Delayed Releases: worth criticizing or should we just shut up?

delayed releases

Hello everybody! Welcome to another discussion post by yours truly. This week I thought I’d discuss delayed releases- something none of us in the book community are strangers to. At the end of the discussion, I’ll pose a question- my intentions in these posts are to engage my audience, to have an open conversation despite disagreements or reservations. So please feel free to respond to the question, or anything else you read in the post!

Sidenote: Jess gave me this awesome opening line, but I simply couldn’t post it without giving her the well-deserved credit XD

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We all love series

They give us the opportunity to engage with a world, a plot, a cast of characters and an author for longer periods of time over multiple books. Annual releases of books in a series give us something to look forward to, and I, along with many other bookworms, make it a habit to rush to the bookstore and buy a sequel. Series are a special kind of magic. Often when turning the last page of the last book, we are left simultaneously elated and devastated: elated because everything has been answered (hopefully) and tied up properly (… hopefully), and devastated because it often feels like we lost friends. I recently finished reading the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater and I was hit with this strange sense of loss after the last page. I didn’t want to leave these people behind. With series, sometimes it becomes hard to remember that the people you are reading about are not real.

But there’s also the problem of the dreaded cliff-hanger. You’re propped up on pillows late at night, chewing on your nails, your eyes whizzing across a page, your heart thumping inside your chest because everything seems to be going crazy and then boom, you reach the end. Frantically, you look around, flip the pages back and forth in full denial that the book ends there and that you probably won’t get to know what happens next until the next year. You resist the temptation to throw the book out the window even though that’s all you want to do while screaming at it for being so cruel.

Oh trust me, I have experience

You may have heard of a certain author named George R. R. Martin, the Creator of Hopes, the Destroyer of character-loving hearts, King of fantasy, Protector of storytelling, Crusher of dreams. The fifth book in his legendary A Song of Ice and Fire came out in 2011- granted, I didn’t start reading the books until 2012 but it’s still been a good three-and-a-half or four years since I read A Dance with Dragons. If you’re unfamiliar, it ends with a certain beloved character getting stabbed two million times- and though I know what happens with the TV show and all, it doesn’t change the fact that the book left off on a huge cliffhanger and I’ve been waiting to see what happens next in the author’s head for the past few years. Oh, it’s not easy, especially since the release date and release news is so conflicting and muddy. It was supposed to come out in fall 2015, but it got pushed to March 2016. From March, it got pushed to October. Now some news outlets are saying it’ll release in January 2017. Not getting any concrete news and relying solely on rumors is aggravating, and I can’t believe fans of the series – who have been reading it since the 1990s – have had to go through this with every single sequel.

Another fairly new series that is slowly ruining my life is The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. I read the first book a couple of months before its sequel The Mime Order was due to release. Sure enough, The Mime Order came out in February 2015. The third book was due to release in February 2016, but it got pushed to November. Now I believe it’s been pushed even further to March 2017.

Both series have ended on such incredible cliff-hangers; game-changing moments that can transform the entire direction of the future of the story. But I’m not getting my hands on them any time soon. And I’ll admit- it can get frustrating, especially if the series is as dense and complicated as the ones I mentioned above. I have virtually forgotten everything that happened in The Mime Order and A Dance with Dragons– and they’re such big books that I’m not sure I want to read them, especially since I’m not a re-reader in general. The only book I’ve ever re-read is one or the other Harry Potter book. This is obviously an issue that many series’ readers face. Sure you can go on and read the summaries of the previous books, but it’s just not the same.

It’s frustrating, but is criticism justified?

I’m going to use George R. R. Martin as an example. The amount of hatred that man gets for delayed releases is astounding- something I wasn’t fully aware of until I became fully involved in the book-fandom for the series. People asking him to finish the series before he dies, people being worried that he won’t finish the series because he’s overweight and will probably pass away before writing the last book- I mean, how do these people look at themselves in the mirror? In what world is it okay to remind someone of how close or far they are to their death every time they log onto the Internet? It’s so morbid for me as a casual observer- I can’t even imagine the stress and anxiety it induces in the person who these statements are directed towards.

Apart from this much-too-often remark, Martin is often called lazy. Every time he writes a blog post, it is shared on websites like Reddit for the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom to devour, and there are a plethora of comments down below which speculate on Martin’s laziness. “He should be writing the books, not blogging.”

Authors do not owe you their work

In an infamous blog post, Neil Gaiman answered a fan question that asked, “When writing a series of books, like Martin is with “A Song of Ice and Fire” what responsibility does he have to finish the story? Is it unrealistic to think that by not writing the next chapter Martin is letting me down…” (Source).

To which Gaiman replied, “Look, this may not be palatable, Gareth, and I keep trying to come up with a better way to put it, but the simplicity of things, at least from my perspective is this: George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.” Gaiman goes on to say that authors are not machines, and that they cannot be rushed by their readers to produce work. We, as readers buy these authors’ books of our own choice. We do not, as Neil explains, sign a contract that says that we will pay this much money for the author to release a book in a ‘timely’ manner. We should be the last people to complain about authors not producing work according to our schedule- these people are human beings who have lives outside of their jobs. You spent 9-5 days in an office- the rest of the day is yours. You go on an 8 hour shift? The rest of the day is yours. It is unfair to expect authors to put their lives on hold so they can satisfy our impatience.

Writing is an art, authors are artists

In my opinion, art cannot be rushed. You cannot urge your brain to create faster, to think faster when what you’re working on is not so concrete like Mathematics or Physics. Authors have ideas, and they need to hone these ideas, polish them and write them down on paper or computer working with nothing else but their own mind. Heck, I can’t even imagine what sort of pressure professional authors are under, knowing that there are readers out there who love their work and their story, who are expecting a masterpiece and nothing else. I find it difficult enough to write an 8-page short story without screaming at my laptop at least five times; who the hell am I to ask another person to write faster to please ME?! They don’t know me, and yes, I buy their books. I ‘pay their bills’ as they say.

But if the work did not exist, I would not have the story. It’s not like we are doing authors any FAVORS BY BUYING THEIR BOOKS. We are doing ourselves a favor by reading, by immersing ourselves in brilliant stories, by creating friends even if they do only exist on ink and paper. Authors are doing enough for us as it is by giving us stories worth cherishing, worth loving, worth caring so deeply about. We give them our money because of their stories, not because we have set deadlines for them that they must meet.

That is between an author and a publisher, no? Deadlines shouldn’t mean anything to us- we have no idea what’s going on in a person’s mind. Am I saying missing deadlines is okay? No. I’m saying that WE AS READERS should not have expectations for authors to meet these deadlines. That is none of our business.

But I get it. It’s frustrating

I said it before, and I’ll say it again- we are impatient creatures who want gratification all the time, and that’s understandable. But be respectful. Have a conversation with other readers. Keep yourselves updated with the series, engage respectfully and appreciatively with the author and perhaps seeing their readers’ patience and respect will inspire them to quicken their writing process. Just like any other medium of art, sometimes you get a burst of inspiration and you can write six chapters in a day. Other times, nothing. I think it’s important to understand that.

This is what it comes down to, after all. Understanding is key. On both sides. I do not believe in extremes, whether in religion, politics, whatever. Extremes are called ‘extremes’ for a reason- nuance and balance are supremely important. Although this post was geared towards readers, asking them to understand a writer’s position, I think it’s equally important for a writer to understand a reader’s position. And most of them do because most of them are avid readers themselves. Martin has apologized profusely for the delay in release, constantly assuring his readers that he knows it’s frustrating but he’s trying his best. We, as lovers of his art, owe it to the artist to accept that.

This entire post is largely my take on this entire issue, and of course there are bound to be people who disagree with me. I have engaged in discussions in the past where the opposing viewpoint has told me that authors are in the industry now, and they will lose readers unless they can retain an audience by releasing content regularly. To which I say: are authors writing because they love it, or do they write to sell? I’d like to think my favorite authors write because they genuinely enjoy it- after all, if they didn’t, would we really enjoy their stories?

In the end, think of your favorite unfinished series…

Would you rather have a rather average attempt at the next book in your hands right now? Or a masterpiece later?

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  1. I fully agree with you!! I would rather have a masterpiece later. That being said I will get frustrated waiting for a book (George RR Martin), but at the end of the day I just have to wait and hope it’s good when it comes out! I like the quote from Neil Gaiman and that’s so true. Great post/topic!

  2. I get why people stress about books they’ve been desperately waiting for getting pushed back – it’s definitely harder to follow a series when there are years between books. But, like you said, authors are only human – they can’t necessarily force themselves to write when the inspiration’s not flowing, so we have to give them some grace. In an ideal world, our series would come out at a super quick pace – maybe one every six months. But that’s not reality. We need to deal with it. Insulting the author surely isn’t going to help.

  3. I mean, really, it’s just a waste of time to complain about it. A little comment like “OMG NOOOOO” to your friend is much different than the time and effort some people put into criticizing it. In the end, that author is going to release it when they want to. Complaining does absolutely nothing lol.

    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook

  4. I would definitely rather have a good book later rather than a rough draft now. If the books aren’t coming out in a timely manner, then I just wait to read a series until it is complete. If that means I never get to the series, oh well; my TBR is full of plenty of others.

    My Most Recent Discussion: Love & Friendship: Ten Swoon-worthy Moments

  5. GREAT post! Waiting CAN be frustrating, but I TOTALLY understand that writing a good book takes time. I may not like the slides and whatnot when I’m anxious for the next book in a series, but I’ve disliked the consequences of rushing the process even more. There are some series that I’ve just stopped reading because it’s so clear that the writing has diminished in order to meet schedule. I’d much rather get GOOD fiction than rushed writing.

    Plus … Is it really necessary to be so rude? I suspect that by now Martin probably has some sort of auto-filter to just hide away a lot of the negativity. But really, people, do you think being negative about the whole thing is going to make the writing process go any faster? The dude’s a busy man — I mean, it’s not like he’s been involved in overseeing the production of a hugely massive TV series or anything.

    There was some similar buzz about Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle going on for a while. It probably still is, in fact, but I’ve stopped tuning in. Since I realized the third (and final) book kept getting delayed, I just haven’t bothered to start the second book yet, even though I so loved the first. Unfortunately, the books are MASSIVE, and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten more than I care to admit for book 1. When the third book is finally released, I’m going to need to decide if it’s worth the re-read or if I want to just try to keep up with book 2. Probably depends on the timing.

  6. I totally agree with your stand for the most part. It is really frustrating when a highly anticipated released gets pushed back (for me, The Raven King was a title I really wanted to get my hands on, but the publication date kept moving). It’s even okay to tweet that you’re sad that the book is going to take a little longer to be released, but I do not condone harassing an author about it. It’s these “extreme” cases where one really must take a step back and remember that even though we all love books, they are not about life and death. There are more important things in the world and if you lose that perspective, it might be best to get off of social media and enjoy the outdoors a bit. The only time I’d question the release date being changed is if the publishers are changing the date because they feel that releasing a book at a different time may make them more money, then that’s just underhanded and though I am not really into venting online, I may give them the stink eye for a bit. Great discussion!

  7. Can I just say, this discussion is fantastic! I totally agree with you. Hell, it drives me crazy to finish up my reports and scientific papers, and all I have to do is interpret data and find credible sources. I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of stress and mental turmoil authors experience when the only main reference they use is themselves. With that said, I’d definitely consider writing as a laborious art. It takes time, effort and heart to produce a masterpiece. We should just let authors work at their own pace. 😊

  8. LOVE THIS POST. This has been on my mind quite often, especially with everything that goes on with George R.R. Martin. Like you said, writing is an art, and writing cannot be rushed. Writers do not owe us anything at all. In fact, I would argue that readers owe writers something–and that debt could possibly be kindness, patience, and understanding when it comes to their work. I would much rather have the masterpiece that I’m waiting for that I’m sure George R.R. Martin is writing than receive it right this moment.

  9. I totally get you! That’s why I am so afraid to start a book series until all the titles have been released but that’s almost impossible because it’s too hard to resist them and sometimes it just sounds silly but if that book has a cliffhanger, then I’m a goner… but I do understand the author’s viewpoint as well but the next book kind of loses it’s charm, even if it’s only a little.
    Great discussion! Loved this post! <3

  10. I’ve been very lucky that I haven’t had to personally deal with delayed releases. I tend to marathon completed series more often than not and the ones that are on going are generally released when they first say it will be. But when it comes to this discussion, I believe readers should be continually grateful and feel blessed that we even have books to read. That there are people in the world who feel is their calling and are at their happiest giving other people worlds to get lost in. I understand how it can feel frustrating and annoying to have to wait so long specially if it’s a favorite series but I would rather the author give me their best, to put their heart and soul into that next book, into that finale and that it does justice to their world and characters even if it takes longer, than do what I refer to as a Rick Yancey (even if I haven’t read the series, but I’ve heard this complaint) and release a shorter book that doesn’t move the story as much because of demand and publicity.

    • Absolutely! I do think it goes both ways – I think authors need to be respectful of readers’ sentiments as well and treat them kindly without being rude, and readers should obviously stop acting as if authors owe them anything. I’d much rather have a bomb book a year later than a rather average conclusion or installment in a favorite series.

      I haven’t read any of Rick Yancey’s books but from the feedback I’ve been hearing about The Last Star, I’m not sure I even want to pick up the first book. D:

      • Exactly! We should all just respect each other.
        I haven’t read his books either, but I heard the complaints for the Invisible Sea and the Last Star, and I’m not sure if’ll read them or not.

  11. Wow, amazing post, Aimal! I understand why people get frustrated at delayed releases – after all, they have been expecting a release for a certain date, and their expectations have been let down – however, they do cross a line when they direct it at the author and they demand for the book, much like they do with George R.R Martin. Authors don’t ‘owe’ it to their readers to publish a new book, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that – but I reckon we definitely need to be more accepting, and just remember that authors are human as well!

    • For the large majority of the community, I think people are understanding and respectful. They voice their opinions without bashing on the author, and that’s how it should be. It’s just so disheartening to see the things GRRM probably has to read every single day. It’s so unpleasant!

  12. I’m not in the GOT fandom but as it’s a VERY BIG ONE I’ve heard so many things about George R. R. Martin delaying his releases year by year by year, and like you, I found it unfair how much hate he gets.

    I recently-ish read this YA book where fans of a movie series successfully pressured the actors/creators of that movie to continue the series, despite the actors/creators wanting to stop where they originally stopped, and I thought it was very unpalatable. I agree wholeheartedly that authors (or creators of any sort of art) don’t owe us their work, but at the same time, I also understand that delayed releases can be frustrating. I don’t think it’s WRONG, necessarily, to express your disappointment that a release has been delayed, but more than that I think respect is key when criticising anything at all – be it a book, an author, etc.

    Great discussion post, Aimal! Gave me food for thought. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Reg!

      I think the frustration is such a natural and inevitable part of the whole thing. Even I, as a person who wholeheartedly believes that authors do not owe me anything, get frustrated when the next book in a favorite series gets pushed back. And just like with any other issue, it’s important to talk about it. But like you said, the problem lies in the fact that some people are just RUDE and are intentionally trying to hurt authors whose work they claim to then enjoy!

      I’m curious; what YA series/movie are you talking about? I hadn’t heard anything of the sort!

      • Oh, for sure! Disappointment is just natural and I think actually a great measure of how good the book is – like if no one really cares the release is delayed, then no one really cares about the book in general. 😛

        Oh, I actually meant this happened in a book, not in real life. The characters are fans of a series, and the characters pressured the creators of that series to continue it. It’s All The Feels by Danika Stone. 🙂

  13. Here’s the thing that gets me: I understand loving a book series. There’s very few I actually love, but enough so that I understand it. A good book series creates a new world for you – one that gets richer and more complex with each book (hopefully).

    …but there are so many books out there, that getting upset because one author hasn’t released the next book in his or her series yet just seems… silly.Its not like they’re the only books in the world. There’s lots more to fill your time during the wait.

    Getting upset to the point that you mouth off at the authors, or jeer at them? Completely unacceptable. If you’re the type of person that does that, your butt doesn’t deserve the next book. Gaiman was right. Authors are not our b*tches.

  14. I love this post. You basically made wonderful arguments for and against delayed releases. I dislike waiting for releases after cliffhangers. It almost makes me want to wait until the whole series is published to start something. But who am I kidding? I am probably not going to go that route….on purpose that is. I think it is really nice to be able to read a whole series. Sometimes it has been so long I have to re-read my review to remember the key players/incidents about a story to get back into it when the next book comes out.
    I agree that it is AWFUL for fans to tell an author to write a book before they die. How do those people sleep at night? Everything great is worth waiting for.
    Great post!

    • Thank you so much!

      Yes! The main reason I wrote this post was because of the comments GRRM gets. They leave such a bitter taste in my mouth; how are these people who claim to love his work constantly serve as reminders of his death? That’s so messed up!

      And I totally get what you mean. XD Cliffhangers are such a struggle. But I don’t think I could wait until an entire series is out either. Too impatient that way!

  15. This is such a great discussion post, and it reminds me of waiting for one of my most anticipated books of ever, The Retribution of Mara Dyer. That book was supposed to be released, in, I can’t remember the year, but in the end it was released a year later. I was so mad and annoyed, and I can understand the feeling of being frustrated, but it made me sad how people just got mad at the author, while she was actually re-writing the book to make the ending the series deserved, according to her. I’m happy I waited and, to be honest, even if it’s frustrating, all we readers, and authors, want, is, in the end, to get a book that’s worth the wait 🙂

    • Whoa, I didn’t know that about Retribution! Granted, I’d only waited for it a couple of months but that’s incredible that the author scrapped her work and started over to provide a satisfactory ending. She could’ve just given it in to make the deadlines but she wanted to stay true to her craft- that’s so awesome.

      I think we, as a society, have become used to instant gratification. Want food? Order online. Want music? YouTube or Spotify it. Want a movie? Netflix. Anything is available at the tips of your fingers, so when a book is delayed and you can’t get your hands on it, the frustration is completely understandable. Being rude to authors is where it’s crossing the line. 🙁

      • It really is! That’s why it made me a bit mad, hearing people were so upset about it, and mean to the author for that. I completely agree with you! Everything is available too quickly and I4m still thinking that the wait, as excrutiating as it can be, is kind of good, because it teaches you patience and rewards 🙂

  16. I think that frustration about delayed releases is justified (especially when there’s established release dates are changed several times for a single book), and sharing that frustration among fellow readers is okay as well, but aiming that frustration at an author is where I think some people cross the line. I’m sure authors want to finish writing and publish their books just as much (if not more) than the readers want that! Telling them they’re not doing a good enough (or, rather, fast enough) job isn’t going to help.

    Ultimately, I’d rather wait a few months (or years, even) for a good book than read a mediocre book right now.

  17. I think you basically covered what I would have to say on the topic. :p Of course readers want to know what happens next in the series, or just what happens in the author’s next book, even if it’s an entirely new project. That’s a good sign that they’re invested in the story!

    But, yes, writing is n art. The kind of horrible thing about writing is that you can do a lot of work on something and just…not really have anything to show for it. You might spend hours brainstorming only to end with a pile of garbage ideas you can’t use. Or spend hours writing a section you decide eventually to delete entirely because it’s not quite write. There’s a lot of unseen labor. And as much as writing is very much an activity where simply sitting down and doing it helps, you also need a little bit of inspiration. Good art doesn’t always come on a deadline.

    I’ll throw out that you never know quite why something’s released if the author doesn’t say. It could honestly be that the author is having some life crisis or family emergency that we know nothing about, so I’d be hesitant to judge too harshly too quickly. But, yeah, sometime’s it’s just that the book is not ready. When I interned with a major publisher a few years ago, they actually prided themselves on the fact that if a book was not quite ready, they were willing to delay it. They wanted the book to be right. And they had a few things to say about publishing houses they thought rushed books, like they’d do anything to get the cash and were less interested in the art. :p

    • Oh, and since you touch on the writing as art vs. writing as job debate, I just want to say that I think we can be really contradictory about that (both readers and writers). On one hand, saying someone writes for money is essentially one of the worst things you can say about someone. We thinking writing is art! There needs to be soul! You need to write for the sake of writing! People who don’t are insincere and mercenary and obviously don’t write anything good.

      On the other hand, there’s a very positive movement towards saying, “But, hey, writing is labor and people should be paid for that.”

      I think a middle ground is right. Sometimes I admit I don’t think anyone owes anyone else much of anything. As a reader, I don’t know that I owe the author anything other than a respectful expression of my opinion of their work (no bashing the author as a person!); I mean, if I paid $20 for a book, I think the author owes me something–a good faith attempt at writing a good story. But that’s about it. I don’t owe it to them to promote their book by telling my friends about it or reviewing it on Amazon. They don’t owe me another book a year later. They don’t have to answer my fan emails. The transaction is complete. If people want to do more, that’s fine and often a good idea. (I mean, answering fan emails politely can be good marketing and just respectful.) But in the end I don’t think there’s as much of a reader/author relationship as we sometimes think there is, even if we found the author’s books life-changing.

      • OMG, I LOVE LONG COMMENTS. *grabs a cup of coffee*

        I don’t know what authors go through with their writing; I know everybody writes in different ways. It may take me a couple of days to write a decent beginning, while beginnings come naturally to others. But because it’s so varied and depends greatly on a person’s personal creative process, I think we owe it to that person some space and understanding.

        That’s such a commendable quality to have in your business. I get it, rules are important and publishers hand out deadlines for a reason: they don’t have unending amounts of time for one author. Which is probably why authors like Martin are cut some slack- he’s such a huge author that they know that no matter when the book is released, it’s going to sell big. But I can’t help but imagine what it must be like for lesser-known authors who are bending over backwards to meet a deadline while knowing that what they’re producing isn’t the best they can do.

        But like you said, a balanced approach is the right way to go. Writing is an art, but writers are doing a job and deserve to be paid for it. But I also wonder how muddled that might get where writers feel like they have a responsibility to their audiences and their publishers- what do they do under this pressure of responsibility? Do they write what their art commands, or do they write what will get them paid? I’m not really posing an argument, just throwing a thought out there to ponder on, ha.

        I think you’re right about the connection between author/reader. Personally, my relationship with the author very rarely extends beyond their stories. I feel connected to a story and characters than authors themselves. 🙂

        • Haha, good! Because I went on for awhile there! :p

          Yeah, I think there probably are a number of factors that go into. How famous are you? How well is the series selling? Why exactly do you need the extra time to finish the book? If it’s for a health issue, I assume they might be more forgiving of that and give you more time than something more abstract like “It’s just not working out.” I assume they just bump your deadlines back a little bit at a time, and see if you can meet them instead of blithely going “Ok, yeah, take another year.” :p If you’re continually an author who doesn’t meet deadlines, they might take that into account before signing another contract with you.

          I imagine there’s some of both. Not everything you write is going to be a masterpiece, and I think that’s fine. The one thing that’s really weird to be about publishing is this: You can spend 20 years sending 20 manuscripts to literary agents before one is acquired. Supposedly, 19 of those 20 books are trash. Yet, once you’re published, you’re basically guaranteed to publish more books. Now, basically everything you write is gold! (Yes, some manuscripts by even famous authors are rejected, but most are not.) You might even get to publish some of those books that “weren’t good enough” before. It’s part of what shows that publishing is, to some degree, arbitrary, in my opinion.

  18. This is basically how I feel about Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series. He was working through his anxiety disorder so the third book got pushed by at least a year or two if I recall..and the fourth book was said to be released last September but then got pushed to July 2016 and now they say the official date is this September. I just hate all the changes. It gives me a lot of hope and anticipation and then when they say it’s delayed, it’s like a balloon is deflated within me LOL for a lack of a better analogy. Being the impatient person that I am, I think I’d want an average attempt but I know that when I read it, I’ll change my mind and be like I should have asked for a masterpiece but at a delayed time lol
    Great post! =)


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