Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Introducing SuperAuthor

The publishing industry isn’t what it used to be. To hear people talk, you’d think that to survive two seconds you need to be SuperAuthor – writing a debut bestseller, promoting it voraciously, and continuing to write one or more bestsellers every year. 

It's like you can’t just write novels anymore. You have to produce. Whenever a standalone does well, someone is going to push for a sequel. Whenever a trilogy does well, someone turns it into a saga – often with destructive results. (I’m thinking of the Uglies and Twilight sagas, here.)

In the January issue of The Writer magazine, I read an article about how “authors face pressure to commit to one-book-a-year schedule.” It seems that some authors are resisting the trend. And others, like James Patterson, are embracing it. I think it’s debatable whether Patterson is even writing his own books anymore. According to the Writer article, Patterson “develops the ideas for his novels, then asks his co-writers to fill in the story and turn in a full-length manuscript.” The article goes on to say that Patterson does a detailed review of the manuscript, making any changes needed for it to read like a James Patterson novel.

I’m sorry. What? Ghostwriting isn’t a new concept, and one most writers seem comfortable with up to a point, but I think this is taking it to a whole new level.

What worries me is the effect this is having on the quality of books, and the effect it is having on the writing process itself. And there is an effect. Writers a burning out. The qualities of series are degrading, while the quantity of series goes up. I heard it suggested that Stephanie Meyer’s last book in the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn, was a flop because she was simultaneously working on The Host

I honestly don’t blame her. This is a hard thing we do. It’s not to be taken lightly, not to be rushed, and not to be made “productive.” Because you can’t force art. If you try, then it stops being art, and it becomes something else to consume.

We’re told to write what we love. Write what we want to read. But when nine-year-olds publish their debuts, celebrities are paid a 2.5 million dollar advance for their ghostwritten memoir, and just about every other non-writer in the universe is getting published - it’s easy to loose hope, or try writing for the market, or shove down your real story because you fear it won’t sell.

In an ideal world, writers would have time to make each book a really good book. Good books would be recognized on merit alone. Publishers would give each author a running chance, space on bookshelves would be equal, and big publishing houses would promote all their titles instead of a choice few.

But of course it’s not perfect. Publishing is a business, and now, even the act of writing has been made into a business. I think it’s important to face the reality of that. I don’t agree with it, and I don’t think I ever will, but it is what it is. Who knows? Once I’m published and struggling to stay that way, maybe I’ll feel different about it all.



- Creative A

On a complete side note, I'm revamping my links lists to get rid of the "tags" and replace it with a "most popular posts" list, to make it easier on the eyes. Any particular posts you guys would like me to immortalize? 



Nita said...

It is sad that writers aren't just writers any more. They are writers/publicists/speakers at the very least. I'm currently giving speeches to build a platform for my as yet unpublished book. Luckily for me, I write non-fiction and I think it's a little better in that world. But, still, when I find a publisher I will be expected to promote the book. And, I'm sure will be expected to write another book of the same type.
Nita (ritinrider at AW)

Nancy H said...

Great Post!

Rafael said...

I have a ton of ideas in my head, but I doubt that I could produce more than one book a year, and that would require total dedication to the craft with a guaranteed pay off, otherwise its a no go.

Creative A said...

Hey Nita, welcome :) That's another frustrating part of the process - once an author does carve a niche, they're expected to stay in that niche. Trying to publish dissimilar books is a big no-no.

Thanks Nancy, glad you enjoyed it!

Creative A said...

Rafael, same here. I might be able to produce two books in a year if I had, oh, three months of vacation time at the end of it all. I don't know if I could push through continually without a break. And I think that much productivity requires the use of outlines - something not all writers can do.

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