I had the opportunity to attend many author panels while at BEA/BokCon 2016, but one author discussion has been needling at me since May: what's better, a 'fan' or a 'reader?'
During an author panel, David Leviathan and others were commenting on the importance of readership and how they interact with their readers. I don't remember how, but they started talking semantics and if there was a difference between "fan" and "reader."
David said something to the effect that he would rather have readers than fans, because fans expect things from authors. In terms of his career, David felt as though he were an employee of fans and they he must cater to them.
I had never thought of there being a difference between 'fan' and 'reader,' and I had always assumed that authors wanted to have fans. Who wouldn't want people who dedicate their lives to creating fanart, promoting their books, and buying special edition copies? Once you had a fan, that meant you made it, didn't it?
After seeing the Sarah J Maas blow up on twitter and other outlets, I can see that Leviathan has a point. Now for the small minority of you who aren't aware, Sarah J Maas has a series called Throne of Glass. People are head over heels in love with it and show their creativity through elaborate cosplay, fanfiction, fanart, and other means. The last few books seem to be a hit or miss with readers since the romance may or may not be taking a different direction than what was expected.
People were pissed. Like scary pissed. It was in that moment that I realized that having fans can suck. Regardless of how you feel about the series (I am much 'meh' about it), we can all agree that this is a work of fiction that Maas created. As the sole creator, Maas can do whatever the fuck she wants. It's understandable to be mad if your ship doesn't sail (we've all been there), but some people seemed to take this personally. The amount of hate that Maas got was not warranted, nor does she owe any of her readers an explanation for what she did. But the fans seem to demand it. They have taken to twitter and called her a hack and littering her page with invasive questions.
Do all authors have this fear of backlash from loyal and dedicated fan? If that's the case, I think I would rather have a group of people who enjoy my books over a group of people who would name their first born child after me. That's just me, though, I hate letting people down and the internet can be unforgiving.
So kudos to authors who put themselves out there to either be praised or torn down, you're a bigger person than I could be!
So what do you think about all of this? Do you see a difference between a fan and a reader? Are you a reader or a fan?