I saw this article in my local newspaper – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/business/in-e-reader-age-of-writers-cramp-a-book-a-year-is-slacking.html – borrowed from the New York Times – and I just shook my head. I feel for the writers who commented, really I do. The notion of having to write a novel a year? That’s tough. (Just look at James Patterson. Oh… bad example.)
It’s also an artificial construct. In other words, a lie.
I admire all the writers mentioned, and I do feel bad for them if they feel they have to write 2000 words a day 7 days a week. That’s a lot of words. 730,000 to be precise. That’s the equivalent of two epic fantasies and a few novels. So, I feel bad.
After all, it’s partly my fault, and the fault of a friend of mine. She writes at least three series for a mid-level publisher and puts out the equivalent of two books a month, much less a year. Her erotic novels put her on the USA Today bestseller list.
Of course, I do have to point out that the one novel a year concept is a creation of the publisher, not the writer. Publishers need that schedule. Release the hardcover at twenty-five dollars, then six months later as the hardcover sales taper off, release the softcover for those people who didn’t have enough money to buy the hardcover. (Or didn’t want to invest that much. Twenty five dollars can still buy a bag of groceries.) Then there’s the Christmas rush, the after Christmas sales, etc. It also gave them time to edit that one book among a stable of books that each editor at each publisher handles. That model also favors the big name authors who make back their advances, not mid-level authors, who frequently don’t. (The majority of writers.) Like, for example, this one in Joe Konrath’s blog – http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/05/harlequin-fail.html She probably had to push out several books a year just to see a return.
A lot of people call me prolific, but it’s not entirely true. Like most writers I’m driven to write. I LOVE writing. So, in the years when I struggled to get published traditionally, I kept writing – even as a part of me quailed at the advice I kept hearing. Don’t write in multiple genres. Pick one. Which? The epic fantasy series I love? What do I do then with my action-adventure novel featuring a kick-ass heroine? Or the romance series. Or that complicated suspense novel with a hot romance at its core?
Then I got published with that mid-level publisher, and it was WONDERFUL… Not. Well, sort of. It was a bit of a rocky road, but I was really happy to get that first check. I could actually see myself quitting the day job to write.
Well, that didn’t quite work out. My friend, however, was going gangbusters. Knocking them out of the ballpark. Happily putting out two 30,000 to 60,000 words novels a month. Yeah, do the math on that one. (She has her own editor now.)
That’s the reality of the e-reader age. Readers want to read. Every statistic measured says that those who read on e-readers read more. A lot more. ( I know I did. I got incredibly frustrated waiting for the next book in a series to come out.) They want content. (They also want good content, but that’s another subject.) Everything my friend publishes gets devoured. The readers of one series got irate when she started a second, although it wasn’t her fault – she’d actually already written book two in the first series, it just hadn’t been edited yet. The publisher didn’t realize what a gold mine they had in her. They do now.
For myself, I decided to go the Indie route, but I took her example to heart and set myself a release schedule. Every book that I had written waiting for my big break was re-edited, polished, honed, covers made, and released. I’m still writing. I have sequels and prequels planned, and now a new horror novel. (Horror? Stick to one genre! NO! I won’t I won’t I won’t !) I’ve since hired cover artists and editors and they’re in the process of being edited…again.
So, I do feel sorry for those at the top of the publishing food chain for having to work so hard. I know they have to edit those galley proofs – and wait for them to return. Then there’s all those publicity tours – which mid-list writers never get to enjoy – and interviews. I admire them for their writing skills, their success… and their luck. I hope to be that lucky one day. In the meantime, writing is my passion and my joy. In one year I wrote that 730,000 words (Two epic fantasies and a romance novel or two.) and I loved every minute of it. (*grins* My husband didn’t always.) I’m making enough money to quit the day job to write. It’s no longer a ‘hobby’ but a career. I spend some mornings promoting and marketing, some days (or nights) editing my own galley proofs. It’s hard work. Would I trade places with those authors? Absolutely. Let someone else do the marketing so I can just write.
In the meantime, though? I’ll keep writing the best books I can. I’m planning two or three books this year… then there’s the Nicholas Sparksish type novel that needs another pass… and that horror novel I’m working on.
Talk to you later. I have to go write.
* * * * *
Valerie Douglas is a contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and the writer of the recently released romantic suspense novel Lucky Charm, the epic fantasy series The Coming Storm and the contemporary romance series The Millersburg Quartet. For more information please see the IU Bio page, her blog http://valeriedouglasbooks.blogspot.com or visit her web page http://www.valeriedouglasbooks.com/