Are Authors Obligated to their Fans?

Without readers, there wouldn’t be authors. Without authors, there wouldn’t be readers.

Obligation

noun

  1. something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things, and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law, etc.
Parker J. Cole, circa last week

As an author with a fledgling fan base (hooray!) I’ve been asked by my fans ‘When is the next book of such and such series going to be out?”

Mind you, this is a lovely question. It feels so good to have readers clamoring for your work. I mean, this is an author’s dream! Oh wait. Maybe I shouldn’t speak for every author. Some authors may hate hearing from their readers. I’m not one of them.

Currently, I write Christian edgy & sweet romances and speculative fiction. When I first started out, and received my very first fan email, I was blown away. “Oh my gosh! Someone who I don’t know likes my work. And it’s not my mom!”

Over time, as the series I was working on progressed, I found myself itching to write something else. For one thing, as a writer, you are immersed in the world of your craft. Your characters, their homes, and abilities are merely extensions of yourself in some way. Writing is not just writing: it’s sharing a part of yourself with each word you put on the page. In my series, the families were at each other’s throats. Lots of drama, revenge, twists, turns, and “shut the front door” moments. With these type of people, they can drain you. Exhaust you.

When I finished the last book of the series for now, a sense of relief came over me. “Whew! That’s done. I’ll holler back at ya’ll crazy folks laters!”

But then, I received a couple of emails from fans saying, “When is Book 4 going to be out?”

Uh…*blinks* “I’ve got nothing.” After all, I’m taking a break from these families. Give me a minute to collect myself. But I do realize there are more stories to tell and I intend on telling them soon. Possibly by the beginning of next year. We’ll just have to wait and see.

My muse and foot warmer, Sarah

Recently, I’ve joined a multi-author series and for the first time ever, I’m going to be writing a western historical romance. Strange of me because the one and only time I met a horse, I ran away from it. I don’t like my animals standing over me or looking down at me. Nor do I like my pets with sharp tiny claws, which is why I’ll never own a cat. I’ve friends enough who have cats. My baby girl, Sarah, is just right.

Intrigued by this genre, it’s a whole different ball game but I’m enjoying it. The biggest hurdle I have is trying to make sure my characters don’t sound too modern and get the feel of the century correct. After all, we’ll be partying like it’s 1899.

I’m not sure how my fans will respond to this change in genre. We’ll just have to see. But should I not try my hand at a different genre, even just once?

Author Mark Carver

Now, for the flip side. There’s an author I love name Mark Carver. I fell in love with his work when he wrote the soul-twisting thriller series, Age of Apollyon. For those familiar with biblical end times of the futuristic view…this ain’t it. In Carver’s series, Satan has manifested himself to the world. He destroys the Vatican, sets up his own church, and has his own pope. Most of the world becomes Satanists. I’m of the opinion that these books should be made into movies but the desecration of Christendom, particularly the way the Vatican is attacked and used as a hub for Satan, that’s not going to work for some folks.

If I may digress, one of the points Carver made in his book is that because Satan manifested himself, then the question of whether God exists is answered. If Satan exists, then God does. I devoured the entire series in a weekend. You don’t understand: I ate it up. When it was over, the first thing I did was contact my new favorite author and asked, “When’s the next book coming out?”

“No, that’s the final book of the series. I don’t intend to write anymore.”

Heart crashes to the ground. This can’t be it! Dude, what are you saying? I love this dark world. My lips are bruised from biting on them from one tension-filled moment to the next. What do you mean, “No”?

Mark became my automatic buy. If he has a book, I buying it. Sometimes, I don’t even read the blurb. Mark’s name is on it, that’s good enough for me. I’ve never been disappointed.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. Mark makes an announcement that under a different pen name, he’s writing…Christian sweet romances.

What the heck? Dude, all of your books are dark Christian stories. From the Age of Apollyon to the dark underbelly of MMA fighting world, this is what you do. What do you mean you’re writing a sweet frickin’ romance? I even reached out to him and said, “I don’t know what to make of you doing this.”

Dare I say, I felt…betrayed. Somehow along the way, Mark Carver became MY author. He was supposed to write what I LIKE and stay within MY comfort zone of what HIS fiction should be.

Thus, the question I posed as the title to this piece: Are authors obligated to their fans? Coming from both sides of the equation, as an author and as a fan, I’d say the answer is, Yes. But what are we obligated to do?

We are obligated to our fans to be who we are — writers. We tell stories our fans enjoy, no matter what genre you write in. However, we’re also obligated to grow in our craft. Growth, ultimately, is about change. Change is the one constant we can all depending. Never to change is to never grow.

And by the way, I’m reading Mark’s sweet romance and yeah, it’s good!

I can honestly say my first book reads nothing like my latest book. With each book I’ve released, I believe my writing has grown in both quality and message. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few fans who were in my corner from the very start. Others have tagged along as I have switched from writing edgy Christian romance to sweet, wholesome romances. Others may come along as I publish this historical in June. Still, others may jump on the bandwagon as I send out the next volume of my fantasy series this month.

I have a tendency to be kind of rabid fan.

Mark’s just one of many authors I enjoy. I’m just picking him because…why not?To all the reader fans out there, let me leave you with this: If you have a favorite author, please let them know how much you enjoy their work. Writers need you so we can keep using the gift God gave us to do what you love to do — read.

I guess, in a way, we’re obligated to each other!

Parker J Cole is an author, speaker, podcast host, and CEO of PJC Media. For any and everything about her, go to her website, parkerjcole.com

To find out more about PJC Media and listen to the archives, go to pjcmedia.net and subscribe to stay up-to-date on all our shows.

Follow her show blog at www.thewritestuffradio.wordpress.com

An off-and-on recovering Mountain Dew and marshmallow addict who writes to fill the void the sugar left behind. She also talks a lot on her podcast network.