Post-Release Post #8: Fear of Disappointing Readers

Two of my most favorite, I-would-probably-pass-out-if-I-got-within-2-feet-of-them-and-sort-of-almost-did -when-I-met-one-of-them authors are Karin Slaughter and Dennis Lehane. This is well-documented.  I discovered Lehane in the last year, but I've been reading Karin Slaughter's books for over a decade. Both writers have a series based on a specific set of characters. I'm a dedicated, passionate fan of their work.

And yet, they've both written one book I felt disappointed by.

I won't say which because plenty of their other fans had the exact opposite reaction (the books I didn't like were considered their best work by others). Plus, although I was personally disappointed when comparing it to the rest of their work, I was aware that the writing was still excellent, the characters still well-drawn and premises still quite gripping. They were still good books. Finally, just because there is one book in each series that I feel wasn't as good as the others doesn't mean I would stop reading their books.

There was one author whose work I read voraciously in my 20s whose books I gave up on because his newer stuff was so far removed from the things that made me fall in love with his work in the first place. It was very sad for me as a reader. I had invested a decade of reading time into this author--and yes, there were some of his titles that disappointed me, but I kept reading his work because on the whole, he delivered.  Until he got too far away from where he started--at least for me. He became mega, super-duper, ridiculous successful so losing one or one million readers probably wouldn't even make a dent in his sales so I didn't feel too guilty.

But as an author on my third book, I find myself worrying about this very scenario--that readers I picked up along the way with my first book will be disappointed by my second book or my third book or any books to come in the future. There actually was a reader who read my first two books and absolutely loved them, but was very disappointed in the last one. I don't know this person. I only know the above is true because of reviews she left. Yet, most people have told me the third one is the best yet--and that third book is the one that finally got me a contract with a large publisher.

This whole business is terribly subjective to begin with. Although bad reviews sting, I don't concern myself much with them because not everyone will like my books and I've been fine with that for some time now. But now at work on my fourth novel, I find myself more and more concerned that I will disappoint readers who were awesome enough to give me a chance three times. Of course, as a writer, I have absolutely no control over this. I always set out to write the best book I can write. I know that in spite of writing the best book I can write that not everyone will like it. Even people who loved my work up until then. All I can do is try to make my fourth book even better than all three before it and hope for the best.

As a writer, you are always trying to get better, to improve, to try new things with your work, but I think the other important aspect of producing good work is to figure out what about your work has kept people coming back and to keep doing it.


Also, as a follow up to my last post about the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards for 2014, the finalists were announced July 1st and I'm thrilled to say that all my favorite writers made it through in at least one or two categories. I'll have more on this later. I just wanted to do a post that was less promo-sounding and more about writing since I hadn't done one in ages.

Stay tuned!


  1. All you can do is write the best book you can and hope for the best. Also, sometimes reader reaction depends on current state of mind. I've often picked up novels only to read a chapter or two before giving up and thinking it wasn't the author's best. But sometimes I just wasn't in the right mood for that read. A year later I might pick it up again and finally connect with it in a way I wasn't before. So, yeah, it's all very subjective. Or I'm just very fickle. :P

  2. At work on my fourth, I wonder the same thing. Especially as I'm now stepping into another universe and away from the character of my trilogy.
    There will always be one book or more in an author's life that didn't quite deliver. It's when there are several in a row that start falling flat. I have a couple favorite authors who did just that. One I don't pick up anymore and the other I'm leery but still try on occasion.
    And I was stunned to see my book made the finals of the eFestival awards! I had no idea. Nancy had to send me a message about it.

  3. A lot of different things run through my mind on this. First, you can't and won't please everyone. Easy to say, less easy to remember when you're on the receiving end of the reviews. Second, it's an interesting thought to me, was the reason you stopped liking that one author because he changed, or because you had? Sometimes we want authors (or bands, or TV shows) to keep doing exactly what they've been doing, and sometimes that doesn't satisfy.

  4. It is subjective, yes, but as someone who's quite snobby about books, I can honestly say, you've nothing to worry about. Even if one title doesn't resonate with a fan as perhaps the others did, your skill is so superb, I'm quite confident that reader will continue to purchase your work & love you for it. You got this!

  5. "This whole business is terribly subjective to begin with."

    So true. This is something that, as both writers and readers, we need to keep in mind.

    Great post, Lisa.

  6. Pleasing readers is tops on my list too, and I know what you're saying about writers starting to lose their flavor. It's like the writer's voice disappears and replacing it is a commercial template that resembles too many other books.

    I think that you care will stop this from happening to you. I don't ever think you will "phone it in".

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