In all the haste and glory of putting out our magnificent flights of fancy, authors sometimes forget that having readers is a privilege, not a right. As customers, readers are smart, savvy, and they have very long memories. The vast majority of them also don’t know you, the author, personally. They are not privy to your personal or financial struggles, they don’t know your life story, where you grew up, where you live now, whether you have kids, or pets, or a ranch in Montana. They also don’t know (or shouldn’t know) just by looking at your book whether it’s from a Big 5 publishing house or self-published. All they know about you or your book is the actual book they just purchased.
That book needs to make a statement all on its own, because it’s what they paid for. And, while there are no hard and fast rules for what a proper book should look like, most readers will know a bad one when they see it, and they probably won’t waste their money on it, or anything else bearing your name. Why should they? There are literally millions of others to choose from, and if those others are better put together than yours, you are out of luck. Making sure your book is not only entertaining, but also presentable and professionally put together is the absolute least any writer or publisher should do before they ask a reader to pay for it.
There are, however, times when the author him/herself influences the reader’s final decision to buy or not. Authors used to be intellectual recluses and creatures of myth. These days, they are public figures, required to interact with their readers online as well as in person. It’s not enough anymore to put out an amazing book. If readers do look you up, you also need to put the same effort you put into your book into presenting yourself. That means being kind–always. Being courteous–always. Being genuine and welcoming of the attention being given to you, even if you’d rather hide under the table until the threat has passed.
Recognize that any reader who approaches you does so out of excitement and appreciation for your work. It’s an amazing compliment and a sign of respect. And, in the end, isn’t that what you’ve always wanted, anyway?