Readers Are Like Phone Companies

I recently got a new phone, as my old one wasn’t functioning as well as it should–not to mention, I hated it from the start–but had to stick with it because…well, two-year contract and all.

Anyway, I love my new phone as much as I hated my old one. Sticking with it for the duration of my contract will be a pleasure, whereas my last one was a pain right from the get go.

Kind of reminds me of books…

Back in the day, I read anything and everything–always finishing what I started. Always. I was easily amused and had a lot more down time with which to fill with words.

Alas, my time is shorter now, as is my patience. Books, unlike cell phones, do not have restrictive contracts. If a reader hates the first chapter, first page, first line, he doesn’t have to keep reading. He can discard the old and buy a new one without paying a penalty fee.

As I’ve gotten older and my down time shorter, I have resorted to this method myself. In fact, I recently read–and loved–the first novel in a trilogy that everyone was raving about. Seconds after finishing the first one, I picked up the second. The writing had slipped and the characterization was a mere shell of what it had been in the debut. Yet, the storyline was enough to hold me to the end.

However, by the end, I was so exasperated I wanted to send both books and a crabby note to the author voicing my disappointment that the second book was a bridge book between the first and final in the trilogy–and a poorly done one at that. I didn’t, and I won’t. But, I didn’t purchase the last book.

My time is short, and I certainly didn’t sign a trilogy contract with the publisher. I didn’t have to stick with the story just because I had started it.

And this is what terrifies me about being an author. It’s what should terrify us all. Our readers do not have to stick with our writing. Rather than them having a contract with our book, we have a contract with them. As authors, it is our job to deliver a good story, page after page. It is our duty to fulfill the promise that engaged our readers in the first place.

Our readers are Verizon and T-Mobile and AT&T. They hold the contract. We, the writers, are bound by their expectations for the duration of our books. If we break this contract, the penalty fee we pay is in lost readership.

So, dear readers, what types of things make you break your contract with an author?

Curious minds want to know.

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