Ask nearly anyone who has published a book, traditional, self or other, why exactly they did it, and I suspect that “So people would read it” is probably near the top of the list. I mean, why else? If it was just about telling the story, there’s no need to seek publication. If it was just a creative exercise, or you decided you hated it when you were done, again, no reason to spread it around. I suppose “because I could” is a valid answer, but you’re accepting that it’s in the wild and there’s going to be somebody out there to read it at that point… Or at least you’d hope so.
Enter a somewhat bizarre conversation I had with a coworker the other day. It came up that I have written and published a handful of novels. Regardless of my personal opinions of my wayward children, or their actual sales figures, I am in the camp that says “I put them out there so people could buy them and read them and hopefully enjoy them.” It would really be counterproductive to have any other line of thinking, I imagine. My coworker asked me a question that left me just staring at him, unable to even process the concept.
“So, would it be okay if I bought one and read it?”
Yeah. I stood there for a good thirty seconds, analyzing the question and trying to comprehend it. And inventing scenarios where I got all huffy, plucked at my collar and stalked away, announcing “No! It would most assuredly not be okay! Bah! My work is not for the likes of you!”
Once that fit had passed, I asked him why he thought he might need my permission to read my (publicly available via Amazon) work, or why he thought I’d be concerned. He responded that there was the possibility I felt it was too private or didn’t want people to know I’d written them.
Much as it made my brain hurt (see Rule of the Internet #1 from my mental handbook; if you put it online, someone will find it, so don’t do it unless you expect that result), I began to contemplate the reasoning behind this. I finally came upon the idea that there probably are writers who don’t want people they actually know to read their books – at least, not so long as they know the source – for a variety of reasons. Embarassment probably high on the list, but also the possibility for libel lawsuits, general privacy and introversion, or private emotional self-exposure. If one is working in non-fiction, I imagine there could be more.
But the whole thing just strikes me as odd. Because, as noted, if you fear someone – even if it’s specific someones – reading something, why put it in a place where that might occur?
This question is really going to bother me, now. If any of you folks have input, share your thoughts down below, eh?