Readers and Writers: Obligations and Entitlements?

You don't have to read them ...
Integrity creativity duty vocation

A selection of words (above) which come to mind … Lately I’ve read a couple of articles which surprised me with ideas I hadn’t thought of.

In this new situation …
For dancing with the fingertips …

Both seemed to be tied to the idea of ‘the digital age’: a strange but prevalent concept which sweeps up together everything which stems from spending time using our fingers to press buttons, sending messages across the ether.

One, about perceived obligations, the other of perceived entitlements. Like do we, as writers, have an obligation to our readers … to respond to social media, to appear at LitFests and interact with them?

Didn’t Charles Dickens perhaps kick this off, with his book tours, when readers could assemble to hear the author read to them from his books? And did Dickens feel he had a obligation? (Or were  his publishers responsible, sending him around on book tours to boost sales?) Whatever, if blame must be found for readers’ expectations of obligations, I’ll I blame Dickens!

You can read the article here:

I noted that A.L. Kennedy ‘isn’t convinced that new forms of communication have imposed any new duties on them to connect with their audience. Readers should, of course, be offered the same courtesy any human being can expect from another, Kennedy says, but any engagement beyond the “usual human stuff” depends on the author.’

And on the other side we have

Here we find Alison Morton, a successful Indie author, and member of ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors) who is tired of Indie authors expectations of entitlement … to be read, to succeed, to be listened to, on the difficulties of selling our books which face those of us who don’t belong to a big, well-known, publisher …

But I am entitled!

Am not sure I’ve ever felt ‘entitled’ to anything. But we do have to raise enough awareness of our existence, we are encouraged to develop a platform, to get heard of, and to work on having bookstores accept that our work has the quality and the care lavished on it to compete with what comes from the well known trade publishers. A question of balance, and of working on these areas with politeness, integrity, and actually delivering the goods. Great stories, well written, well edited, well packaged. The public does deserve that.

Advice from ALLi's professionals
Advice from ALLi’s professionals

Integrity, creativity, duty, vocation … words I’d prefer to hear of writers than ‘entitlement’. And reading the ‘comments’ I picked out this to agree with, (from the wise and balanced response of Fiona Cameron, an Indie author herself) ‘but I’d like to think we are all entitled to politeness (or, at the very least, we are entitled not to be dealt with rudely – I think there’s a subtle difference) from book-selling professionals.’

Morton ends by saying Our ‘competition’ is the non-reader and other leisure activities that seduce our potential readers, not colleagues published differently,’ and of course that’s the point: some people just don’t read, the digital/TV/game-playing ‘age’ offers other, possibly easier, ways to sit and engage in fictional worlds.

So Why Obligations and Entitlements?

What I wonder about is, why these words? Both seem to carry a lot of weight: why choose the heavily emotional, rather than lighter, more ‘friendly’, less self-directed, ones? Is this symptomatic of becoming a society which is divided, us-and-them, verging on hostility?

If so, what makes an apparently more ‘egalitarian, libertarian’ society likely to use demanding words?  Is the reading/writing world, the creative world, becoming increasingly solipsistic? If so, is the ‘digital age’ a legitimate cause?