Publishers now expect novelists to churn out not one novel per year, but two. And in between, some digital short stories or other ditties to keep the audience’s appetites whetted.
Last Sunday, the cover of The New York Times quoted best-selling author Lisa Cottoline: “…today the culture is a great big hungry maw, and you have to feed it.” The article’s headline: “In E-Book Era, Rule for Writers is Type Faster!”
Faster is the coin of the digital realm, yet writers ought to be judged more for quality than quantity, at least in my book. Words should be weighed, not measured, I read somewhere along the line.
Yet every writer and journalist I know is doing more in the digital age. The Internet keeps us connected, wired, and frantic. We’re not only making deadline, we’re blogging, Tweeting, Pinning. We’re chatting live and Linked In. We’re Google Plus and then some.
The culture moves fast. Furiously. As the Times article pointed out, “Television shows are rushed online only hours after they are originally broadcast, and some movies are offered on demand at home before they have left theaters. In this environment, publishers say producing one book a year and nothing else, is just not enough.”
My old process clearly will not work. I labored over my first novel, “Glass Halo,” for about 27 years. I’m finishing my second novel, “Only Wild Plums,” after beginning it in 1983, or thereabouts.
Could I write two novels in a year? I like to think I could do it now that I’ve written two novels and a gift book: “Laid-Back Skier.” I give myself the benefit of the doubt, but only if I did not also have my magazine and newspaper articles, my Examiner.com page, my art direction jobs, my ghostwriting and copywriting and assorted other writer duties.
Two books per year every year? I’m an idea junkie, but that sounds like a lot of material, even for a gear head like myself.
And the novelists are not off the hook from other writing. Publishers expect them to do more than ever. “Everybody’s doing a little more. It seems like we’re all running faster to stay in the same place,” said British thriller writer Lee Child, published by Delacorte Press, a branch of Random House.
“I almost feel sorry for authors these days with how much publishers are asking of them,” said Jennifer Enderlin, associate publisher of St. Martin’s Press.
The Times article by Julie Bosman also mentioned one of my favorite writers: J.D. Salinger. I’ve long admired Salinger’s literary and personal style as an off-stage writer. His sort won’t do in the digital age: “Publishers also believe that Salinger-like reclusiveness, which once created an aura of intrigue around an author, is not a viable option in the age of interconnectivity,” Bosman reported.
The publisher of HarperCollins’ William Morrow, Avon, and Voyager imprints, Liate Stehrow said, “Now it seems to make more sense to have your author out in the media consciousness as much as you can.”
As for my part, I post regularly on Friday Jones Publishing’s Facebook page. I Tweet. I maintain a number of Pinterest boards. I blog, as evidenced here. I publish regularly on my Examiner.com page. And I do my best to keep all the other plates spinning, too, as a novelist, author, journalist, copywriter, and any other job that crosses my desk.
It’s never been easy eeking out a living as a freelance writer, but I think it’s now harder than ever.
Excuse, me, I’ve got to get back to work now.
Wag your tale. Doubletime.