Raythe says: First, before you read further, I want to say that this blog post may contain potential spoilers for the book Dead Ever After: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel (“DEA”) by Charlaine Harris so if you are avoiding knowing anything about this particular book, don’t read more!
That being said, this blog post really isn’t about the Southern Vampire/True Blood series exactly. But when I heard about the massive bad reviews and many readers’ great unhappiness with the last volume, I had to check out what was going on.
It confirmed something:
- When an author releases books into the wild, they become more than author’s. They become the readers’ as well.
But what happens when an author doesn’t believe that or forgets it?
Well, let’s look at the craziness going on in the Amazon reviews of DEA:
As of this moment (though the way things are going these numbers will grow exponentially by the time you read this), DEA, the 13th and final book in the Southern Vampire/True Blood series, has over 300 1-star reviews on Amazon out of over 600. These reviews are full of anger, disgust and anguish by long-time readers of the series.
You don’t need to know anything about the series (in fact, I’ve never read it and have no personal opinion on it) to understand why this particular book is being shredded by many of its readers.
Here are the overarching complaints:
- The writing itself is bad: rushed, without passion, boring, feels like it was written just to make money and please publisher.
- The characters are OOC (out of character) in the extreme.
- The “rules” of the past 12 books are broken right and left to accommodate an “ending” that the author had before she’d actually written many of the books and set up those very “rules”.
- The most popular of the romantic partners was made into a complete bastard, and then enslaved. Yes, you read that right, he was enslaved.
- The final “partnering” of the main character with a love interest failed as the “love interest” was never actually a valid contender throughout the 12 previous books yet suddenly is the love of the main character’s life. The love interest that most people wanted was the character that Ms. Harris enslaved.
Are these reviews legit? I don’t know. I haven’t read the books (and, quite frankly, even if I had, my opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s). However, when you hear the same things over and over in reviews, there’s normally a core of truth there.
Are readers always right? No, of course not. But they often are (to the writer’s dismay) … So listening to them, reacting to them, evaluating what they’re saying is a good idea.
Ah, but you might say: Raythe, you write serially! Your readers see the stories as they are being written and get to comment on each and every chapter, which is different than a finished book. You WANT and ENJOY that kind of feedback. But not a lot of authors do.
Not to mention, once the author has the “final” book out for sale though, the author cannot actually alter it. They have to live with what they’ve written in the past. There are “rules” that the author set up that the readers have accepted.
Reviews on final books are like beating against a panel of bullet-proof glass. The book can never be reached by a reviewer’s criticisms. The book is done.
But authors with series out, like Ms. Harris, do have an opportunity at least to listen to reader likes, dislikes, wants and do not wants for future books at least. And she did! But, in her own words, she decided to write the book she wanted even though she was sure that it would “disappoint” many of her readers …
Does Ms. Harris have to write her books exactly like the readers want? No, most definitely not.
Should she? Readers respond the harshest when an author breaks the “rules” they’ve set out, especially, when it involves destroying a particular favorite character … You’re breaking trust with a reader if you set up something then demolish it with no regard for what you created.
Did Ms. Harris do this? Again, I don’t know. But many of the reviewers think so.
Could she have done to have avoided this reaction? The perception that some of her readers had was that, as the author, Ms. Harris got to make the ultimate decisions on how the series went. They are her characters after all. But they felt she completely ignored them, or worse, chose an ending because it aggravated them, and placed an ending on a huge series that didn’t even make sense (and wasn’t well-written …).
Many of the reviewers said that they would never read another book by Ms. Harris again. So while it appears that despite the bad reviews, this book is still selling well, there might be a reason to believe that many readers won’t pick up her new books, because they don’t trust her to honor the pact.
What is this pact?
Like I said, when an author releases books into the wild, they become more than author’s. They become the readers as well. Ending a huge series is tough. An author’s ideas about how such a series should go are undoubtedly complex and one would hope that the author did his or her best.
But an author ignores the readers’ investment in the story at his or her peril … and may write a weaker story than what would have been produced had the writer listened more closely to readers’ concerns.
If Ms. Harris had listened to her readers’ passions, would she have written a better ending to her series? Or would it have merely been a different ending? What role do/should readers play when an author writes a book?