A ramble about feedback

Authors always seem to be raving on about how they love feedback, and yet many readers don't believe them, either because they don't think that they could be "important" enough to make any difference, or because they aren't sure what authors actually mean by "feedback".

As for being "not important", what nonsense! You put yourself down, you're putting me on a pedestal, and that's a terribly uncomfortable place for me to be. I'm just an ordinary person, no better than anybody else. Besides which, you, oh reader, are that most valuable of things: an Actual Reader. You can tell me something I will never ever be able to find out on my own: (a) whether my story was read at all, and (b) whether it was enjoyable. Yes, it's true that I have page-counters, but page-counters can't tell you whether someone actually read the story, they can just tell you that someone peeked at it.

As for what "feedback" actually is, or, more specifically, what kind of feedback I would like, here goes:

  1. Positive one-liners. You know the kind of thing, "I liked your story" and suchlike. This lets me know that someone actually read the story and liked it. This is a really good thing, because it lets me know that I'm not writing in a vacuum. If this is the kind of story that might have a sequel, then positive feedback may well influence which story I work on next (but I don't promise anything).
  2. Positive many-liners. This is where you might say what you liked about the story, or things that stood out at you, or favourite bits. This, besides being encouraging, is really helpful to me, because it lets me know what parts of the stories worked, so I can keep it in mind for next time. Besides which, I've been pondering about "why" I like stories ever since I was a teenager writing a book-journal, and I'm curious as to why others like the stories they've read as well.
  3. Positive-and-negative many-liners. Yes, I said "negative". I really do want to find out what you didn't like, what didn't work for you, because I always want to improve, and knowing what didn't work can help me improve for next time, or it might even prompt me to revise the story if I feel that the problem thing is fixable. However, sending me a one-liner consisting of "Your story sucks!" is probably going to get your email deleted, because that's just being rude, and doesn't help anybody. I'm afraid I'm also frail enough that I'd take a bit of bucking up if I got a LoC which consisted of nothing but complaints, especially if the comments didn't actually have any helpful specifics about what and why something was bad. Nobody's actually ever sent me such a LoC, but, while I've got a fairly thick skin, I don't think it's actually made of iron. But what I would hate worse than that is if somebody lied to me to spare my feelings. If I've got a really crappy story, I need to know! Otherwise I will keep on making the same mistakes.

I am happy for people to comment publicly on my work, as well as sending private email. Considering the way that I post reviews of things, then fair's fair, if my own works are discussed just as publicly.

I also promise I'll reply, even if briefly. I may be a very busy person, but not too busy to reply to feedback!