Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thoughts on the hamster wheel

I snipped this out of Publisher's Lunch the other day. Thought it might be of interest.

Top Authors on Annual Deadline Pressures
Publishers (and fans) increasingly expect and hope that top fiction authors will issue a new book on regular basis, but the Boston Globe says writers are complaining about the pressure. Patricia Cornwell says : "The Scarpetta [manuscript] that's due out Oct. 7 is due in a few weeks, because they have to reserve the storefront real estate and pay for it. If I don't get the book turned in on time, they'll be freaking out. If I miss my deadline, I miss the entire year. Sometimes there's an overwhelming feeling of panic. It's like a rock 'n' roll concert, and what if I don't show up?"

Thriller writer Brad Meltzer has turned down requests to have a book a year: "There's pressure to treat authors like Coca-Cola. Every time you get a bunch of writers together, this is all they complain about. The trend is, 'How many books can you put out?' From building your reputation to get on the best-seller list, it's gone to trying to get to the tippy-top of the list. It's not worth it to me."

And Dennis Lehane said he tried to write faster once: "I did it ["Prayers for Rain" in 1999], but the week it was published I realized what would have made it a really good book. The anger of that realization haunted me. I said I would never go back on that hamster wheel. It's what led me to write 'Mystic River.'"

David Baldacci does not object: "If you don't write a book a year, it might not be devastating, but it helps to keep your face out there."

(HERE is the full original article.)

Not being a "top fiction author," I'm not saying I can relate to the pressure these guys are feeling, but to some degree I admit to feeling the anxiety too. Last year at Comicon the fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore (super nice guy), gave me the advice that, basically, you got to keep the books coming, and fast, or you'll lose your space on the shelf. It scared me a little, because I'm not speedy and at that point I was beginning to suspect I might not finish Silksinger in time for an '08 release, and now here I am just a few weeks shy of my first book's first anniversary, and no more bookies are forthcoming from me until next year. As predicted, I have lost my space on the shelf -- most shelves, anyway. Most chain stores aren't carrying Blackbringer anymore. So, that's how it goes. Just got to buckle down and keep working and know that next year will be much more rewarding, and try to finish a book in time for a '10 release ('10!! Holy!!), and avoid another "dry year."

So, it's not just pressure from publishers that creates the anxiety. It's pressure from bookstore shelves -- or rather, absence from them!

But, as I say, next year will be better! It won't just be Silksinger and Lips Touch, but the paperback of Blackbringer too. Yesterday I got to speak with Sharyn November, who is publishing the paperback through her awesome fantasy imprint, Firebird. She's made a decision, which I fully endorse, to drop the "Faeries of" from the series title, and Putnam thought it was a fine idea too. Henceforth, it shall be "Dreamdark" instead of "Faeries of Dreamdark." It was my original series title, but somewhere along the way somebody affixed those extra words. Whenever I tell people the full title, I inwardly groan at how long it is. So, yay! I'm most anxious to see what they do for a new cover, too -- I love LOVE the hardcover cover, and it's hard imagining anything else.

Okay, now, back to work!


Alicia said...

Thank you for sharing your writing life. It has been fun watching your career grow. Several months ago my life opened up just enough that I could write a little everyday. During this time I started reading your blog and I have enjoyed it ever since.

I really like the title "Dreamdark". Silksinger is going to be great. I can’t wait to read it.

Amber Lough said...

Well, you've got shelf space on every shelf in the county libraries here, just so ya know.

Thanks for putting up J.K. Rowling's speech yesterday. I just watched it and feel more...empowered? I don't know what I feel, exactly, but it is better! She's amazing.

megg said...

Hey - I love reading your blog when you talk for real about writing. It scares me a little, but I feel like you are ahead of me on a path, with a knife in your teeth and a flashlight in your hand, discovering the way. Thank you for all of that!!

P.S. Sorry I took so long, but I 'upgraded' too! Will write more to you SOON!!!

Left-handed Trees... said...

Catching up on all of these writing posts has felt like a gift today, all packaged in (pink) polka-dot ribbons with my name on it!
Love to you,

Mardougrrl said...

I was so thrilled to see Blackbringer featured prominently at the library here (at my MIL's) and also in Minneapolis. :) I always hold it up to Madam and say, "That's Mommy's friend Auntie Laini's book!" I hope that helps her realize that REAL people write books. I don't think I understood that until...I still don't, sometimes. ;)

Your writing posts are so wonderful--like having you whisper amazing encouragement in my ears when I need it most. Thank you.

And I have SO much to say about the "commodification of the author" but I have to go now. :(

Amber said...

Is Jim doing he cover for Silkslinger? I hope? They should match. tell them I said so. ;)