Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Article To Read And Ponder About

The Boston Globe has written an eye-popping article about, authors feeling the pressure to publish a book once a year.

I found it to be very interesting, seeing as in the past we would be lucky to see a book from our favorite authors in maybe a 2 or 3 year period, rather in some cases, less than a year.

Is this the case of being in a "Hamster Wheel" as top author Dennis Lehane states?

As a reader, do we expect too much from our authors? Should authors push themselves to keep writing a book a year? Is it expected?

And as an author, published or otherwise, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Katiebabs (KB)


kim said...

Wow! Great post KB.
I am sure authors feel the pressure. With the advent of email, internet, cell phones, one day shipping (which is a lie--I am pointing at you Amazon) our society has evolved into an instant gratification clown car. We want more and more and we want it now and faster please, including our favorite authors books.

As a reader, if the book is one in a series, I would like a new book at least once a year. If it is longer than that, I may forget what was in the previous book and if I borrowed from someone or the library or someone borrowed it from me, then I have to track it down so I can re-read to refresh my rapidly aging memory. heh. Case in point, I just finished the second book in Gena Showalters Lords of the Underworld, the third comes out in July and then we won't get the fourth until Nov. 09. Thats a looooongggg time. It bums me out.

If the book is a stand alone I don't have a problem waiting for it. I just need someone to remind me when it comes out! LOL

Aymless said...

Thanks KB (no crack today ^_^)

Interesting. I really don't think its asking too much for them to stick to a schedule (not that I know anything about the writing process). Its a business. All other industry expect their people to stay on schedules/timelines. Why should publishing be any different?

As a reader, I want the book when they say its going to be out, once a year would be nice but not a must for me. Not really very patient with the movable release dates, though never going to argue about earlier releases. Time between books doesn't really bother me. If the series is really good, I'll wait but do need reminders if its a long time between books. TBR is there for the waiting periods! ^_^

Christine said...

Wouldn't it be to the author's financial interest at least, to write as much as they can in the shortest amount of time that still maintains their best quality writing? Which can be very different for different writers, so I think it depends on the author.

I hope some authors respond to this... I'm curious how they feel.

lisabea said...

our society has evolved into an instant gratification clown car

And it moves too slowly. FASTER CLOWN CAR NOW NOW.

I have to say, creativity can't be rushed, pushed, or be expected to fall in line. Rushed books can be crappy books, and RL throws curves at writers everyday. Many writers have families and day jobs and aging parents and mortgages and, while it's a job and a business, sure, sometimes it's impossible to adhere to a schedule. Especially when it includes artistic expression. I try to cut them slack. Yes I want such and such book (Adrien IV, Demon Bound, Sam's Creed) but I can wait if there are delays.

Except for Robert Jordan who DIED before he finished the last book in his 12 book series. Poor guy.

Bev(QB) said...

KB, perfect timing with this post. I recently wrote two different blog posts about Laurell Hamilton, and even from my fangirl POV, it's apparent that she needs to back down from her TWO books a year schedule--- one in the Anita Blake series and one in the Merry Gentry series every year.

It appears to me that her thought processes have changed. And while sitting down and writing every single day may have worked for her in the past, her latest ABVH book, Blood Noir, feels to me as if it was written with the tunnel vision goal of meeting her page counts and crafting a cohesive story never had priority as it should.

And for other authors to ponder whether ONE book a year is pushing it? Seems to me that reinforces my suggestion that two books every single year would burn out anyone's muse.

Carolyn Jean said...

Oh, this is such an interesting post! All I can say is as a reader, I want a book a year, but as an aspiring novelist, I know the faster you writer,the less the quality.

Aymless said...

Ack! Jordan's dead. *sigh* Really need to crawl out of hole more often. Still don't understand how the so-called Wheel of Time TRILOGY went from only 3 to 10 to never ending. Now I'll never know how all that stuff comes together. Oh woe is me... *pout*

little alys said...

I guess it could be agreed for either way as many of the ladies above have mentioned.

It cannot be helped that writing and being published is in itself a form of business. At the same time, sticking to a schedule may help improve skills but would it stiffle a bit of creative muse? I honestly don't know.

If it is a great book, I'd wait for it no matter what. Yet, even I know authors are often contract bound and thus needs to push themselves every now and then.

The issue of modern obssession with instant gratification has been long argued with no resolution in sight.

In a writer's case, maybe having websites and blogs help readers get a better understanding of the situation. Hmmm...very good topic Kate, very good topic.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of pressure for authors to produce at least a book a year. In romance, there's pressure for authors to produce more. I know at least one NY Times author who is doing four books. I know other authors who are also doing four to six books a year. Some can do it and do it well, but the pace is insane.

Then again, if you want to be successful, have good sales, and make any kind of money to support yourself, you have little choice.

To get an idea of how much an author typically makes on a book, see this link.

It has to do with market demands, the industry itself and keeping readership. An author who doesn't have at least one book a year out, unless her name is JK Rowling, runs the risk of losing readership, a readership s/he's worked hard to obtain.

Most midlist authors do not get the marketing and PR support from their houses given to lead authors, so they also need money to promote their books so the books will sell well and then they will get another contract with better terms, wider distribution (Walmart, Target) and hopefully more money so they can promote their books even more so they can keep getting published.

The hamster wheel is an apt description.

This is why you will see some releases of books nearly back to back in a trilogy. It's all marketing. Those books have a greater chance of hitting a big list like USA Today or the Times, which gets an author recognition and then the agent can negotiate a better deal on her next contract.

Readers like the first book, they pick up the second and third that are available right away. It makes sense marketing wise as well, because publishers can do one major launch campaign for all three books instead of having to spread out the advertising dollars.

Ask any author how difficult it is to write three books at once, though.

Of course the big danger of this is author burnout. It's a fine balance to write the book that will sell well, write the book you want to write as an author and write it fast enough to get it out on the shelves.

Sometimes creativity does suffer at the expense of time. Like Lisabea said, we have real life like everyone else, plus copy edits, galleys, maintaining websites, newsletters, booksignings, researching the books, and the myriad of other items that come along with being a published author.

And many authors work other jobs as well, either part or full-time.

Even some NY Times authors work other job. I know Eloisa James still teaches, or she did a couple of years ago.

And sometimes you just get to the point where you say, enough, and realize it's time to quit.

Katie(babs) said...

I think as we readers we expect more and more from authors, just like Kim said, it is definitely an instant gratification thing.
When there is a series, we want the next book ASAP. I remember when I use to be a huge Laurell K. Hamilton fan and was upset because the next Anita book wouldn't be coming out for 2 years! I never thought about Hamilton herself and the other responsibilities she has. Writing is definitely not a 9-5 job.
If the publisher expects more and more from their authors, the author's creativity suffers because they are trying to make these unbelievable deadlines.
I for one, will wait for a more outstanding book then a slapped together rushed read to appease the readers and the publisher.
And for the life of me I don't understand how Nora Roberts does it! She publishes at least 3 books a year! Every 6 months she has a book come out in her In Death series and always a new one under her Roberts name. And she still has time to post blogs. Simply amazing.

Tracy said...

Great post!

I know as a reader it's hard to wait even a year for that next book fix, but I also understand that with some authors more often than that has their work suffering. I can't imagine the pressure that they're under.

Brie said...

Good question. From the reader standpoint, if I'm in love with an author's writing (C.L. Wilson) then the one book a year deadline is wonderful. At the same time, I can understand how this would add pressure to the Author, especially if they are not a one book a year type of writer. The pressure can affect their writing, and in the end their not producing the quality writing that pulled me in to begin with. So it can be a catch 22 in that respect.

I guess I would rather a writer take their time and produce a really good book, than try to meet a deadline and produce a crappy one. That way the book would be worth the wait.

Sarai said...

Not an expert by any means but as someone who is:
Attempting to be a published author
A person who works 8 to 5
A person who is going through a rough time and still remain sane
And a person who reads I think the one book a year is tough. And I don't even have kids. Seriously
Look it's hard to write a book then add to it you have not only write that book but a second that everyone wants to read
In a fast amount of time b/c everyone wants it now and then they bash you for a sophomore slump.
Or worse they're not happy b/c the next one doesn't come out until next year. Plus you have to find a way to keep your name out there in between times and not to mention the extra stuff,
writing a blog
doing promotions
getting involved with local book salers
meeting with fans
answering emails
answering questions
dealing with a website
HARD WORK I would rather an author I LOVE take their time and come out with a stellar book then rush one out that I DNF or couldn't care less. Because after so many of those I quit buying from them Hamilton is a great example of this.

So did I ramble enough? Just thought I would check *g*

Marissa Scott said...

Honestly, a book a year is not too much to expect from a full-time writer. I'm an aspiring author, agented, but I also work 56-hour work weeks, so for me to complete one book a year would be just right. If I get published, I'd have to cut my hours back to 40-hour work weeks, and then would strive to put out a book every 6-9 months. That's reasonable. For those who write full time, they may or may not be able to put out more than that. It all depends on the speed with which they write and their preference as to how many books a year to commit to. Myself, if I wrote full-time, I'd comfortably commit to 3 or 4 books a year... and comfortably is a key word here because if you don't meet your deadlines, your reputation is going to go down in flames and your future may not be set in stone.

I'm rambling, I know--sorry--but this IS something I've been thinking about and talking to friends about lately.

So, for those big-name authors to whine about having to put out a book a year... Honestly, I snort at how ridiculous that is. ONE book a year and it's too much? Well, then cut back or stop being published. But either way it just shows me that they are ungrateful for the gift they've been given... and being published to that degree IS a HUGE gift. They've gotten "too big for their britches", in my opinion, which shows me they've forgotten how hard it is to get there.

This is a GREAT topic and thanks for having it here and allowing me to sound off. :-)

Katie(babs) said...

Sarai: What a great schedule breakdown!
No problem Marissa! You are more than welcome to come sound off :D

Treva said...

Since in the epub world, one book a year is often way too little, I'm not sure what to day. It depends on why the author can't produce -- did she or he have to scrap an idea that failed and start again? Was serious illness involved? I've had authors who continue to produce through hurricanes, illness, death of loved ones ... and others who can't explain why they can't write. Some self-destruct, some burn out and others keep writing because they need to and enjoy it. I don't know why.

It's hard when writing is your job. It's worse when writing is your job and you grow to hate it. All jobs suck sometimes but hating your job can really show up when you write. It's hard to hide it in a story. A writer has to retain some joy in creating even while you stay professional.