There’s a whole lot of mis- being thrown around the internet these days. Seems like men can’t make a move without being accused of being a misogynist, which leads to the accusers being accused of misandry… and then Mike Hoover made this word up, and I am running with it.
Mislectorist: being an author who hates (or at least dislikes, disdains, and disregards) their readers. This leads to poor behaviors on the author’s part, and support of tactics by publishers and other support staff that leaves readers out in the cold.
There are several ways we can see mislectorism manifested. This one hit the interwebs hard yesterday: a literary agent (one who is, in theory anyway, responsible for seeing that only good books make it through the gates to reach publishers and from there, readers) comparing Amazon to ISIS and proclaiming that Amazon is why writers can’t make a living. Not only is this a gross deviation from observable reality, it is a prime example of becoming a mislectorist. This fine chappie isn’t at all concerned with the readers, and what they might want, he’s only out to protect his own job and future.
Newsflash: without readers, authors, publishers, and yes, even literary agents, are purposeless. Books are a product, and a product needs a market. Readers like you and I (setting aside my own author hats and publishing hat and editor hat, and dang, I have a lot of hats. But I like hats) are what drive that market. We want little, really. We would like to have enjoyable fiction, well-researched and informative non-fiction, and we’d like it not to cost too much. We know authors need to eat and pay the internet bill so they can keep on looking at cat videos and avoiding writing… ahem. As I was saying, it’s not that readers want their books for free. It’s that they have bills of their own, and fiction in particular is a luxury purchase. I don’t know about you, but a 13.99 ebook would eat close to half my monthly book budget (poor college student. This is why God smiled and nudged Andrew Carnegie to build public libraries, and they will come… but I digress. Again).
Coming back to examples of mislectorism, we have Hachette, who would like to stick it to the readers, and Amazon, and their own authors. And yet, still, we see authors who insist that Hachette is the underdog (seriously? Just how many of these people are delusional, and how much fiction do they think we want in our real life?). They don’t care about the readers who’d like to be able to afford more than one or two books a month, they just want to make sure their publisher is happy. Realistically, the publisher set those prices. Amazon doesn’t have to offer discounts. They do because they recognize that people, the market, the readers, want a bargain.
And then there are the mislectorists who take a more direct route to insulting their readers. I’m talking about the misguided and beknighted authors who attack their reviewers. Look, not every reader is going to like your book. You can’t take it personally, and for heaven’s sake, you can’t go stalking readers who publicly share a less-than-complimentary opinion of your book.
In a combination of the above, and the ‘writing a book so bad that the readers need to gouge their eyes out with a grapefruit spoon’ we have the authors who try to accomplish something with fiction that they are incapable of, or that better belongs in a textbook somewhere, rather than in a medium ostensibly meant to entertain. Especially when readers learn that the words fresh, original, ground-breaking, or transgressive mean none of the above, and certain awards become cues to put the book back on the shelf like you’ve grabbed a hot potato. Mislectorism can mean mistreating your readers through bad writing. Let’s face it, there are so many boring books out there that there exists (to my great amusement) a Boring Book Club that will give you recommendations and reviews of boring books. Got insomnia? Go check it out. But these authors are not malicious mislectorists, only misguided.
In the worst display of malevolent contempt for readers, we find the plagiarists. These scum, not content with stealing from other authors, treat the readers as though they won’t catch on to what they are doing. David Farland writes at length about the recent troubles around Rachel Nunes’ books, and brings up a sort of plagiarism that sends a shiver down my spine. “The worst of the plagiarists are creating “Frankensteins,” books cobbled together from one chapter here, another chapter there, so that technically the author can’t be held accountable for breaking copyright laws. The reader doesn’t know that he has been swindled until he gets a few chapters into the book.” I read enough, and enough non-memorable books, that I might read something like this and simply feel like I had a bad case of deja-vu. As an author, I might never know it had been done to my work without the kindness of readers.
Authors, don’t be mistlectorists. Educate yourself about readers, and how to be sensitive to their needs and desires. I won’t go so far as to say you should write as rapidly as they would like (I don’t want to read about spontaneous combustion of fingers and keyboards from friction) but when you see a raft of negative reviews, do not comment. Instead, weigh them objectively. Are you committing boring books, or message fiction? How can you improve your writing craft to make your readers happier? There are some examples of mislectorism I can trust you to already avoid, like plagiarism, or comparisons of the world’s largest bookseller to dirty unwashed barbarians who like to chop heads off innocents. That’s just common sense.