It’s a debate that never seems to go away within the fantasy/sci-fi community; are authors obligated to their readers to have the next book in a series out in a set frame of time? The argument has often focused on George R.R. Martin and the next Song of Ice and Fire book A Dance With Dragons but not exclusively so. For the record here is where I stand in the debate; Of course authors are not obligated to work within such timeframes and should pursue side projects if they are that way inclined. By buying a book the reader has paid for that particular piece of literature and that piece of literature alone. Of course it is only common curtsey for an author to try and keep their readership updated with where things stand.
A recent event has recently made me reexamine the argument from a different angle, namely are readers obligated to the authors? The event in question is Melanie Rawn’s announcement on her website that TOR have cancelled the third book in the Spellbinder series, an urban fantasy/paranormal romance trilogy, due to poor sales but have signed her up to another trilogy closer to the epic fantasy of her earlier days. Rawn’s antics once the news was broken has left me, well quite simply baffled.
Before I get into that I think it is important to provide some background information. This is the second trilogy in a row that Rawn is leaving incomplete, the earlier one being Exiles. The second installment of that series came out in 1997 and ended in a cliffhanger. Melanie underwent some family troubles and a bout of depression that initially left her unable to complete the final volume The Captals Tower. Once Rawn felt herself able to write again she started on Spellbinder. As far as The Captals Tower goes it appears she has done no work on it whatsoever, aside from some possible research a few years ago, and has made no announcement when or if she will ever complete it.
When Melanie made this announcement that Spellbinder was cancelled needless to say that her fan base was not enthused which seems to have come as a surprise to Melanie. She then seems to have had something of a child’s tantrum. With the reaction not being what she expected she took the announcement down. On her website is a thread where her fans can come and rant about the Captals Tower, a place that Rawn has said herself she doesn’t go so fans can go and vent their frustrations without upsetting the author. Yet after the announcement when people were on there voicing their disappoint she turned up with a few catty remarks. On another thread when a reader voiced the opinion that he or she now waits for a series to be completed before buying and reading it Melanie came out and said she doesn’t understand that. Oh come on a reader has been waiting thirteen years so far for a conclusion to Exiles and there is still no end in sight and the author can’t understand that type of behavior? While it is obvious this latest setback is not Melanie’s fault she could have handled it a lot better. With the first two spellbinder books selling poorly there is little chance that another publisher will pickup the third but there is nothing stopping Melanie from self publishing it or posting it on her website. At the time of writing Rawn has made no announcement whatsoever about this book and she shouldn’t be surprised if her fan base doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for the proposed next trilogy. What seems to have set Melanie off is that if her readers take the wait and see approach then her new series will have just as poor sales as Spellbinder did, yet Melanie seems to believe that the readers should buy whatever she writes just because she wrote it. Readers have no such obligation and there is enough of a market out there that they won’t ever have to. Melanie Rawn it times for you to realise your readers are not your bitch.