Amanda Luedeke

April 30, 2015

Thursdays with Amanda: Impatient Readers Are Not The Boss of You


Amanda LuedekeAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Have you ever said or heard a published author friend say the following?

“I have to write this spin-off book because my fans are demanding it.”

“I don’t have time for marketing right now, because my fans are going to kill me if I don’t get them the sequel asap.”

“My readers won’t stop bothering me about my character Jack! They want a book about him and I’m stressing out because I don’t know how to fit it into my schedule.”

The pressure readers can create is impressive. But it can also be distracting. 

Let’s say you’re a rock star and you’re in a big arena doing a concert. You get done with a song and are about to move on to the next one on your set list when a group of fans in row two demand a very particular song from one of your lesser-known albums. What do you do? Do you obey them at the risk of making everyone else in the stadium frustrated at you for replacing a known and loved song with one of your b-side tunes?

Or let’s get even more specific. Let’s say you were a writer for the show The Office. From season one, fans were chiding you about getting Jim and Pam together. Would you have given in to their demands even though you knew that if you dragged it out for a few seasons, it would be even more rewarding?

In both of these cases, it’s easy for us to answer with resounding NO’s. Of course you wouldn’t force a stadium full of people to listen to requests made by a few. And DUH you wouldn’t rush an on-screen romance just because avid fans are demanding it. Doing what people want when they want it is rarely the best option.

So why do new authors bend to the pressure put on them by readers?

You may think I’m joking, but I’m not! I’ve talked with countless authors who are very vocal about how their fans are demanding this or that. And in those conversations, the author, if their fan base is modest or if they’re relatively new, want to rush to comply.

But doing what fans want when they want it can derail your author career.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great when readers are so passionate about and connected to a work that they feel entitled to more of it. BUT! An author should never forego career goals or marketing efforts or other important goal-related things for the sake of appeasing a few fans. 

Whenever I hear authors talk about this pressure that their fans have created, I tell them to do three things:

  1. Remember their long-term goals. Pursuing long-term goals is much more important than throwing energy at short-term crowd-pleasers. It’s your career that is at stake here, not your readers’! So you should never do anything that deviates from your overall plan.
  2. Remember that YOU are the creator here, not them. As the example of The Office suggests, YOU know which of your ideas is strongest and YOU determine what is worth pursuing. Not your fans. You. You are the expert, the master, the artist.
  3. Stop to consider how many people are making these demands. If authors would step back and look at the number of emails and messages they’re getting from demanding readers, they would probably find that this group of fans demanding x or y is much smaller than it feels. So, this small, squeaky-wheel group is causing a disproportionate amount of guilt and responsibility and obligation for the author. When you find yourself in this kind of situation, think about what is best for your fans as a whole—not just the fans who are trying to get their way.

Remember! A few emails should not take precedence over your career.

Have you struggled with feeling as though you should appease readers? How did you handle it?

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  • Jenny Blake says:

    As a reader I have sent emails to authors saying I loved the book and can’t wait for the next one. While saying I can’t wait I am not saying get the book out ASAP I am saying I am looking forward to the next book when ever it comes out. I think many of us readers want to let an author know how much we love a book and look forward to reading more but in saying this it is not a demand to have the book out. As readers we want the best book possible and know that takes time. I would rather an author take time writing a book than producing a substandard book which then turns the reader off.

  • Kristen Joy Wilks says:

    I think there is another element that you didn’t mention. If the author is brand new, she probably has so much excitement over actually having real live fans, that it is difficult not to listen to them. Wow, I have fans…and off she rushes to comply. I can sympathize. I would love fans, how cool is that. But I see that your warnings have great value. Thanks Amanda.

  • Melissa says:

    Thanks for that little pep talk, I put some of those squeaky requests on the side “to think about” but only if I get a brilliant idea that will work to fulfill it would I want to do it……and whereas I was thinking “I’ll just keep thinking on it” I’ll just now be content if it stays in the “think about it” column for eternity.

  • Amanda–Yes, I’ve heard those requests/demands, and even considered them at times. But, as you’ve pointed out, ultimately writers have to take control of what they write and when they do it. It’s a tough balancing act, but a battle every published author must face. Thanks for some excellent advice.

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