When Your Fans Want You to Write the Book But You Don’t

This is a hard one.   No one wants to disappoint one of their readers, especially readers who’ve stuck with you through all of your books.  But let’s say there was a secondary character that some people want a book for or a continuation of a series that you feel is complete.  Then what?  As easy as it is to say, “Write what you want,” it’s really not that easy.  The problem is that  you want to please your fans.  You want to give them what they want.

But you usually run into these roadblocks:

1. You feel the series is complete.

You know how readers get disappointed when the series stops being interesting so they go on forums and reviews to express their discontent?  Usually, you’ll see this with traditionally published books because those authors signed a contract saying they would write X number of books, and the publisher wants a book in that series.  So authors force the book.  And I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve forced a book, it never turns out good.

2. You’ve been monitoring sales on your various books and see that the series or the kind of book they want isn’t selling.  

Your sales sheet is more than a royalty statement.  It is a report card.  The best selling books you got are the A’s and B’s.  Books in the middle are a C.  Books that you can’t sell no matter how many fireworks you throw at it to make it stand out are D’s and F’s.  So you had this great idea for a series, and after book 1 or 2 you realize no one but a very few are interested in it.  You are making a D-F.  Or let’s say you are writing in a genre that is earning you D’s or F’s when the other genres you’re writing are earning you A’s and B’s.  Common sense says, “Write the A’s and B’s.”  The C’s should be done only if you’re bored and have extra time on your hands.

The D’s and F’s are a total loss in your time.  That’s time you could spend writing an A or B book, and that means you will see a drop in income if you invest time into a D or F book.   I realize it seems cold to reduce the decision of what book to write next on a rating scale (instead of a “passion” scale), but sometimes you have to.  If you want to make any money, you need to think in terms of sales.  The best of both worlds is if you can write books you love and earn money doing it.  I’ve made the decision this year to turn down two books I wanted to write because the books in the series were all D and F books.  I’ll have to write the books I am passionate about and earn A’s and B’s.

3. You have no interest in writing the book your fans want.

Sometimes the passion isn’t there.  You’ve tried to write it, but you stare at that horrible blank piece of paper for an hour while another story is begging to be written.  Like number 1, I don’t see how  you can force a book that doesn’t interest you.  I mean, I guess you can, but can you do it so that you are excited about it and will be your best work?  I think the first rule of writing is to write what you are passionate about.  And piggybacking off number 2, if you’re passionate about a D or F book, is it really worth it?

I think there are some things to consider when deciding on whether to write a book you don’t want to write:

  • Will it sell enough copies to make up for the loss of writing the book you wanted to write in its place?
  • Can you afford a ghostwriter?
  • Can the ghostwriter imitate your style?
  • Is having a ghostwriter ethical?  (Just to be clear, none of my stories are ghostwritten, though I have considered it on occasion.)
  • Can you do your best work as you write it?
  • Will you regret not writing the other book instead?
  • Do you have time to write this one and the other one?
  • And, most importantly, will the world stop spinning because you didn’t?

If you decide you can’t write the book, what do you do?

Well, the sad reality is that you’re not a robot.  You can’t operate as if emotions don’t play a role in your decision-making, so you might feel guilty for saying no to your fans, but I think if you can’t write the book, you have to say no.  And honestly, what fan would want to read a book done in the half-hearted approach?  It’s painful.  You feel awful.  Your fans are disappointed but often understanding (which makes you feel even worse).  But you know you have to do it because if you don’t, any chance you have at running a business or maintaining the business will falter.

Sometimes we have to make the hard decisions.  That is the nature of business.  And writing is a business.  It’s all good and well to say writing is something we do for intrinsic rewards, and while we do want to write books we can fall in love with, there is a balance between logic and emotion.  Logic tells you the best books you can write for maximum profit.  Emotions help you decide what those best books are going to be.  You can write books you are passionate about, but you can’t write ALL the books you’re passionate about.

I think most fans will understand and accept it.  I’m sure a few won’t.  But it’s the nature of business.  You can’t please everyone all the time, but you can please some of the people some of the time.

Categories: The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business

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14 thoughts on “When Your Fans Want You to Write the Book But You Don’t

  1. Great post Ruth:). I think that’s true…you have to balance writing what you’re passionate about with making sound business decisions….even though the choice I’m sure, is a hard one to make;(. Thanks for being real and sharing your journey…helps a lot!

  2. I just went through something like this, and it was torture. Readers constantly rushed me to get something written that I really just didn’t feel like writing at the time, but it was my fault for putting it out there in the first place. Never again. I had some readers that were so pushy, I wanted to find their addresses so I could drive to their workplaces and stand over their shoulders, yelling, “Work faster!” while cracking a whip. There were times I thought I was going to have an anxiety attack until that book was finished. And the emails that say, ‘I can’t wait for more of the same!’ are about to drive me nuts, too. Who said I want to write ‘more of the same?’ What if the magic is gone for me? Or what if I have financial needs that just aren’t being met by this work they loved so much, and I’m suffering but I can’t tell anyone about it? I know it sounds like I’m whining about being successful and a lot of writers wish they had this problem, but just wait until they go through it. I can’t even talk to other writers about it because they’re all like, “Sounds like a good problem to have!” and that’s all. No, it’s not a good problem to have. Not when it causes you to feel like you’re having a heart attack because you just don’t want to write that book, and the stress of it all keeps you from writing anything.

    Sorry. Venting.

    Thanks for this blog post. I love it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • I understand what you’re saying. I feel it, too. There’s a lot of pressure when you have your name out there, and it’s not just as simple as snapping your fingers and writing a book. Writing a book is a lot of work. I think unless writers are in the situation where you and I have found ourselves in, they don’t realize how hard it is to disappoint your readers or suffer through writing a book. Either way, it feels like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it’s not a good problem to have. I’ve been struggling all year with this, and all I can think of is saying no if the book doesn’t interest me. I don’t know if you get emails about books you never even mentioned writing, but I do and I hate to give the reader who is interested in it a “no” but I’m getting to the point where I just have to say it. There’s only so many days in a year, and we can’t write everything. I guess this is the year where I learned that.

      • I now have a lot more sensitivity when it comes to things like, why my favorite TV shows get canceled. There is often something going on behind the scenes. When I was a kid I watched soap operas with my mom and sisters, and they would get so angry when a character would leave. “I can’t believe they got rid of them!” But as I got older and looked into it, I found out it was because that actor quit. Nobody “got rid” of them. Sometimes the person had to make time for their personal life. I feel like if I told readers the situation I’m in, maybe they would be more sympathetic, but maybe not. With e-readers, people seem to devour books like never before. It feels disrespectful at times, like for all they care, we can just exist in a dungeon where someone won’t let us leave until a book is finished. Like the book / movie “Misery,” I guess. I had no idea how painful this would be. Sometimes it’s not about the money. If we don’t have the time or energy to write that book, then no, it can’t get written. I’ve written back to a few readers and told them – as polite as I could muster – that maybe if they have so many ideas for it, they could write it for me. Never heard back.

        • I know. Having been through this, I have a deeper appreciation when actors and singers say they need to do something different or to take a break. Who can blame them when you think of the stress they might be going through? And sometimes we don’t want to do the same thing over and over. It’s nice to break free and explore a different area in our writing. It can even recharge the passion. I finally ventured into a new story idea on a free writing blog that is private so I can drop it if it falls flat, but it still gives me the freedom to write something I haven’t done before.

          I think most readers would be sympathetic, but I think there will always be a few who won’t. I remember reading a discussion thread where readers were discussing prices on books. One person said that the publisher and/or author needs to make money in order to stay in business, so all books can’t be free. Most of the readers agreed, but of course, there were a couple who said, “I don’t care if the author or publisher gets paid. I just want a good deal.” Sadly, that is the mentality of some people out there.

          Someone on this blog once passed this link to me. I think you might enjoy it: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html Neil Gaiman does an excellent job of basically supporting authors who come across readers who feel entitled to a certain book. I keep that link handy whenever I start feeling guilty about working on a book I really want to write or when I want to take a break on writing.

  3. Godd post, Ruth. I think the best thing to do is be gracious, thank your fans for their interest in your work, but tell them the truth–you feel you can’t go any further with that story line or character.

    • That’s an excellent way of handling it. It’s all we can do. Probably one of the most liberating things is learning to say no while being polite about it.

  4. I think a lot of writers go through this dilemma. Guardian Vampire is my biggest seller of all time. But it was a stand alone. Readers asked me for a sequel…but there WAS no sequel. I can’t write what isn’t there. Then I did the Libby Fox trilogy because readers wanted a series. It’s better written than Guardian Vampire…and it doesn’t sell well. There’s such a precarious balance between pleasing our readers and pleasing ourselves. The bottom line is…well…the bottom line.

    • If we could tap into why a certain book sells well and another doesn’t, it would help a lot. I’ve had readers ask for a certain book, which I wrote, and then I found out it didn’t sell well. It turned into a flop, and I didn’t think it would be since there was such an interest in it. I really wish I could figure out the magic formula. LOL I think the bottom line is doing what we love while maximizing our chances at staying in business.

  5. Reblogged this on writingvortex.

  6. Pingback: Diversify and Increase Your Income with Ghostwriting | The Freelance Strategist

  7. Great post, Ruth.

    I think, in the end, we have to be accountable to ourselves, do what we feel is right.

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