This past Sunday the New York Times ran an article by Julie Bosman about how certain genre writers used to write a novel every year but are now being asked to buckle down and write as many as two — or at least some short stories to supplement their annual book. It’s called “In E-Reader Age of Writer’s Cramp, a Book a Year is Slacking.”
As you might imagine, I found this hilarious.
Now, I’m not mocking any writer’s work ethic or process. We all write at our own pace, and in the end it’s what’s on the page that matters, not how fast it got there. Besides which, every one of the authors quoted in the piece has likely sold far more novels than I have, so clearly what they’re doing works well for them.
The reporter takes an odd angle at the story, highlighting how hard this pace is for authors to manage. I doubt any of the authors pushed that angle. While writing is challenging and can be difficult, it’s not hard work.
My brother, for instance, works as a carpenter, often outside all winter here in Wisconsin. That’s brutal. I get to sit in a climate-controlled room and make up stories during hours I set. By almost any yardstick, I have it far easier.
There’s a better angle for the article, and it’s buried there in the text. It’s about how the publishers who work with these bestselling authors have finally figured out that readers want more from an author than a single book each year. Writers like James Patterson have known this for years. He uses co-authors to help him come out with around a dozen novels a year, and they all sell well.
Here’s hoping more publishers figure this out soon. It’s one of the reasons I took up my 12 for ’12 challenge this year, to show that it can be done. However, the reason I’m self-publishing the books is that no big publishers would even think about taking on a dozen books from me — or anyone but James Patterson, it seems. Moving writers up to two books a year is a step in the right direction, but they still have a long way to go.