The Author/Reader Contract

In going along with recent previous posts, I thought we would return to what this is all about. At the core of it, it is to write good stories to share.

Which is all fine and good, but how does one quantify ‘good stories’ to begin with? There a many answers, whole entire books worth, but let’s get to the core.

We want to write our stories. We want to share our stories with readers.

And with this comes an unsigned ephemeral ‘contract’ between the producer and the consumer. An Author/Reader contract.

Many of the items in this contract writers know subconsciously, but let’s bring it out of the subconcious and into the conscious mind. This is important, because a writer breaks this contract to their own peril. Break it and risk the reader never coming back.

So, what is this contract?

There are different versions of the Author/Reader contract (Google to find more), but the basic clauses are:

  • The author will respect the intelligence of the reader.
  • The reader will be entertained.
  • The author will not waste the time of the reader. (Some phrase this as “The author will not deceive the reader”)
  • The writing will be clear and understood.
  • What the author puts in the story will have a reason, and MATTER by the end.
  • The author will provide a story and characters to care about.
  • The ending will fulfill the promises made during the course of the story.

Simple and straight-forward, and yet it is amazing how many books I’ve read that do not life up to this contract. Each point is something for us all to aspire to, to even practice.

Finding readers is hard enough. Don’t break the contract and lose the few who take a chance on you.

(Shall I go into why way too many science fiction novels fail this contract? Nah, better not. It would take over.)


J.A. Marlow

The Author/Reader ContractWelcome to Salmon Run, Alaska! A place of wild animals, wild land, and wild inhabitants…oh, and native legends come alive and an inter-planetary alien conflict at their backdoor.

Zach Callahan and his father, Hawk, arrive in Alaska to begin a new life. Anxious to arrive at the lodge crazy Uncle George left them, they find the first challenge is just getting to Salmon Run.

While still in Cordova, an old prospector declares the two greenhorns unprepared for the realities of an Alaskan winter. Sasha, a young native girl, attaches herself to Zach, much to his disgust. A failed sled-dog won’t leave Hawk alone, giving rise to an old phobia. They think they have it made once they get to the Solar Express, the unique train that will take them through a dark road-less wilderness to their new home.

The same night a massive display of the Aurora Borealis lights up the sky.

The Solar Express shuts down, stranding its passengers in the middle of nowhere. Hidden beneath the snow and ice, and under the path of the rescuers, an alien spaceship also feels the effects of the light show.

Cut off from the rescuers and trapped inside the spaceship, Zach and Sasha must ally themselves with a pair of aliens before either the malfunctioning security systems or the native Alaskan wildlife kills them.

A 37800 word stand-alone Novella in the Salmon Run series.

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The Author/Reader Contract

2 thoughts on “The Author/Reader Contract”

  1. You’re so right about this contract. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to gain readers but you can lose them after a single story if you break too many of these.

    • Sigh. And I just read a SF short story by and author who usually writes in other genres. It failed this on so many levels.


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