Monday, 1 December 2014

The Writer-Reader Contract


This is my first blog. Ever (well copied from my Goodreads Blog!). And so I hope that you'll forgive me if it seems a bit of a ramble. I'm new to this.

I guess this blog post is borne out of a few articles I was reading this week and my reaction to them as a debut author, which is why the title of this post is the writer-reader contract. Of course, no such physical contract exists, but my belief is that there is a bond, a dynamic, between the writer and reader - one formed by the reader's generosity in reading my book in the first place, and my commitment to delivering the best novel/s I can.

I guess I had better explain where this is coming from.

This week I read a writer's blog (not naming names) where the author wrote that after publishing several books in her series, she was 'out of love' with her characters, indifferent to finishing her series (despite pre-orders for her next novel) and just wanted to chuck it all in and begin anew, begin a different (better) series. Her readers/ fans were sympathetic, though one reader (the voice of reason) claimed that if she didn't finish this series, why should anyone invest themselves in her new series. Well, I tend to agree.

My view is that when you decide to publish (and it is a decision - you don't just fall into this, despite the ease of self-publishing nowadays), you commit yourself to the task of finishing your series (if that is what you are writing) and you commit yourself to the reader. Readers matter. I feel indebted to each and every one of my readers for taking the time to read my novel. And, yes, in case you're wondering, I fully intend to finish my series (wouldn't even contemplate not finishing my series!) - though I can understand where this author is coming from as it is disheartening to get a bad review. But you have to accept that there will always be readers who won't like, maybe even hate, your novel. After all, I'm sure that writers themselves when they read do not find that they like everything they read. I certainly don't. Hell, there are books I would do anything to avoid re-reading, even it meant the pain of punishment (which is how I would view re-reading those particular books). Sorry, I'm rambling. But what I mean to say is that no matter how many 'true' readers you have (a term some bloggers use to describe committed fans) - even if it is only half a dozen - you owe it to them to finish a series. They are as invested in it as you are.

If you are an author at a traditional publishing house and they refuse to invest any more in your series (yes, this can happen!) then perhaps it's time to consider becoming a hybrid author and self-publishing to finish that particular series, whilst continuing writing for the publisher other novels.

Well, enough with the advice.

So, the other thing that prompted me to write a blog about this was the issue of bad reviews. For a writer, this is a tough one. You can get 99 great reviews and 1 bad review and that's the one that you remember. Of course, you could avoid reading reviews altogether but that really isn't going to happen until you get to be a mega-bestselling novelist and you just don't have the time to read those reviews any more. I see you raise your eyebrows in disbelief. Look, I'm using my imagination here as I have yet to reach those dizzying heights.

I'm okay with bad reviews - really - though I'm much happier without them. I read that even the blockbuster novels have thousands of bad reviews - so misery loves company. But sometimes I think reviewers on GoodReads or Amazon miss the point of a bad review - a review is about giving insight to other readers what you found good/ bad about a book in terms of plot, characterisation, setting, pace, accuracy (if it has history, etc...), etc... Writers use this information to construct better stories next time. Some (when self-published) use it to re-work their novel and resubmit. Readers often use reviews to see if the novel will interest them. But a bad review that is just mean or a gripe or three words is, in my mind, not worth the paper it's printed on (metaphorically speaking). To be honest, at this point, I haven't had that many bad reviews though I know they will come (it's par for the course) but I hope they will be valuable to readers as much as the good reviews are valuable to readers.

So, here's the thing. As a writer, I have made a commitment to my readers. I value my readers. I thank them for their generosity and support. I appreciate it when they write reviews. And if they give me a bad review (look, I'm not asking - no way canvassing - for a bad review!!) I hope it will assist other readers to make up their minds whether they wish to read my novel. In other words, I hope it's constructive and informed. But, even if I got a fistful of bad reviews, I am committed to writing my series for the readers who love my novel - who love the characters and the plot and want more.

So this is the writer-reader contract. I'll write as long as there are readers out there who want to read what I write.

Simple.