by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers
An item caught my eye yesterday that I think is huge news. Amazon made a bid to buy Dorchester, the 80-year-old, mass market publishing company that went bankrupt last year, owing a lot of authors unpaid royalties. If no other company outbids Amazon—and who could?—it will soon own the rights to all those books.
This is good news for the authors—who will get paid and see their books return to the market—but the bigger issue is that Amazon is acquiring titles like crazy. It’s already purchased Avalon (3000 titles) and a collection of titles (450) from Marshall Canvendish Children’s Books. And this may be only the beginning. More publishing companies, especially those focused on mass market products, will likely fold. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon keep acquiring book catalogs.
Amazon is also picking up individual authors, like myself, often buying their whole backlist, and now has six imprints. This is how Amazon will eventually dominate the market, by owning a massive inventory of published titles and pricing them competitively.
And on another somewhat unrelated topic, I’ve also been reading about authors who are writing three to six books a year. Joe Konrath says he can “comfortably write four books a year” and Brett Battles blogged recently on Murderati about writing six last year and being well on his way to writing five this year. Alexandra Sokoloff posted recently about writing three or four books a year, and Zoe Winters just blogged about trying to write a book in a week. She cranked out 30,000 words in three days.
I admire their output, but I don’t know how they do it! I’m diligent and hard-working, but if I can produce two stories a year for several years in a row, I’ll be very pleased. But I do know why most of them do it. Pressure! Brett talked about feeling compelled to make a living as an indie author after his traditional publishing contracts dried up, and Zoe blogged about feeling a constant pressure to be more productive and get more books out there before she “disappeared.” The New York Times addressed this issue recently too.
I've felt that pressure for the last five years. But I’m trying to let go of it and live a more balanced life. Which is one of the biggest reasons I signed with Amazon—for the stability and marketing support that will take some of the pressure off me. Now I just have to learn to shut off that little voice in my head that says, “If they can write three or four books a year, so can you, slacker!”
Writers: What is your output and do you feel pressured to write more?
Readers: What are your expectations from your favorite writers? Can you tell the difference between books that take months or years instead of weeks to write?
I read this morning that the Dorchester deal is done. What amazing news for a lot of writers.ReplyDelete
I'll have two books published this year, but that's because the second one was already written. Once I figure this process out a little more, and find my rhythm, I think I'll be at about one and-a-half to two books a year. Certainly no more.
As a reader, I don't look for more than one a year from a writer. I may not be able to tell the difference with one quickly written novel, but two or three in a row? I'll be investing my dollars and time somewhere else.
Lots of great stuff here, LJ! I feel for those authors who are experiencing that much pressure to constantly produce. Although I haven't read anything by the authors you mention, I'm sure their books would be of a higher quality if they took more time with each one. I can't help wondering if they will damage their reputation by churning out books with this kind of haste. Not to mention the toll it may be taking on their health and their relationships with family members and friends! Is it really worth it?ReplyDelete
I think the Dorchester deal is great for those authors, and for publishing in general.ReplyDelete
And I'm with you on the amount of books per year. No way. If I can write/produce two per year, with a short or two, I'll be happy. I'm getting faster as I hone my process, but I'm not to the point where I can write that fast AND put out quality material.
I'm getting ready to publish the last of my backlist titles, and am trying to figure out the best strategy for timing. I'm only about 1/3 done with the first draft of my next original title, and for me, I think spacing them out rather than looking at my sales figures hitting a plateau and thinking "I need to get another book out there" makes more sense for me, because once that back list title goes up, I won't have e-rights to another one for a year. If I could publish 2 books a year, I think that would work for me with original titles, since I do know the value of having them edited, which could mean rewrites.ReplyDelete
That's a Walmart mentality: Provide your product to us at the lowest price possible or we, the biggest of the big, won't sell it for you. OK, did that? Now produce it faster and cheaper.ReplyDelete
Maybe some authors can keep up that pace. But my favorite authors are slower to put out books, and their books are worth waiting for.
What Susan said. :-)ReplyDelete
:) I wanted to "like" Susan's comment!ReplyDelete
I think you are right about Amazon dominating this market. It seems to me that many publishers have made a series of missteps and that Amazon is going to profit by gobbling them up.
I also admire writers like Brett who can really churn out good work - emphasis on good.
I'm amazed at people who can write four good books a year. My hat's off to Brett for what he is doing now.
I have concerns about writing too many books too quickly. Everyone has a different process, but my worry is that work often suffers as a result. When I write a book, I throw on layers. Sometimes this takes a while, but usually, it pays off for me in spades. There's an added depth that I know I couldn't produce if I were working too fast. As they say, slow and steady wins the race.ReplyDelete
I saw the Dorchester thing yesterday and I'm absolutely thrilled for all those authors who were taking the shaft from Dorchester before they folded - now they can finally get paid. Say what you want about Amazon, they pay their authors and they provide a way for many, many authors to produce work who might not otherwise be able to.ReplyDelete
Here's my take on the issue of speed - those authors who are talented will be talented whether they write one book every four years or four books a year. Talent is talent, and if you have it, it shows. I hesitate to throw someone under the bus because she is both talented and ambitious.
Personally, I aim for 1500 words a day, six days a week. This pace allows me to complete a first draft of a "normal"-sized manuscript in 8-9 weeks. Obviously, a first draft does not equate to the final product - you need to add in time for editing, etc - but if you do the math, that translates into 3-4 books a year, while still allowing time to write novellas and shorts. Everyone's different, I guess.
Allan makes a very good point. Writers with lots of money to pay excellent editors can be busy working on the next book while a trusted editor is going over the previous first or second draft with a fine-toothed comb, and suggesting all kinds of valuable additions. Then the (rich) author can have a quick read and accept suggestions, then pass it on to another editor for copyediting, then another for final proofreading, all while continuing to write future books. And maybe they employ researchers, too? There must be at least a few writers out there doing team writing like this!ReplyDelete
I can't see how it's possible to not only write 4+ books in a year, but to spend adequate time researching and editing etc said books. I get one out per year and I'm happy with it. I'm actually put off by authors who churn out new books every few months - it makes me question the quality.ReplyDelete
I like to tell myself that I'm a marathoner not a sprinter. :) If they can write that many books in a year, good for them. I write mostly as a hobby and the moment I feel like I have to write X number of books, I'm out.ReplyDelete
Those I mentioned are all great writers who, I believe, produce quality stories, based on their sales and track records. I just don't know how they do it, and it makes me think I need to revamp my process. And/or spend less time social networking and babysitting. :)ReplyDelete
I think that writing is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. L.J., you may well be able to crank out four quality books a year. Or even more. But you also have a life. And having that life is possibly what keeps you sane and energized.ReplyDelete
Social networking is what founded our friendship and I daresay a lot more. Babysitting, although it may tire you physically renews you spiritually. So what has really been lost?
I'm all for testing process (after all, it's what I've been doing), but I'm not for compromising values. That's when quality could suffer.
I could write a lot more than I do, but I value that balance you're talking about. The pressure to produce two or more books a year for the next few years, even if self-imposed, would drive me nuts.ReplyDelete
I write 16 books a year. I had 25 with Dorchester, but only my westerns are still there. It'll be nice to get my back royalties and see those westerns back on the market.ReplyDelete