading new books is nice… but if you’re too busy trying new genres you dislike, you won’t have time to read books you like. If you’re a thriller author, you should probably stay read up on thrillers, not 1800s historical fiction. While it doesn’t hurt to branch out, if you feel yourself worrying about that and not actually enjoying the books you read, step back.
- Learn to say no. I’ve had people send me books for review (I review books for free, by the way, if you’re interested)… and I have to say no sometimes. Some books aren’t my taste, and that’s okay, just like my books aren’t other people’s tastes (yes, I’ve even had friends point blank tell me they hate dystopian, so if this is you, you’re not alone!). That’s okay! Don’t force yourself to say yes when no one will benefit from it.
- Remember you can support friends in other ways. If you have a friend who has written a novel you cannot support (say, there are Biblical aspects that don’t sit well with you), you can still love, encourage, and support them in other ways. But it is okay to say “no” if God is telling you to do so for deeper reasons than “I just don’t like this book”.
- Check your personal goals. Again, what you read should inspire you to pursue your goals, too! So be sure to read books that move you forward and keep you motivated with your own writing, if you’re an author. Remember that God has a path for you, and He will help you make it. It takes a village to publish a book, yes, but if you’re not in the village God wants you in, it won’t be as glamorous as you think it might be. Trust God, set boundaries, do your thing, and know that He has a plan better than we could imagine!
I sincerely pray this post encourages you guys. I could continue, but I’ll leave it here.
If you ever need to talk, I’m here! I hope you can find encouragement from this post and if you know a friend who needs it, share it around! If you have more thoughts or tips, comment ’em below!
Always be yourself and own your voice, friend.