Saturday, May 19, 2012
Who's Afraid of the Prolific Writer?
I was amused by a recent New York Times article about mainline publishers urging genre writers to produce more than one book a year. The article told how publishers were desperately seeking to hold onto readers beguiled by other forms of entertainment and how the Internet was making readers demand faster output. Way down in the article it noted some authors are so productive they're difficult to match, giving as an example James Patterson who last year published 12 novels. (They failed to mention he rarely produces anything more than an outline these days, relying on a stable of co-writers to do the actual writing.) For God's sake, have these people forgotten about John Creasey, George Simenon, Isaac Asimov, Alexandre Dumas pere, and a dozen more I could name off the top of my head who were never content with a one book a year limit? Simenon created more than 300 novels in 20 years, churning out 60-80 pages a day. Creasey produced more than 600 under a dozen pseudonyms. Naturally, not all of these were destined to be Nobel Prize contenders--though Simenon was capable of being what is termed a literary writer. And consider Joyce Carol Oates, whose production stands at 100 books in a mere 45 years. The woman is definitely not to be considered a hack. Any writer is capable of being prolific, given opportunity, time and incentive. Many of those who made it to the top tier of fame and fortune in the past either didn't need the money or additional reward and/or were constrained by their publishers who expressed ill-founded fears of saturating the market. In my prejudiced opinion the market for MORE, not less books by popular writers always has been hot. Can you imagine any fan of Dickens shying from reading more than one of his books in a year? We needn't go that far back. Take, as an example, Stephen King. Despite a hefty bibliography, his fans clamor for more. No, it isn't lack of product has big publishers afraid. It's the new breed of small publishers who are willing to work and share the profits with their writers. It's the legion of writers now capable of publishing on their own without having to kowtow to a middleman who hogs the bulk of the profit. And it's new markets like Amazon which allow both the small publisher and the individual writer to take a chance on books which never got past the first reader (usually a smart-ass kid just out of college)in the old system.