What do entertainers, especially writers for the purposes contained herein, owe to their readers? (It applies to other forms of entertainment too, in different ways.)
I’m going to approach this from the dual perspective of being an author AND being an avaricious, extremely loyal, reader.
On the author side: What do I owe my readers? Everything.
You see, I can’t be an author without people to buy and read my books. That’s basic economics, I need to eat and pay bills and have internet and a computer to write on, so I need the economic support for my work of people buying my books, recommending to others that they buy my books… it’s how it works and why digital piracy is so very wrong.
Without people reviewing my books to let me know they liked/loved/if I’ve screwed up… well, I also wouldn’t know how they’re perceived.
I wouldn’t know if I was just screaming into the void with my words or not.
So, an author, especially a famous one, really needs to remember that and stay humble.
That means you don’t raz your fans when they make suggestions. (I’ve had that happen and no I’m not buying that author’s books again, no matter how good they are.)
You can’t leave your fans hanging either, year, after year, after year.
You just can’t. Humans are fickle creatures. Even ones who read a lot and show a lot of loyalty.
Eventually, they’re gonna get tired of waiting and move on to the next shiny author. Sales are gonna decline, especially if the quality isn’t there.
That famous author wouldn’t BE an author, not a working one anyway, if people didn’t consistently buy, review, and recommend their books.
They’d be that person sitting there telling themselves stories in a dark room with coffee stains on their tee-shirt and their hair in a pony tail (wait… yes, sorry, that was me looking in the mirror.)
I’m not famous, I’m too niche, probably, to ever find fame as an author. I’ll be happy if I can manage to have a loyal following who buys enough of my books that I can afford the basics of life. (By basics, I mean food, roof over my head, bills paid almost on time and somewhat regular medical/dental/eye care.)
What about time? Quality of work? Those two things are ideas worthy of note as well.
Now, some of us write incredibly fast. I am one of those. Since November 2015, I’ve written three full novels, numerous short stories and several vignettes. Some people don’t write as fast, and that’s fine.
Everyone works at their own pace, which needs to be respected. You know, for my favorite authors, at least… as long as they’re working on it, and maybe letting people know what’s going on… even with delays, I’d still buy the books. I mean, life happens.
One of my favs had their dog die in the middle of writing the climactic scene of their most recent book. I’d much rather they had waited and grieved and come back to it later, when they could do the story justice than what they actually did.
(I’m suspicious the pub actually had it ghost-written, cause it was crap, didn’t sound like the author AT ALL.)
Which makes me MUCH less likely to buy another of that author’s books. It smacks as a lack of integrity to me. To let someone ghost-write a story under my name.
Anything with my name on it is always going to be my work. If I ever choose to sell some of my rights in a contract to a publisher, you can damn well bet that’s going to be in the contract. No ghost writers. (Which is ironic, since I’ve made money ghostwriting.)
Now, a particular author that I’ve been reading since the late 80s or early 90s (starts with a G ends with an M & has recently had a blockbusting show involving lots of dead people!) You know who I’m talkin’bout.
He’s always been a slower writer. Which, you know, it’s fine. He was regular though, we could expect a book every 3 or 4 years, and they’d be QUALITY BOOKS. Until the last one.
Side characters, none of the mains, then nothing for years (cause someone is more interested in writing for the show than writing the damned books that people have been buying for decades that let him GET the show in the first place?) Yeah. That.
He’s also one of those authors who feels they owe nothing to their fans. Too big for their britches is what my gram would say about someone like that.
So nope. Won’t be buying another of his books again.
I’m on the edge of the danger zone with one of my all time fav series too. The Dresden Files has been, since I discovered it over a decade ago, one of my all time favorite urban fantasy series.
It’s quality work, the writing is top notch. The story is fantastic, and the author was regular with the releases, a year or so, give or take a bit in between books.
Hubs asked me to check on when Peace Talks is coming out (it’s the next one in the series) it’s been over three years.
Author has released a couple of other series (which kinda suck, honestly, writing is no where near as good, worldbuilding is lackluster and frankly? Nah… not interested.)
A graphic novel set in the DF world pubbed last year, but frankly? I don’t like the graphic novels.
I like graphic novels. OMG GO READ MONSTRESS (my most recent love) Ahem. Right.
I’m one of those people that the art AND the words need to mesh to make a gorgeous whole, though. If I don’t like the art (I don’t, in the newest ones) I’m not gonna like the story, even if it IS in the author’s words.
For that series, especially… the written word is much more effective at capturing me and taking me to the world of Dresden than a graphic novel is ever going to be.
But it’s been 3 years. I don’t have any hard and fast cut off point for a series, I guess if Mr. Butcher gets Peace Talks out in the next year or so, I’ll still buy it.
It won’t likely be a preorder though. It won’t be in the first week, which is how NYT judges their list to give ‘best-seller’ status to.
Because it’s been so long that I forget to look for it when I’m ordering books.
At this point, if I don’t see or hear about it being released through social media (I don’t read newsletters, which is why I don’t bother with having one… I subscribe to them to make people happy, but I don’t… you know, actually read them.) I’ll miss it (yeah, I’m on his mailing list, I think.)
So, even if it DOES come out in the next year or so, yeah… I’ll probably miss it. Which means… it may be years before I notice it’s out, and by then… my interest in the series will be consigned to the dustbin.
Did Mr. Butcher owe me better than that? Yeah. He kinda did. GRRM sure as hell owed me more than that.
Now, if you write stand alone books. You have no obligation to write another book in a series. No question. It’s standalone. Period.
If you write series books, you ARE obligated to somehow either keep writing those books or bring them to a conclusion. (Always assuming you’re still sucking wind and writing.)
Not a conclusion the reader is happy with (thinking of Abercrombie’s First Law) but A conclusion.
Here’s why. I as a reader, purchase series books over standalone every time. Because I prefer the depth an author can get into WRT everything offered by a series.
So I’m not only buying THAT book, by choosing a series, I’m ALSO investing in the longevity of that series. Whether it’s a trilogy or an ongoing doesn’t really matter to me as much as that there ‘will’ likely be more.
Then, after I fall in love with those characters, that world, YES I will automatically preorder the next book if I enjoyed the previous ones (& I know about it, which is why we need to self-promo as authors).
An author doesn’t owe me anything else. They don’t owe me signings, appearances, interaction on social media, but they do owe me, the person paying their paycheck by buying their books and talking about their books… (and all the other people doing so) they owe us the story in a reasonable amount of time within their capabilities as an author and always assuming their world doesn’t implode. (Holy run-on sentence, but you know, I’m gonna leave it, cause I think it makes the point of how strongly I feel about this.)
I mean… the other things are really nice, and I’m much more likely to go out of my way to buy/review/suggest to library etc a book from an author who has interacted with me vs one who hasn’t.
But they don’t owe me anything except the story I’ve invested in for so long.
As an author… I honestly don’t understand how another author can NOT want to give their story the proper ending.
That story is their brain baby. They slaved long and hard to bring it into the world, I can’t, honestly, understand why an author would even consider just abandoning a series (especially a popular, well-loved one.)
Sure. As an author I also get it, you need a break from writing the same thing on and on, so, definitely, write other things, have more than one series.
Your fans aren’t obligated to like your other series though. Just cause it’s THAT author’s name on the book, it’s not going to make me automatically love the work.
Butcher can’t write good fantasy. I said it. It may be his true love, but it’s not within his skill set.
(I can’t either, for what it’s worth, not high-fantasy)
So. What does a reader owe an author?
Loyalty, if they still like the books. Buying/getting from the library instead of stealing the book. A review, maybe, if the person has a clue how valuable a review can be to an author.
What does an Author owe a reader? Everything.
Cause they wouldn’t be an author without them.
4 thoughts on “What does an author owe a reader?”
This was a really interesting post – left me with a lot to think about! What can I offer my readers? (When I’m published that is lol).
I’m glad you liked it. I’ve been meaning to write it for a while. I’d invite you to say. “When I publish.” I am… perhaps a bit salty about ‘publishing’ as an entity, regardless how it goes for you, which path you choose, which rights you sell for what currency… YOU are publishing YOUR book. It’s yours. Period. You came up with it. Lol, I rant on twitter about this occasionally. Here on the blog too.
I do agree with most of this. But what about a series where the first book (or two) does not really sell? It might be throwing good money after bad for the author (assuming that someone is self-publishing) or even a publisher. Some pubs also cut series short if the first book or two doesn’t sell well and that leaves the author with few options (other than self-publishing, and that can be too expensive in either time or money for some). Obviously if the book hasn’t been super popular, maybe no one really cares, but most books have a few readers, at least. What does the author do if their series is cut short by a pub. (or flops in self-pub and thus would mean a “loss” to pub another in the series). Curious what you think about such scenarios.
I think at that point it would come down to how much that author loved that story. If, say, it flops/isn’t renewed, I’d still think one book to wrap things up would be worthwhile, both for the fans and the author. For my ILAVANI series… lol, I don’t actually expect huge sales from that, but I can’t imagine not writing it. Because *I* love it so much. If it’s giving one person other than me joy? It’s worth it. After all, if *we* don’t love our stories, it shows in the quality of our work. Ymmv, of course.
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