Leading article: The waiting game

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The way to produce a best-selling series of books is to take breaks from writing to build a relationship with readers. That, at any rate, is the latest received publishing wisdom from the US. It is based on the experience of the fantasy writer George R R Martin, whose series A Song of Ice and Fire is the basis for the new HBO drama series, Game of Thrones.

Martin has a blog that is lively in more ways than one. It is there that he keeps readers informed of his work, like his plan to expand what was originally supposed to be a trilogy into no fewer thans even novels. But the interaction has become a double-edged sword. When the fourth volume, A Feast for Crows, appeared, he recklessly promised the next book within 12 months.

But the years passed and readers became impatient. They bombarded his website with increasing irritation, accusing Martin of being idle. One even warned the 62-year-old not to die before he'd finished the series.

It all shows the danger of over-engagement with an audience who, in this new age of entitlement, have come to regard themselves not just as fans but as paying customers. Having paid for book four, they expect book five pronto.

Martin has just announced the manuscript is finally finished. But he had better get on with book six sharpish.