Smugglers Ponderings

Smugglers’ Ponderings: On Reader’s Entitlement

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will probably know by now that one of my favourite series is the Tairen Soul series by C.L. Wilson. I consider this to be one of the finest examples of Fantasy Romance. The fourth and final book, Queen of Song and Souls was first set to be released earlier this year but the date was pushed forward to June but there were talks of yet another postponement.

I have just learnt from the lovely Erin Galloway from Dorchester Publishing that the book will now be published in November (the date seems to be set in stone now).

My first reaction upon hearing these news was to pull my hair, wail in pain and drown my sorrows in coffee (I was at work at the time). My second reaction was to say: well, she can take as much time as she wants! This series rocks and if the author doesn’t feel the last book is ready, then so be it.

That made me think about all the kerfuffle regarding authors Patrick Rothfuss and George RR Martin – both authors have been writing sequels to their books for a few years now and some fans are, how should I put it, Behaving Badly. By pestering the authors, sending hate email, being generally unpleasant about the wait – as if they are entitled to something from the authors.

Patrick Rothfuss blogged about his frustration and how bad he feels about the pressure. I blogged about that when I wrote my review of The Name of the Wind and I asked our readers how did they feel about waiting for a book. I got some really interesting comments.

Now this other question popped in after not only learning about the new date for Wilson’s book but also because Neil Gaiman (all hail the King) blogged about reader’s entitlement yesterday.

Neil is a nice guy – he must receive tons of emails and he always finds the time to reply to at least some of them. Yesterday he got the following from a guy named Garret:

“I’ve recently subscribed to George RR Martin’s blog (http://grrm.livejournal.com/) in the hopes of getting some inside information regarding when the next “Song of Ice and Fire” book is due to be released. I love the series but since subscribing to the blog I’ve become increasingly frustrated with Martin’s lack of communication on the next novel’s publication date. In fact, it’s almost as though he is doing everything in his power to avoid working on his latest novel. Which poses a few questions:

1. With blogs and twitter and other forms of social media do you think the audience has too much input when it comes to scrutinising the actions of an artist? If you had announced a new book two years ago and were yet to deliver do you think avoiding the topic on your blog would lead readers to believe you were being “slack”? By blogging about your work and life do you have more of a responsibility to deliver on your commitments?

2. When writing a series of books, like Martin is with “A Song of Ice and Fire” what responsibility does he have to finish the story? Is it unrealistic to think that by not writing the next chapter Martin is letting me down, even though if and when the book gets written is completely up to him?

Would be very interested in your insight.”

Neil’s reply is a work of art in itself and you should read it (actually you should read ANYTHING he writes) but the bottom line of what he says is:

George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.

So, there you have it: we have two writer’s opinion regarding the so-called Reader’s Entitlement.

But what about WE, as readers , what do we think about it– are we entitled to anything especially when it comes to serialised books? Are we entitled to feel angered about the wait and to feel let down when a book in a series is not as good as its predecessor? Is that the author’s fault – are they obliged to always meet our expectations or to write as fast as we want to?

There is a very simple and obvious answer, at least to me: no. I don’t feel like I am entitled to anything. Yes, the wait is painful and can be frustrating, there is no denying it; and I am pretty sure that say, if Meljean Brook decided NOT to write Michael’s story , I would probably be forever sad but ultimately? There is NOTHING I can do. And frankly, I would rather do something useful than to pester a writer for a book they are writing. As Neil Gaiman and Patrick Rothfuss say, they have a life and so do I.

But what do you think? Do you feel entitled as a reader to a writer’s work? Any authors in the house – how do you feel about reader’s pressure and expectation?

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31 Comments

  • katiebabs
    May 13, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I am not going to lie because of course I want the next book by my favorite authors ASAP, but in the end I want quality and a satisfying read. So if I have to wait a few years for that most wanted book, I will wait. It will be hard, but I will wait.

  • Kate
    May 13, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Is it unrealistic to think that by not writing the next chapter Martin is letting me down, even though if and when the book gets written is completely up to him?

    Um, yes. Geez o’pete louise. Yes, it can be painful to wait for a much-beloved next edition of a series. No, it is not a personal insult when it takes longer than you want it to. Regardless of Twitter, blogs, facebook, and all the social networking interwebbiness out there, I can’t fathom feeling “entitled” to the next installment, or “insulted” when it’s a long time coming.

  • Diana Peterfreund
    May 13, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Briefly, I think reading articles like this probably makes them feel real bad. No one likes disappointing their readers.

    But there is something to the idea that ignorance is bliss, and all the info readers are getting through blogs and half-understood missives from publicists third hand is just creating controversy and rumors.

    Sometimes books are pushed back for reasons beyond the author’s and publisher’s control. Mine was. And though I was told by my publisher that we weren’t going to announce it yet, a few blogs got their hands on the news, and I was bombarded with questions — “Is it true? Why? Why aren’t you confirming this? Jeez, you *know* don’t you? It’s your book they pushed back. What did you do?”

    Sigh. Same thing happened a few months later with the cover. It’s a microcosm of the 24-news cycle. You can no longer control your own information. But more than that, people expect the answers as their right. Not later. Now.

    And if an author is late with a book, having his or her readers pilloring him or her online is probably only making the situation worse.

  • MaryK
    May 13, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I haven’t read C.L. Wilson so I don’t know when her last book came out, but for several years now I’ve felt that authors are being pressured to write faster and faster. That has to be bad for their creativity. Readers need to remember that authors aren’t short order cooks.

    You know in recent years readers have also complained about wallpaper historicals and a lack of “meaty” books. Seems like the two situations might bear some relationship to each other.

  • Kris
    May 13, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Let’s bottom line this for a second.. do these rabid fans have nothing else to read while they’re waiting for the next book to come out?? Do they only read Martin and Rothuss?? What do they do – sit in their caves and constantly reread the other books in the series by firelight while muttering to themselves about how hard done by THEY are?? *rolls eyes* Some people need to seriously get a grip.

    Yes, I’ve been disappointed if a book release has been delayed, but as someone who works on project deadlines myself I know that sometimes time blow outs are beyond anybody’s control. Plus it’s not like I don’t have anything else to read in the interim. *g* I usually make a mental note of when the book is scheduled to be released and move on. This approach always leaves me surprised, thrilled and excited when I hear that a book is about to come out. It might sound simplistic *shrugs*, but it works for me.

    BTW, that response from Neil Gaiman was pure gold. If I didn’t already love him, I would start reading him just for that. 🙂

  • Meljean
    May 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    I love Gaiman’s response (I laughed out loud) but although I think that no one is entitled to a book when they want it, or to dictate what an author can do in the interim, I think it is fair for readers to build expectations — and that part of that expectation in a serialized work, in which a point of completion or a next installment has been promised, is that it *will* eventually be delivered.

    But, definitely — count me in as one of those readers who’d rather wait an extra year (or ten) for a damn good story than whatever the author was able to pound out in the time expected of them.

    Even Michael’s book — I won’t pretend that I’m a little daunted by it, but that’s partially because I know what I’m planning to do with the storyline, and I just want to make sure that it’s worth it for the reader to follow the series over those eight full-length books. And if it ends up that I have to ask my editor for a little more time for that book so that it’s not a cobbled together piece of shit … yep, I’ll be asking for it. I imagine that most readers would understand and agree that a later book is better than a crappy one; and I would understand that many readers would be disappointed if a release date was pushed back indefinitely.

    So I guess I’m saying that expectations are fair. But, yeah, no one is ‘entitled’ to anything. The author isn’t entitled to the next book contract, or inspiration, or even good health; readers aren’t entitled to a book that an author can’t produce for whatever reason.

  • KMont
    May 13, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Ack! But waiting a LONG time, like ten or more years, for a book can hurt it’s reception, too. Hype hyping it up and all, the – sing it with me now – anticipaaaation. Whatever the outcome though, sure, sometimes the wait will be long – Great Wall of China long. But what can ya do? Whining isn’t attractive.

    However *shifty eyes*… I feel it’s finally time to let everyone know (because EVERYONE reads this blog!! So excited) that YES – authors should bow down to my reader demands! Muuuahaaa! Yes, author, you WILL finish your book in one month, and it’ll be full of all I want to see in it. Muuahaaa! Muuuaaaahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

    *snort*

    This is oooone hot topic.

  • Meljean
    May 13, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Kmont — too true about anticipation. After ten years, it had better be a masterpiece 😀

  • Diana Peterfreund
    May 13, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    And can I just add that I’ll see Ana’s anticipation for Queen of Song and Souls and raise it by a factor of ten? I’ve been waiting since 2003 for this book.

  • KMont
    May 13, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    *rolls in oceans of anticipation* at the risk of going off topic — ooooo, me tooooooo! I cannot wait for Queen of Song and Souls! *bites nails* I mean, hello, I CAN wait – but I can’t! *bounce* *which looks a little like a peepee dance*

    OK, I think maybe I’ve had a little too much Coke tonight.

  • FantasyDreamer
    May 13, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I’m sad to see Queen of Song and Souls has been delayed but happy that it be out in October. I can wait, don’t want to but will. I love this series and am anxious to see how it ends.

    I remember when the big stinks arose about Georgre RR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss. I thought then and still do now, we as reader cannot rush the creativity it takes to write a book. Sure, I want to read the next book from a favorite author by yesterday, but I would rather they wrote as they see fit and not rush it. I agree with Neil 100%, awesome response.

  • katiebabs
    May 13, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    I remember I felt like I was dying for Thomas Harris to write the sequel to Silence of the Lambs.It took him ten years! The pain, the anticipation, the WTF when I finally read it.
    And when I was still a LKH Anita Blake fan girl, she would take almost 2 years to write the next book.
    It seems as readers we want books faster. I remember when I was in high school and college that if my favorite author published every two years that made me happy. Now it is expected for authors to publish every year or even in less time.

  • Jill D.
    May 13, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    As a human being, it is only natural to have emotions such as disappointment or anger. Yes, I do belive it is well within a fans right to feel disappointed and comiserate with others. However, I do not think fans are entitled to badger an author or be disrespectful. I believe the golden rule expresses what is exceptable and what’s not.

  • Bridget Locke
    May 13, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Huh…excellent topic (as per usual). As a reader I know what it’s like to anticipate a book. And I know what it’s like to be disappointed after waiting for 5 years for a book only to have it suck monkey butt.

    My only request as a reader is that the books being put out are the best the author can produce. Sometimes a person is lucky and has a super prolific writer (Nalini Singh) who writes consistently good books and has them come out pretty quickly.

    And then there are authors like PJ Tracy who write a book every 3 or 4 years. I love their work, but the wait kills me!

    Again, I’m willing to wait though. And because I am a writer (just not published), I hope I’m lucky and can get a good fanbase who understands the writing process. Sometimes the book just won’t come to you. *sigh*

  • Tiah
    May 14, 2009 at 12:00 am

    The Barnes and Noble by my house is two stories and open everyday until 10:00pm. I think I can find a book to read while I am waiting for the next book of my favorite series (or whatever) to come out.

    These books are written to entertain us just like movies. I wouldn’t harp on an actor to make more movies a year because I want to watch them. It’s just silly.

  • Ana
    May 14, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Do you know what I love the most about living in the UK? I post something, go to bed , then I wake up to a wonderfully full inbox and amazing comments such as THESE.

    AND today I also woke up to the news that Patrick Rothfuss finished the sequel to the Name of the Wind – now, what are the chances that he heard us talking and decided that we are so nice for not feeling entitled to anything that he decided to present ME with his book? :mrgreen:

    Kmont – you ALWAYS make me laugh.

    MaryK –

    You know in recent years readers have also complained about wallpaper historicals and a lack of “meaty” books. Seems like the two situations might bear some relationship to each other

    YES, exactly.

    Also, how do we feel when we wait for a book for such a long time, and the expectations build and then the book is nothing like we hoped? Like for example, how people wanted to return their copies of Breaking Dawn to the bookshops because it didn’t meet their expectations? Ludicrous right?

  • Mandi
    May 14, 2009 at 4:52 am

    I find one of the more enjoyable aspects of reading is the wait. It’s fun to speculate and reread and call your friends and discuss for the hundredth time why we love the book. If the author comes out and changes the release date, I am usually fine with that – are my expectations now higher? Do I expect the rewrite to be perfect..no. Like previous posters have said – there are plenty of books out there to keep you occupied. Now I just need to find some until November! 🙂

  • Christine
    May 14, 2009 at 4:54 am

    When Stephen King had is accident several years ago, coldly, my first thought was “He can’t die! He hasn’t finished the Dark Tower series!” Readers are cruel and demanding. I know. I’m one of them. In our defense, its hard when the bane of your existance depends on the next move of a fictional character. Americans are used to instant gratification. Bravo to authors who attempt to teach us patience by making us wait for good, quality work. Writers, please ignore our crazed, selfish rantings begging you to complete your next great book. Readers, if we want to read trash, we can go to the bathrooms at the mall.

  • Charlotte Phillips
    May 14, 2009 at 5:21 am

    If I know in advance that a series is going to be X books long, I often wait for all the books before I start reading.

    That’s not posible with the kinds of ongoing series so popular in my favorite genre – mystery – so I suffer through the wait with everyone else.

    My own sequel to Hacksaw is late and readers’ tones have changed from friendly requests for the sequel date to impatient inquiries about what’s taking so long. I’m hoping to get it done before impatience turns to anger.

    Back to editing,
    Charlotte Phillips
    Hacksaw

  • Gerd Duerner
    May 14, 2009 at 5:26 am

    Ah, well I (and other devout fans of that book, I’m sure) waited almost twenty years for Clarke to pick up “Rendezvous with Rama” again and after reading the last instalment I wished he had it left as it was … expectation can be a bitch. 🙂

    And still, I always secretly hoped that Farmer would write a further instalment for his “Riverworld” cycle which ended kind of open, too.
    (But mind you, despite a few secret curses and wailing o why?’s of which I would never have let them know I bear them no ill, they both wrote some wonderful books that brightened up my life, what more can you honestly expect?)

    “Breaking Dawn” (and the sexcapades of Anita Blake) are irksome topics of their own in a way, in the end, if we like it or not, we have to acknowledge that these figures are the respective authors properties and even though we might disagree, more or less verbose, it is up to their own discretion where to go with them.

    Now, do I feel entitled to an author’s work?
    As a fan, I’m tempted to believe that they do own it to us to continue the adventures of our favoured characters and neither change them in a way that would take away from my reading pleasure nor to let them die, for that would be too heartbreaking.
    But the more realistic part of me acknowledges that good work can not be rushed, and I’d rather not want to see them force out a book that is so catered towards pleasing its audience that it lost every soul. That would only be a shallow pleasure that too soon should turn sour.

    Does a author have a obligation towards us as readers?
    Only the one which every professional has, to give their work the best they have.

  • Kat
    May 14, 2009 at 5:27 am

    All I feel entitled to is a good read. So, no, I don’t feel an author is answerable to me for a book s/he hasn’t even written. CL Wilson can take all the time she wants because I WANT that last book to be fantastic. That said, I’m an impatient sort and the wait is painful.

    John Scalzi posted a few months ago on the George R. R. Martin thing. I like the term “commercial hackery”. I think I’ll use it next time I come across a series book that feels underdone.

  • Kat
    May 14, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Oh, bugger, the link disappeared: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/02/23/pissy-fans/

  • Angela
    May 14, 2009 at 5:39 am

    I agree that there’s always going to be expectation from readers about author’s works. But I’m not entitled to anything. And to be honest, if an author needs more time to write the book that I want to read, then so be it. I want quality, and to know they’re putting out the best book they have, over quantity and frequency.
    Is the wait hard? Heck yeah. But it’s usually worth it.
    And it’s probably my own fault for devouring the book in a single day once it finally is released.
    The point is that authors are people. They work hard to put out these books that we love, and we, as readers, should all try to remember that they have lives too.

  • janicu
    May 14, 2009 at 6:56 am

    You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been that far gone that I’d email an author or spend the time to rant about how long it’s taking them to write a book. I know I’ve said “I can’t wait”, but that’s more of an expression than I literally cannot wait for them to finish. There are so many other books I need to read.

  • AnimeJune
    May 14, 2009 at 8:10 am

    You know, while I never sent any e-mails to George RR Martin, I have to admit I was one of the people annoyed that his latest book was taking so long.

    Why? Because he told us himself it was already done and just needed some cleaning up. That was four years ago.

    I’ll be the first to admit writing can take a long time (my research for my own novel is taking way longer than I thought it would), and I’ll also admit that GRRM’s last book (Feast for Crows) was a bit shaky and maybe that’s because he had to rush it.

    But there’s unfair expectations and then there’s putting your money where your mouth is. GRRM told fans that he wrote a huge book that was too big to fit between two covers so he was going to split it in half and publish them at different times. He essentially told his readers that “Dance for Dragons” WAS ALREADY WRITTEN, and just needed to be polished up. When the author of the series itself tells you something, you believe it, so when the so-called polishing takes four years it can get a little irksome, I’ll admit.

    So maybe this isn’t a case of GRRM not writing fast enough to meet his readers demands, but more a case of GRRM making unwise promises and disappointing his fans in that way.

    Which leads me to the crux of my argument – a writer isn’t entitled to write faster or worse to satisfy their readers, but in the age of blogging and twitter they should know that if they make promises or expectations, they’re going to be taken seriously and not well if they don’t match them.

  • KMont
    May 14, 2009 at 8:26 am

    You know, I think AnimeJune has a very good point. I won’t name names, but a similar experience for me is a particular author that always, without fail, talks up their upcoming book – how hot it will be, how full of great romance, exciting and sometimes painful plot turns, you name it.

    About two years ago, I started mentally yelling at this author to stop saying these things. I can understand needing to pimp the book, get excitement going for it, but since readers will NOT always feel the same as the author, I just got this sinking feeling. Sure enough, comments after book releases were often along the lines of, “The author said this book would be SO hot, but it’s not at all. The action promised wasn’t anything new in terms of tragedy, etc. I feel cheated…”

    Some fans had come to depend heavily on the author’s own opinion and hype of the work – and they ended up feeling misled. I wished that the author had phrased their words differently so that they didn’t sound like promises to readers, but more their personal take on the book. None of this, “You just wait, you’ll see what I mean. This book is on fire hot.” Well, those kinds of words generate excitement and fans will remember and discuss those words later.

    On the other hand, I learned a while back that since we all have differing opinions, it won’t always work out the same for readers as it does for authors, how well the story reads to us. Some people will still hang onto such “promises” and it’s not always pretty, the results.

    Thinking on other aspects of this debate, whenever I see an author these days that’s had a long delay in a book, I almost immediately think personal life, something’s going on and it’s none of my business as the author is just as susceptible to issues as I am. They need their space, too. It’s got to be so tough, though, to decide what to ignore and what not to. Defending themselves seems to get them labeled a difficult and argumentative author these days – a BAD author, but sitting silent only encourages some fans to get nastier as they wonder why the author dares to ignore their concerns. What’s a person to do?

  • azteclady
    May 14, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Without having read any of the comments (yet), the answer is hell no.

    No, a reader is not entitled to jackshit. We can want and we can hope for. Obviously, we can expect something (a good read, the culmination of a specific story thread, etc.) but we are not entitled to have any of those expectations met.

    The only thing readers (or consumers of any product, really) are entitled to is to make the decision whether to spend their money on this or that product (or both).

    (Now I’m off to read the previous comments)

  • MaryK
    May 14, 2009 at 9:46 am

    AND today I also woke up to the news that Patrick Rothfuss finished the sequel to the Name of the Wind

    That’s particularly great news because your review of the 1st book convinced me to buy it!

    @ Kat – “a series book that feels underdone” 😆 It needed to cook a little longer? That’s a perfect description for books that feel rushed! I’m going to start calling them that.

  • Pam P
    May 14, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I’d rather wait longer for the better story rather than have the author forced to meet an earlier date which might result in a mediocre one.

  • orannia
    May 15, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    I know I’m INCREDIBLY late posting, but I just wanted to say FANTASTIC post!

    Weirdly, a friend and I were discussing this very topic yesterday. I’ve have been mostly patiently waiting for the third book (The Captal’s Tower) in Melanie Rawn’s fantasy series. I think I’m entering year 14 since the second book was published. I know she hasn’t been writing, and I know why, and I accept that. I also know that she has published recently two books in a completely different series….which is slightly frustrating, but as my friend pointed out…the writing muse leads you, not the other way around. So, I’m remaining patient…and hoping that if she doesn’t want to write the book she will release a 2-page synopsis with all the questions answered. Because I don’t want another Pretender….

    Oh, and if CL Wilson needs longer, then she needs longer. I’d rather an author requested more time than published a book they weren’t happy with…and that had ‘issues’!

  • jennygirl
    May 18, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Oh no he didn’t!
    Readers should not have a feeling of entitlement. As a matter of fact, there are too many people in the world, in genreral, who have a feeling of entitlement about a lot of things. Where are people’s manners and thoughfulness of others?
    Have you written book? Would like your creative process to be rushed?
    No, I didn’t think so. Puh-leese!

    I’m not saying authors can or should abuse their fan base, but fans should not pester authors.

    Gaiman’s response is classic.

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