Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reader Expectations

When talking about sex in your books one reader commented (and I will paraphrase) that one of the difficulties writers face is that the sexiness factor of your first book often determines what level of sexuality readers expect from you in subsequent titles. She’s right. The difficulty you all face when getting published is living up to the expectations of your readers. There is no publicity as good as the publicity you get when you write a great book, and then your next book is even better. Let’s face it, we’re all fickle readers. We have limited incomes and when an author disappoints it’s often difficult to get us to spend our money on the next book.

Does that mean that if you write a hot, steamy book with six sex scenes (say that ten times fast) your next book needs to be hotter, steamier and include at least seven sex scenes? Not at all, it just means that you’ve set the bar of sensuality your readers are likely to expect. It means that you probably shouldn’t suddenly write about a very prudish heroine who will do little more than kiss, and even that is at the end of the book.

Keep in mind though that this post is about a whole lot more than just sex. Writing suspense? Your readers are going to expect the same level, if not a higher level, of suspense with your next book. What about fantasy? Your world building needs to be just as strong in your second book as it is in your first. The minute you become a published author you are writing for a lot more than yourself. You’re writing for your agent, your editor and, most important, your audience. Does that mean you need to write the books they think you should write? Not at all, but you do need to come as close as possible to matching the expectations you’ve now set for them.