In part one of this series on Audience Entitlement, we discovered that the author does not work for the audience.
In part two, I pointed out that the audience doesn’t have to take any crap from the author. (That’s what I’m here for. My amazing perception of the obvious.)
Watch closely, as I put these two parts together.
The Golden Rule
I listed “Honesty” and “Respect” as two things the audience can reasonably expect from an author. These are fluffy terms, and difficult to measure. In some cases, only the author knows if they are being honest or not. And there’s always someone who has to push the envelope. Who’s to say that intentionally leaving the third book out of a five book series couldn’t be Honestly and Respectfully done, if that’s the artist’s intention?
Plenty of gray area for us to all fight over, but the concept boils down to this:
Regarding the Audience/Author relationship, the best rule is The Golden Rule, which works in both directions. The author should respect the audience, and the audience should respect the author.
The Solution to Incomplete Series Malaise
Taking this discussion back to the original post by Neil Gaiman, the issue of audience entitlement was brought up regarding the phenomenon I titled “Incomplete Series Malaise” – the audience wants the next book in the series but the author isn’t working on it, or isn’t working on it as quickly as members of the audience would like.
For the author to simply say “I’m not your bitch” and leave it at that is disrespectful. The audience will say, “I’m not your bitch either,” and then see how many curses about you they can fit into a 140-character twitter post. Sadly this is where Mr. Gaiman left the matter hang, when I believe he is only half right. I say that because the solution to Incomplete Series Malaise comes in two parts:
If the audience respects the author, they won’t make demands.
When a member of the audience begins reading a series, they should not have any expectation of due dates or even of completion, except for what the author communicates. The audience can be as excited and enthusiastic as they want, and while they have every right to ask when the next book is expected, they have NO RIGHT to demand the next book in a series, or to get angry if it isn’t getting done when they’d like.
Audiences, if you can’t handle this, then don’t read a series until it’s complete. The author is not your bitch.
If the author respects his/her audience, he/she will tell them when the next book in the series is expected to be finished, and if it isn’t done by then, explain why not and renew the expected date.
This is the part that I think Mr. Gaiman missed. True, the author may not be the audience’s bitch, but an author who does not at least have some respect for their audience doesn’t deserve one.
The wise author (or the author’s publisher) would have information about expected book release dates at a webpage/FAQ/blog post where excited fans can be directed. This is the official “I know, I got it, I already answered that, and you can find the official answer here…”
Authors, if you can’t handle this, then don’t write a series. Its disrespectful to the audience, and they are not your bitch.
Examples abound here. From personal experience, I’ll point at Stephen King who lost me as a loyal reader when he stopped working on the Dark Tower series to work on other things and gave no reason why or estimation of when (or if!) the Dark Tower series might be finished. While Stephen King eventually came back and finished the series, I never did. In fact, I never read another of Stephen King’s books after being treated that way.
And So On…
We can extend this simple solution out to ten-thousand other areas of the author/audience relationship: social media responsiveness, web presence, the author’s right to privacy…
When I boil the whole thing down like this, it sounds like the “Can’t we all just get along?” solution. And it is. You’d think we wouldn’t need this bit of common sense pointed out to us, but all it takes is one dickhead with a twitter account (author or audience) to ruin it for the rest of us.
So, when the inevitable happens, and you see authors/audiences getting into a pissing contest and disrespecting each other, feel free to link them here for a dose of common sense.