An interesting article in today’s New York Times talks about how publishers are demanding that authors write faster. Because of e-books, so the article says, readers want new stuff all the time – so writers are being pressured to produce not just the usual novel a year, but also short stories and novellas that can be sold cheaply to either draw in new readers or satiate the fan base. This isn’t for literary writers but for the “series” writers: mystery, fantasy, YA, etc.
The article bothers me on a few levels. First of all, I really resent the whole, I should get what I want when I want it attitude. I love the internet and I love e-books. But I’m happy just to be able to download a book the minute it comes out in hardback rather than waiting months for a paperback; it doesn’t mean I want to pressure an author to publish more, faster. Books are an art form, not fast food. Even series writers deserve a little more time and respect than that.
I’d also rather an author produce one great book every three years than rush through books just to get them out. Quality over quantity folks! Two of my favorite authors, Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs, are both writing two different series at one time and publishing two books a year (one in each series) plus short stories, prequels, graphic novels, etc. Plus, as the article points out, they have to blog, too (and I know how much time that takes).
I do think quality is suffering for it. I wait all year for my new Mercy Thompson book, but the last few years I’ve been a little disappointed. The books are too short, for one thing, and just don’t feel as “rich” in character and story as the earlier novels. Of course, maybe any series suffers from that and it’s not a question of time/output pressure.
I have so much to read, I never mind waiting. There are always new authors to explore, or older works of an author I haven’t read. The great thing about the Internet, Amazon and book blogs is that for every book you love, you can find all kinds of suggestions for new books to explore. Who wants to read same author all the time? What about trying different genres or reading a classic once in a while?
Plus anticipation is part of the fun! Do you remember where you were the day Harry Potter Book 7 was delivered? I do. I also look forward to the Outlander book that comes out every 4 years or so; it’s a long wait but it’s (almost) always worth it. It reminds me of the kids in the 1910’s who waited eagerly for their Oz book to come out at Christmas-time. Isn’t that a little bit of what reading is all about?
I’ve noticed this trend in the urban fantasy writers of writing lots of short stories and using them as backstory filler or spinning off a side character into a new series – but I sort of naively thought that was so authors could explore new concepts in different formats. Now it sounds like they just have publishers cracking a whip at them.
And if that’s for us, the readers, that’s too bad. Is that really what we want? Because I just want the best story my favorite author is capable of writing.