of Authors Bashing on Readers, Epidemic of Book Serials and Readers’ Opinion

I am a writer, have been one since I read my sister’s long wuxia when I was a pre-teen and I keep on wanting to be one ever since. Also, since I was 11, I’ve felt the brunt of harsh criticism, rejection letters, occasional depression and loss of will to write anything fiction. I accepted that = but I still keep on writing on daily basis.

And I am not an author in any least since I respect that profession enough to not publish mediocre fiction and honestly I cringe whenever I thought about publishing my old stories like the same way I cringe reading my own stories on internet. Funnily, even I don’t think I deserve it, I do believe that I do have my own niche of readers who was willing to read them and I am eternally grateful for them. But for now, I was content by storycrafting through the years and I do believe that my writing and storycrafting will improve through time.

So while I was reaching that state, I am also a reader. I love books and I love stories. I love all form of storytelling. I do find its easier for people who know me once who barely met me through the years to remember me reading something with words on it. I obsess about books and books have a habit to pile around me. So while I can’t kick the habit, I might as well embrace it.

I am also a very sensitive soul. For heaven sakes, I cry a river reading sappy romance stories with regularity. You might not see that in my reviews since its repetitive and I don’t like to talk about it. But underneath all these poker face, I am deathly sensitive and I am filled with empathy. Curiously, I do mark up on those university’s EQ testing like Christmas. Now that’s settled, I am also an ass to people who took these as granted. I’ve ruined a friendship with my matric roommate because I saw her stomping a kitten in front of me and even after 7 years, I was still deathly angry by her. I am quick to point out whenever someone is being irrational and abusive to others to a point of psychopathy. I could even easily fit myself into anybody shoes in situations and sometimes I can’t understand how its easy for people to completely disregard common human values and see this as harmless. Its not. (and if you’re on my twitter, I do rant a lot about morality and being a humanist)

So, now thats settled, as a writer and book reviewer, I am in between sides whenever a topic about how a reader unleashes her opinion about something that matters to her a lot which some authors seem to take it an insult. Today (and yesterday), I’ve been bugged about this..

I do read trilogies and followed book serial. Sometimes I like them and sometimes I stop reading midway and if I’m psychopathic enough, I continue on reading. But I do notice that I find its hard for me to find a standalone in YA market and for a reader I find its saddening that authors think that readers like Miss Ariel here as whiny and completely block her reasoning just to sooth their egos.

But the recurrent theme of these is, they’re trying to reason out the reasons why they choose to write in trilogies with occasional “I really don’t care about people’s opinions.”, ” I want a complex and complicated universe.” and “if I compile everything into one novel, I make Encyclopedia Britannica cry”, evil big publisher and etc.

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Yes, writer’s have egos. I have mine too but there’s a line I couldn’t cross and that was : Not handling taking criticism well. I handle mine by not publishing on whim and took time for it (hell, my grammars still suck anyway). But for a lot of others, who felt they got stung by what Miss Bissett have to say about trilogies… funnily, she’s talking about YA while the authors (who I shall not name) was largely fantasy authors.

As a reviewer, I do think authors and publisher began to appreciate reviews this days in the advent of self-publishing. The markets are virtually saturated with books and people (me) simply have a hard time to choose whatever to read. It’s a competitive market by itself and I haven’t even touch about Malaysian publishing! But what irritates me to oblivion is that writers can’t handle criticism so well that they simply told off reviewers and critics as ‘wannabes’. (side reading : authors bullying readers on goodreads and twitter and our local Maryam Lee’s bashing)

Here’s what problematic about this “your fault and not mine” on “author against reviewers” relationship; reviewers ARE your READERS. Readers build an author’s reputation and they have the superpower/ability to abandon your books. You might sooth your ego that you think you have your own crazy readers and think you wont be affected by it, well funny thing is, you snub potential readers as well.

The heartbreaking thing is, I kept seeing authors being so sensitive that they either threat with antidepressants overdose or hurl more abuses about their dissatisfied reviewing readers with their friends and sometimes generally in writing groups that it made them feel better by obsessing about it instead of doing something like -writing for instance.

Here’s a good read by Nathan Bransford on Writers and Sensitivity which addresses his blog readers and also Becca Besser on Sensitive Author Syndrome which pretty much sum up that authors themselves need some growing up to do in this field. And I endorse them full-heartedly.

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So, now I’m lets talk about book trilogies which Ariel’s and several sets of authors been ranting about. Let give you some example. There are several hundred books just in this one trilogy list and :

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There were  10,428 books just on YA series. Thousands of these books that probably deserve singular book title.

So I do agree with Ariel’s dissatisfaction about the ongoing trend on the amount of expanding book series and how her reasoning that it would work well if the books are compacted into one especially YAs. I am one of those adult who still read YA because a lot of these series came out once every year and I’ve been reading them since teenager to exact. I have read/followed several YA series which was still out and on-going even after I’ve finished my pre-U and science degree and baking certificate (these are 6 years of higher education!!).

Nowadays, I decide on reading a series just because I was reading ARCs than on hyped recommendation.
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There are various classics that consisted of multiple books. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Victor Hugo, Leo Tolstoy and the Brontes have written stories that started as serials at some point in its life. Most publishers republish their books in small fonts so you wont notice the actual bulk of the story when you held up a volume. That is also why Twilight books can be packed into smaller paperbacks because of the size of the publisher’s typeface that made it seem unusually thick.

But I think what Ariel meant was, if you’re a good storyteller and a great storycrafter, its unnecessary to set your eyes on a trilogy when you can sum up your story as a standalone first and continue on if the story deserves it. She was frustrated by the market that loves trilogies and the concept.

Examples of books in YAs that can be compacted into one book are like House of Night series – recycles the plot again with Neferet and Zoey – or Christine Feehan who did 20+ books just to recycle her Alpha-male on vampire romances. Its prominent trend and the market still perpetuate this. Because the publisher market is copying on the movie trend on making trilogies and continuations, I do find its getting harder to find quality non-serials even in YAs (unless its contemporary fiction).

That is also why I’m having a hard time reading free kindle books especially when I found out they’re a series. Unless its PNR, I find it’s harder to be emotionally invested in these sort of things.

As for fantasy (majority complainers are fantasy writers anyway), I know CS Lewis, Tolkien, Frank Herbert, RA Salvatore, Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, GRR Martin were all series authors. There’s always a niche with fans loving thick brick-sized serials and have attention span for them. Personally, I do adore standalone fantasy books like Neil Gaiman books and I do enjoy standalones within an expanded world.

But I dont think a writer must write serials just because the worldbuilding is too much and that you have too many characters and their stories that they just need a second or third or six book. Personally, I get pissed off when I followed a series on a definable first objective and suddenly turned sideways and under with fillers that after several books, the ending became predictable and it’s not worth my time and money to invest in all of these. And for most of the time, serials could work with different main characters in the mix so you wont get stuck with singular character (which may or may not have advance character building).

Authors, I think you should listen to readers expressing their opinion whenever they get the feeling that you are dragging an unsolved major storyline for side stories for several books or have basic story arch filled with needless fillers. Because like it or not, reader’s criticism helped a lot on an author’s skill and career. As an established author, you’re not a lone ranger anymore. You have your own barrage of responsibility and a reputation of your own. The more you act butthurt and gang up with other authors and ignoring your reader’s opinion just to sooth your ego, its more obvious that you’re not prepare for this.

That is why I do have a healthy degree of respect for GRR Martin especially the way he handle his characters and seemingly nonchalant about sacrificing them. In fact, he did listen to his readers (and the fact that the more you people love a character, he snuff them up). As if it’s not obvious, he did manipulate the emotions of his readers and wrangle them in a loop and terrorize his readers. If he write the books just to satisfy his ego, he would wrangle his character into boredom and have happy endings all the time. Thats predictable and are not a good entertainment.

So, authors… there’s no such thing as internet anonymity. Before you flame someone online just because they have an opinion about a specific trend about the book in specific genre and you got butthurt by it, think about it for a moment. There are no readers without an author. No author without a reader. So suck it up on the whole hatin’ on readers sentiment because it wont do you any good if you being an ass about it. Now shelf it.

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Thank you very much.

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