DSD Book Club, we're reading THE LAST KIND WORDS. Grab your Tom Piccirilli and head on over. We'll start posting discussion topics there, probably next week.
The InBox here at DSD HQ has been flooded with articles and links about this here "One Book A Year" Thing.
According to the NYT, Lee Child and John Grisham are being asked to write more than a book a year.
Which makes sense.
Publishers say that a carefully released short story, timed six to eight weeks before a big hardcover comes out, can entice new readers who might be willing to pay 99 cents for a story but reluctant to spend $14 for a new e-book or $26 for a hardcover. That can translate into higher preorder sales for the novel and even a lift in sales of older books by the author, which are easily accessible as e-book impulse purchases for consumers with Nooks or Kindles.
So, publishers are asking writers for smaller, promotional pieces? OK. And publishers are asking writers for more than one novel a year? OK. Publishers want to make money. Writers want to make money. Selling more of a thing means more money. And one thing can lead into another. OK.
I remember when The Office was a popular television show. They'd have "webisodes" you could watch online. I never did. But they were supposedly these 10-minute clips you could watch between shows, between seasons, to get your fix.
Spring training and winter ball are good examples for baseball. Fall league. Rookie ball. These are all ways to keep interested in The Sport of Baseball while the main show is on hiatus, I guess.
What seems odd is the various responses of writers. Some look at the new opportunities and delve into something different. Grisham, as that NYT piece says, writes young adult between his thrillers. Others write prequels or alternate universe pieces for their main series.
But some writers seem to see the new opportunity as a burden. Seems they feel like Lucy and Ethel working on the line at the candy factory. Traditionally, writers with a series -- thriller, mystery, etc. -- would put out a book a year, often in the same month. The bookstores would know that August is Johnny Author's month and would plan accordingly. Stock. Signings. Then every October is the newest dog training mystery from Jane Deplumme. There was a schedule, damn it. Now it's all screwed up. Now full-time writers are being pressured to write more than a book a year.
Some folks seem to think that this is the fault of self-published writers. See, they bust onto the scene with four or five trunk novels and now Johnny Author's publisher wants Johnny to do the same.
Other folks, who have done the math, have pointed out that if a full-time author writes 1,000 words a day, then the full-time author (FTA) will have 365,000 words each year -- four or five novels.
The FTAs have countered, saying that you have to figure in research time and travel time and convention time and editing time and promotion time.
Others have pointed out that if you have a Grisham book on Jan. 1 and then a Grisham novella on June 1 and then a Grisham novel on Sept. 1, then the people who read Jo Blo because they were told "she's like a midwestern Grisham" might never have discovered her, because there's no Down Time for Grisham publications.
Our own Joelle Charbonneau has 17 books coming out in the next two years. Friend of the blog Chris F. Holm has two "Collector" books coming out this year. Many authors -- maybe you -- have more than one book a year coming out. Heck, I know writers with non-author day jobs who do a book a year.
Obvious point that must be made: Everyone writes at a different pace.
I'm not sure, as some have said, that this is the fault of self-published authors flooding the marketplace with three books a year each.
Self-pubbed books -- or indie books, or whatever it is this week -- might take less time to "produce."
If I'm a big seller of vegetables, I might get vegetables from farmers all over the planet. They produce and then send in to my warehouses. I have to have those little stickers printed. I have to work with the grocery stores. I have to work with advertising agencies. I have to argue for eye-level shelf placement. I have all sorts of things I have to do. I have committees set up for this. This takes a great deal of work, a good amount of overhead, as it were.
Meanwhile, there's a man down the street who pulls his cukes out of the ground (updated below) on Friday morning, rinses them, drops them into bushel buckets in the back of his truck, and carries them down to the farmers' market.
Are the farmers' market cukes better? Maybe. Maybe not. But have they been "vetted" by the corporate committees looking to make a profit? No. Have they been through all the steps that the corporate cucumbers go through? No. Might there be spots on them that aren't on the corporate cukes? Maybe. But I've had my share of corporate cukes that were bland or blotchy.
But the farmers' market is able to get things into your hands much faster, once the cuke comes out of the ground.
When the grocery stores and food corporations lose market share to the farmers' markets, they're going to lower costs, to increase their revenue, to work on the bottom line.
More cukes at a better price? Yes, please. It's what the cuke eaters of the world want. And it's what the corporations of the world want.
Readers want more to read. And they want it quicker. The corporations that have signed FTAs to multi-book deals want more to sell. Of course they do. Why wouldn't they? And if a 10,000-word Jack Reacher story between novels helps to promote the upcoming novel, that's a win for the corporation that owns the book and the reader who enjoys the book and the author who wrote the book.
The old adage still works: Write the best book you can. Just, you know, write more of them. Because if the grocery store runs out of cucumbers, there's a market open downtown that has some. And folks love them some good cukes. Is that the fault of the farmers' market?
UPDATE: I've been informed that my cavalier reference to pulling cukes from the ground is incorrect. Cukes actually grow from the sky.