Wednesday, April 11, 2007

When An Author Changes Course

A certain sort of crie de coeur crops up from time to time on message boards lamenting an author's move from one sub-genre of romance to another -- from say, historical romance to romantic suspense. I understand that this is based on the reader's disappointment, and it's really a compliment to the author.

But. But, but, but...

I wish the reader would understand that when an author makes such a change, their intent is not to punish their former readers. I can't speak for every one of the authors, but I believe the majority truly appreciate those readers, and are forever grateful for their support.

Yet they make the decision to switch anyway. Why? Is it just because they, in their selfishness, want to -- gasp! -- make more money?

Well, that's probably part of it. Yes, there are writers who write purely for the love of it, but I doubt those writers are sending their work to publishers in the hopes of being paid for it.

Callous? Calculating? A betrayal of their art?

Who's paying their bills? Who's paying for the kids' braces and university education? Unless somebody wants to step up and become a writer's patron, I don't think it's unreasonable for writers to take potential income into account when making such decisions.

Maybe the authors are tired of working really hard on a book only to see it languish on the shelves, and feel that by switching genres, they'll get more readers. We write to be read, after all. I'm sure such authors hope that their former readers will follow them into the new genre, but if they don't, that's a gamble they're willing to take on the chance that they'll find a new and larger audience.

Maybe the writer's always wanted to write in that new genre, and now has the publishing experience to make the switch.

Maybe that writer is bored with what they've been writing and a change will re-invigorate their creativity.

Maybe the writer's always wanted to write in the new sub-genre, but those books weren't selling until more recently.

Heck, maybe the writer's simply hopes to get a little more attention because maybe, just maybe, if those same upset readers had taken the time to write the author and let him or her know how much they appreciated their work before the decision was made, the author would make a different decision. We are not mind-readers.

In the end, the authors' needs and desires and goals simply have to outweigh those of their readers, because it's their happiness and income that's going to be the most affected by their decisions. I'm sure many an author is sorry to hear that readers are upset by his or her decisions, but they really have no choice. They must make their decisions on what's best for them, not whether or not some readers are going to be miffed.


Leah Braemel said...

Whenever a favourite author of mine has switched genres, I usually figure they're either burned out of the current genre or just got inspired by a different story and wanted to stretch their wings.

I guess the complaints are a compliment, never thought of it that way. I follow them as good writing is good writing no matter the genre.

Christine said...

As a reader, I'm always a bit surprised when a favourite author switches genres. But as a writer I totally understand why. I like to try different things, stretch my wings. Each book I write is still me, my voice is clearly there. I just hope people will keep reading. :)