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Are Authors Being Pushed to Write Too Much?
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Anne Marble



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 599

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 9:28 am    Post subject: Are Authors Being Pushed to Write Too Much? Reply with quote

For an upcoming At the Back Fence (ATBF) column for All About Romance, we're planning to write a column about authors and their thoughts on authors pushed to write multiple books. We'd love to hear from both writers and readers on this topic. We're trying to schedule this column for June 23, so we would need your replies by the end of this week. If necessary, we might make this into a two-part column, thus giving authors more time to respond.

Note: For authors, if you prefer to remain anonymous, that would be fine -- just tell us how you would like us to refer to you in the article. (For example, "a paranormal author" or "a historical author.")


This was inspired by a recent article called "Top writers feel heat from publishers' presses" at
http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2008/06/09/top_writers_feel_heat_from_publishers_presses. However, one thing we recognized after reading the article was that many romance authors -- including big names -- are called upon to publish *more* than one book a year. So we thought romance authors (and readers) should get a chance to voice their opinion on this.


The questions are:

What are your thoughts about multiple book contracts? Do you think they help authors, or hurt them in the long run? Do you think they can affect the quality of the books? Do you know of authors whose quality you believe has suffered as they were forced to rush to meet deadlines? (Authors will have to put on their reader hat for that last question.)


Have you ever felt pressured by publishers to write faster than you want to? If so, how did that impact you? Or do you know of authors who have felt pressured to live up to multi-book contracts?


On the other hand, some authors think that having to write more books has turned them into better and more disciplined authors. Has this been your experience with your own writing?

Also, some authors prefer to be more prolific. In the article, romantic suspense author Allison Brennan admitted that she'd get bored if she only had to write a book a year. Do you feel the same, or do you know authors who prefer to work this way?

Thanks! Very Happy

Anne
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Sissy



Joined: 03 Apr 2007
Posts: 55
Location: SW Louisiana

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It must be really hard on an author to have to write something she's not in the mood for or have a deadline she/he has to meet and lo and behold the personal world is falling down about them.
I can't remember which series or trilogy I was reading recently where one book was so different from the others...the author writing style, the storyline was disjointed, etc. I could guess that the author probably had a deadline and wasn't prepared. It was like the author asked a few friends to write a paragraph or two and she just put the pages together and mailed them off.
I love trilogys, series, and connected stories but not at the expense of an author having to put out something less than their normal best.
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
Posts: 783

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unrealistic deadlines could explain:
1. why some of an author's books are so much better/worse than others
2. why some authors seem to write the same book over and over
3. wallpaper historicals (who has time for reasearch?)
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+IHS+

I'm not one to mind loveable supporting characters getting their own HEAs, but that doesn't always mean each one has to have his own book. Sometimes supporting characters delight us most when they are allowed to be secondary figures.
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Tinabelle



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 873
Location: SE Wisconsin

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 12:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JaneO wrote:
Unrealistic deadlines could explain:
1. why some of an author's books are so much better/worse than others
2. why some authors seem to write the same book over and over
3. wallpaper historicals (who has time for reasearch?)


I so agree with you and have seen this with favorite authors that I read regularly. I don't expect every single title to be an "A" read, but you make a good point. I love historicals but agree that many of today's titles in this genre are generic. There is very little beyond talk of "the ton" and clothing that puts them in any specific time period.

Here is a good example. Another website currently has an "ask the author" feature with Shirlee Busbee. I wrote in a question asking why she had stopped writing American historicals, many of which I enjoyed years ago, and is now writing Regency romances. Her response said it had to do with time and research. It was easier for her to write multiple Regency Era books than to do research for new/different historical eras. Hmmm...

I think readers bear some responsibility for this fast-paced publishing phenomenon, and I am as guilty as anyone. Many people are voracious readers; again me included. When reading a series, we demand that sequels be published ASAP and bemoan the months between volumes. And we often clamor for secondary characters to get their own stories. I wonder, too, that with so many romance books being written, if publishers feel that people will just move on to other authors if too much time lapses between books.

I think another thing that feeds this stepped up publishing schedule is that people have so many ways to get books now. You can read on your computer, your ipod, your Blackberry, your ebook reader, your Kindle, etc. The more reading options people have, the more books they want. A very interesting question.
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Cyl



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 130
Location: Mississippi

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am willing to wait longer than 6-8 months between books when it means I get a GOOD book to read at the end. I think publishers are pushing writers in the fear that we readers will lose interest in the product if we don't get that "instant gratification". Also, when the publisher has a proven moneymaker, they want the cash cow to produce. Cynical, much?

I do understand that for most authors, this is a profession and they need a paycheck. Won't their paycheck be better if they produce a quality product? If that means taking longer to produce the final book, won't they be better served by taking that extra time?

When an author is new, I do think it is a good thing for the reader and author NOT to have too long a span of time between the first 2 or 3 releases. I think it can pique the interest of the reader to know they don't have to wait for that next installment in a series. I also think it can be good reinforcement for the writer to know the reader is eagerly waiting for that next book and can help establish a solid fan base. Since I have no officil training in this area, take my opinion for what it is worth.

Now, when an author takes longer between books (12 mos or more), I think they serve themselves by keeping in touch with their readers. I don't mean they have to have a daily blog or anything that time consuming. But I do think if the author has a website, they need to update it at least every couple of months, even if it is only to say I'm still alive and hard at work on my next book. I don't need an author to hold my hand. Her (his) time is much better spent picking up the munchkin from soccer practice or having dinner w/the family, OR working on that new book I want to read.

I think my reading appetite can be better served by publishers allowing their authors time to produce quality books AND by those same publishers finding new authors and allowing them the same opportunity. The reader base is constantly changing - the authors we love now are not going to be around forever. The same can be said for the readers who love them. Readers, old and new, need new authors AND authors, old and new, need new readers.

Does this fall in line w/what you are talking about?
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MrsFairfax



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 1069

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I could be wrong, but Nora Roberts is the first author I remember to release a trilogy with the books coming out in three consecutive months - wasn't it the Key series? Now I see more authors doing that, or almost that - Allison Brennan's got four months between her Prison Break books, Brenda Novak's Last Stand trilogy is being released June, July and August. It's got to be grueling hitting those deadlines. Does it make a huge difference in sales, to have releases so close together?
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Carla Kelly



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 193

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 8:31 pm    Post subject: writers pushed? Reply with quote

Anne, this is an interesting topic. When I signed a two-book contract with Harlequin last summer, the editor asked me when I thought I could have the manuscripts done. I told her, and signed a contract based on that. I gave myself 6 months for each book. As it turned out (and this was the first time I was staying home and writing exclusively), I got them both done much sooner, and turned them in sooner. This didn't move up the release date, though, because I think these books get on a queue and that's where they stay.

As it also turned out, the first one about a frigate captain of the Channel Fleet was so much fun that I turned it into a trilogy. The second one was about a surgeon. The third one will be about a Royal Marine. All are based in Plymouth from 1808-1812.

So what I am discovering is that trilogies are fun. I'm also discovering that I could write more than two books and a novella a year. In fact, I wish my editor could keep up with me. I think they are really overworked right now.

My response would be that personally, I don't feel over-burdened. I'm doing precisely what I like to do. Of course, if I had children at home still, and also worked a full-time job, I know I would feel differently about this.
And all writers work differently.

Carla Kelly
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Wed Jun 18, 2008 6:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't write romances, to start with. I'm also retired, so I'm not trying to make a living by writing.

My situation is also sort of unusual in that I've never submitted a manuscript to a publisher or had an agent or anything. The senior author/creator of the series asked me to write with him and I agreed, thus starting to produce creative fiction when I was past sixty. (I had written a lot of professional non-fiction.) He does all the business-type stuff with the publisher. This is sometimes disconcerting, as when he told me that he was sending me the contract and advance for the collection (mentioned below), when he hadn't even asked me if I wanted to/had time to produce the 2/3 that would have to be new.

Thus, the novel-length fiction writing I've done is all collaborative, so my schedule depends on that of the senior writer, the plotting has to be worked out with him, and the scheduling depends on how many other books in the series the publisher is going to produce in a given year.

In regard to the full-length novels (about 200,000 words), from idea to publication for the first one took from 2001 to 2007; in regard to the second, from my first proposal of the idea to the senior author to scheduled publication will be from 2003 to 2008. However, along the way, these also generated a "themed anthology" and have generated and all-by-me short story and novella collection (of which the publisher has the manuscript, but I don't know when it's going to come out).

There's a third collaborative novel scheduled, plus I have to finish a long novella for a second "themed anthology" and write a story for the third "regular" anthology in the series (yes, I have to, because I promised the editor that I would do it).

We've been talking about ideas and plot for the third novel for over two years now. Last October, I went to Europe and did some on-site research in Alsace and the Franche Comte. Given the current rate of progress, I hope to get my part of it done and turned over to the senior writer early next year.

I could write books faster than this, but there isn't really any point in it, because I have to coordinate with everyone else's work for the sake of continuity.

If you want to quote any of this, please make it "alternate history" for a descriptor.
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LLB



Joined: 21 Mar 2007
Posts: 869
Location: Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 8:06 pm    Post subject: Josie Litton Reply with quote

MrsFairfax wrote:
I could be wrong, but Nora Roberts is the first author I remember to release a trilogy with the books coming out in three consecutive months - wasn't it the Key series? Now I see more authors doing that, or almost that - Allison Brennan's got four months between her Prison Break books, Brenda Novak's Last Stand trilogy is being released June, July and August. It's got to be grueling hitting those deadlines. Does it make a huge difference in sales, to have releases so close together?


The first author I remember who had three books out consecutively like that was Josie Litton, although I could be wrong. IIRC, the books had already been written when the decision was made to publish them in a row. Again, I could be wrong, but I think publication dates are more fluid than the dates by which authors are required to turn in their manuscripts.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2477

PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan Dane, a newcomer to RS, put out her first three one right after another. There was a precipitous fall-off between the first and the second.
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KayWebbHarrison



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1234
Location: SE VA. USA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The August RomanticTimes has an article about the three books in three months trend. I haven't read it yet, but I saw that a list of authors and their works is part of the article.
Kay
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Rosario



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 328
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:29 am    Post subject: Re: Josie Litton Reply with quote

LLB wrote:
The first author I remember who had three books out consecutively like that was Josie Litton, although I could be wrong. IIRC, the books had already been written when the decision was made to publish them in a row. Again, I could be wrong, but I think publication dates are more fluid than the dates by which authors are required to turn in their manuscripts.

Not really consecutive months, but the first author I remember with a trilogy with books coming out really close together is Madeline Hunter

By Arrangement - June 2000
By Possession - September 2000
By Design - January 2001

Like you say about the Littons, I believe these, too, had already been written (and they were actually released out of chronological order). IMO, it was really good marketing. They also came out with a special low price and really pretty covers.
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Blue



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2008 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

People write at their own speed and it's just not feasible for anyone to expect all writers to produce the same quality at the same speed, whether fast or slow.

Though this doesn't directly answer the questions posed, check out this blog post from an agent discussing writing speed:

http://scotteagan.blogspot.com/2008/06/wanted-fast-writers.html

One of the commenters mentioned the day job, health issues, etc., interefering with writing speed. The poster claims 2 completed novels, yet the agent told the 'anonymous' poster to "not push for the professional thing yet." The agent also mentions that one of his clients produces 6-8 books per year. So yes, there is pressure, at least from some quarters.
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Maggie AAR
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Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A lot of thoughts and little time to post so this may seem a bit jumbled but here you go: I know I am part of the problem. The fact is that I can easily read two to three books a week and in order for me to do that, books have to be out there. Right now, given the economic climate and the difficulty of browsing, I prefer to read books from a known source. So yes, I am one of those who finishes a new release and immediately checks the author web site for the date of release for the next book.

Speed can affect whether or not I will purchase your next book. George R. R. Martin lost me as customer because of the inconsistency of his timing installments re his "Song of Ice and Fire" novels. The saga was complex and a three year wait between books just didn't work for me; I will probably take the series up and read them all when he is finished but the fact is rereading every three years so I can keep things fresh as i enter the new book annoyed me.

Just my opinion but I also often find that authors often change voice after a long break. This certainly happened to Meagan McKinney, which had me dropping a beloved author from my list. So imo, while a year to write a book makes sense, three year waits often result in books that just don't read as well. Maybe because the author had to really struggle to get the work done to begin with???

But speed isn't all I am looking for. I just finished Allison Brennan's "Killing Fear" and felt the rush she wrote in most assuredly affected the quality of writing. She wasn't alone. In another novel some of the errors within the plot bordered on the ridiculous. Oddly, the mistakes I find should be ones caught by an editor. Recently I have found myself asking if anyone besides the author had read the book before it went to print. I am not quibbling over a spelling error or two or grammar or punctuation mistakes which can as easily be typos as they can be actual errors by the author. No, I am talking about mistakes like Chapter 3 including a sex scene and chapter 5 speaking rapturously about their first kiss. It wasn't -- they kissed in that scene in Chapter 3 and it felt inexcusable to not catch that mistake in chapter 5. What about ultimatums that are never acted on or clues that are thrown out there and not caught.

So I would say the problem is two fold: Not only are authors pushed to write faster but editors are rushing through their work and putting a sloppy product out as a result. That doesn't seem right to me either. I think the balance is to take the emphasis off the money and allow everyone to write at his or her own pace while helping new authors join the market but I know that is just a pipe dream.

maggie b.
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