“Just to be clear, I will probably never read your book,” said my good friend recently.
I nodded. “I know. You don’t have to.”
People feel awkward when their friend is a writer. There’s a sort of underlying expectation that if you’re really my friend, you should read my book. After all, haven’t I been pouring my heart and soul into it since 2012? Isn’t it one of my favourite topics of conversation? In some ways, not reading my book is sort of like not wanting to see my new baby, right? I’ve seen authors complain to other authors about how hurtful it is when loved ones show no interest in their magnum opus.
But here’s the thing – not everyone is a reader. The friend I mentioned above is an openly avowed non-reader. I appreciate that about her, because I know a lot of people who claim to be readers but never actually read. This friend is very plain about it. She is intelligent, and she is highly literate. She just doesn’t enjoy reading fiction. AND THAT’S OKAY. She curls. I don’t curl. I have no intention to ever curl. And she has never said, “hey, I work in a curling club and own a curling store, so if you’re my friend, you should support me by curling.” I can be her friend without buying curling stuff that I will never use, and she can be my friend without buying my book which she will never read.
Even when people are readers, they won’t necessarily enjoy your style of fiction. Can you imagine being someone who loves children’s fiction and Disney, but is friends with George RR Martin? That would suck. No one should have to read that if they aren’t into it.
I don’t need every one of my friends to buy and love my book. Because I already have friends who are readers, and do enjoy YA, and several of them have already become what authors call “super fans”. In fact, one of them, who insists on being given the title of Howie’s Number One Fan, arranged a whole tea party where she and I got dressed up and drank tea and did nothing but talk about my book, because she is that enthusiastic about it. I love knowing that when I need to talk to someone about a plot twist in the story, she is always ready to be my sounding board.
Is she a better friend than the ones who will never read it? Not necessarily.
There are tons of ways to be a good friend, and my friends have been there for me and helped me out through very difficult life circumstances. They have been shoulders to cry on. They have dropped everything to come to my aid when I needed them. They just aren’t all into YA fiction, and that’s okay.
So if you’re my friend, and you’re reading this, and you know deep in your heart of hearts that you will probably never read my book, don’t worry. We’re cool. And if you’re an author who is hurt by a friends’ lack of interest, remind yourself – there are lots of ways to be a friend. Look for the people who are interested, and find yourself a superfan friend. They’re great. But they aren’t better friends. They’re just better fans.