Sun
Mar 1 2009 5:44pm

Fed Up? So Are They

George R.R Martin, author of the uncomfortably popular Song of Ice and Fire series, has announced on his livejournal that he doesn’t like it when people are jerks to him about when his next book is coming out. When I checked LJ yesterday, I thought, “Oh, people. Don’t be jerks.”

Patrick Rothfuss, of Name of the Wind fame, posted a similar request yesterday, with a charming cartoon of the kinds of emails he gets and a more detailed explanation of why his next book isn’t done yet. Both Martin and Rothfuss note that they have lives like the rest of us, lives that involve raking leaves, watching football, and even doing other work for their writing, like going to cons and overseeing translations. Charles Stross chimes in on a few specific difficulties of writing series, and John Scalzi—and his able commenters—defends a writer’s right to leave the house.  Nick Mamatas has the answer to the whole issue.

Rothfuss disabled comments on his post, anticipating a lot of supportive or funny responses, but also some snark and at least one real asshole comment in the bunch, which he doesn’t want to deal with. It’s too bad these writers—and many others—get guff from people who like their work but don’t understand or seem to care about their lives. The objectification of writers abounds; ooh, baby, show me your viewpoints.

But what really gets my hackles up are the references, here and there around the web, to Robert Jordan—not in the sense of writing a sprawling epic that may sprawl a little too much, but in the sense of the writer dying before the series is done. Get a grip. If you can’t understand that writing is an immensely complex process tied up in every other aspect of the writer’s life, at least realize that the death of a fellow human being is about more than your desire to know who wins the Last Battle. James Oliver Rigney Jr., aka Robert Jordan, did not “pull” anything on you, and those worried about George R.R. Martin dying before we get to the end of the Song of Ice and Fire can go take a cold shower or something. There are other wonderful books in the world, so read some of them in the mean time and express your sequel-angst in private.

These “pulling a Jordan” crazies are few, far between and almost universally belittled, but there’s enough middle-of-the-road entitlement out there to drive the sanest writer barking mad. Just remember: you rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.

Image from flickr user lifeontheedge, licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.

52 comments
Matthew Jude Brown
1. Matthew Jude Brown
Also worth remembering that if a writer is having trouble getting a book out, they are probably suffering from it in a much more immediate and personal way than the entitled fan. Not only does getting books out pay the bills, but the personal agony of not being able to get a story out the way you want it - of finding your creative urges stifled, one way or another - is deeply demoralizing.

So, I'd say, if you're ever frustrated by an author being slow, remember that they're already beating themselves up about it, most likely. You don't have to do it.
Richard Fife
2. R.Fife
A few things:
One, I actually met Mr. Rothfuss this past DragonCon, and I have to say he is definately a cool dude. I had not read Name of the Wind yet, or even heard of it, but just hearing about how he took 10 years to perfect it over multiple rewrites, etc, piqued my interest. And honestly, I have to say it is one of the best novels I have read in a long time. I will willing wait another decade for volume 2.

Second, while I joking refere to it as "pulling a chaucer," I will never mean it. RJ's death, in my opinion, was a tragedy on far more levels than me not getting to read any more books with his by line.

Third, I can point out what happens when a series is rushed due to fan pressure. Now, I grant this is strictly my own opinion, so for fans who liked the end, please don't jump me in a dark alley. Anyway, I point to the Dark Tower series by Steven King. I loved, I mean absolutely adored, the first four novels, and then I waited a very long time for the fifth. I read about King receiving "jerk" fanmail, wondering when he would ever finish the series. Then, one day, I read that he was going to finish it hell or high water.

The Wolves of the Callah was, well, subpar in comparison to its predecessors. I could tell he just did not feel it. The entire mood and feel of the book was off. I only read the first chapter of the 6th book before I had to put it down and just wait for my mom to give me the short version. Yeah. So, unless you want Mr. Martin to suddenly start letting people live and elves and pixies go flying around happily, lay off. Better to wait a long time for a good product than get a rushed, sub-par product.

In short, Megan, I whole-heartedly agree.
Paul Howard
3. DrakBibliophile
Yeah, on Baen's Bar we had a similar complaint about David Weber. It seemed that the individual didn't like David Weber writing other books instead of the Honorverse books.

How dare David Weber write something besides what I want!

Drak Bibliophile

PS

When's the fourth Safehold book due???
Jordan Hamessley
4. Jordache
It's good to see that authors are willing to come out and say that they don't like the jerks who are constantly bugging them about their next book.

My opinion has always been that I would much rather have an amazing novel that I waited years for over a rushed sequel.

The sense of entitlement that many fans feel to contact an author about their lack of work is astounding. As much as I hate the Twilight series, I felt horrible for Meyer when that draft of her next book was released and she didn't want to continue. The fan outrage was awful. They felt that since they had paid for the previous books she OWED them. It's disgusting.
Matthew Jude Brown
5. gav (nextread.co.uk)
In that case publishers should consider not publishing books until all the books are ready for publication. It really is something that could be better handled from a publishing side.

I'm not saying whip the writer I'm saying arranging publication around the writer but not until after they've come up with the goods. This way readers expectations are better managed.

Orbit managed it with Brent Weeks's trilogy btw ;)
Matthew Jude Brown
6. cgeye
I'll be the dissenter here, and note that no one forced adoption of Web 2.0 tools on writers that now permanently document just how much time in the day they might spend woolgathering. I mean each company can now trace back how *all* of their employees lollygag, but for writers? How are they supposed to represent their work as gathering Deep Thoughts, when they're catblogging on Fridays?

Writers are supposed to be Their Own Bosses, and I think part of the resentment we're seeing is fanboy resentment over writers' level of autonomy over work that gives fanboys pleasure. No doubt these complainers would also object to prostitutes raising their rates, if that meant destroying the concept of sex trafficing, work-related abuse and adding healthcare and benefits. How dare common workers interfere with their pleasures?

But writers in this field are not blameless. Throughout the market changes within SF&F, they responded to market conditions and allowed their profession to be defined either through profitably-endless series or less-profitable-but-interesting short stories or novels. Let the market define you as a factory worker (even when your productivity's as remarkable and satisfying as Big Steve's), and folks will complain when the line slows down.

Education of one's audience regarding expectations should happen throughout one's career; authors getting huffy about productivity expectations now have dropped that ball, way back. This recession will become a depression, soon enough: Authors, readers and cheerers-on are going to need compassion to sustain this outrageously-privileged habit of reading books we want to read and can afford, and to hope at least public libraries survive, to purchase new work.
Pablo Defendini
7. pablodefendini
@gav #5
I saw your @reply on tordotcom's Twitter feed; I'm glad you decided to add it to the conversation here. Welcome to Tor.com.

That said: I'm sorry, but that's just about the most inane thing I've heard in a very long time. Do you really think that it's a financially tenable position for both the publisher, and especially the author, to not publish any books until the author is done with a whole series? As Megan succinctly puts it in the post, writing is an arduous task: the myth of the author bringing forth a work of fiction fully formed out of his or her head is just that, a myth. Writing is drafting, iterating, revising, editing, and iterating some more, usually with the help of a good editor who knows how to shepherd an author and his or her work to completion. It takes time. Lots of it. And a multi-book series takes even longer. Your example of Orbit's Week trilogy, if true (I'm not familiar with the case), is a very rare exception to the realities of an industry of which you are clearly woefully ignorant. Additionally, we're not talking trilogies here, which are probably easier to manage from the outset. We're talking series: multiple books, usually more than five.

By your logic—and I use that term very loosely—J.K Rowling would still be toiling away in obscurity, flat fucking broke, as she works her days away at a menial job and writes about Harry Potter at night in order to finish seven books that may or may not be successful. Even if she did manage to do such a thing in a relatively reasonable amount of time, no publisher in their right mind would buy seven books in one fell swoop without knowing if the first book in the series—let alone the other six—would be successful or not.

By your logic, most of Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels would never have been written, since the last three or four books were written as a direct reaction to people telling him that they liked the first ones, and they wanted more.

By your logic, we'd never have had any Robert Jordan books, because, well, he passed away before he could finish writing them, after all.

Publishing is a crap shoot—every new book represents a risk that the publisher and the author take on, in order to reap the benefits if the book is successful. If a first book in a series is indeed successful, then the author and the publisher can build upon that success and write and publish more. If its not, then both the author and the publisher know to move on to other endeavours.

I realise my diatribe sounds a bit combative, but your attitude reeks of the very same aggrandized sense of entitlement that Megan and other commenters have been panning, and it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

@cgeye #6
How are they supposed to represent their work as gathering Deep Thoughts, when they're catblogging on Fridays?

Regardless of how much the internet and social media lends the illusion of transparency to an author's life, you can't possibly tell me that by simply following someone on their blog or on twitter you can tell how much or how little they're working. It's the height of entitled arrogance to presume to judge another person's workflow, output, or work ethic based on how much or how little they blog, or whatever. Even if you could, how do you know that your "catblogging on Fridays" isn't the way that the author blows off some steam, or clears his or her head, or switches tracks in order to stay fresh and be able to engage with their other form of writing in a more significant way?

Additionally—and I say this as a creative professional who generally pans the idea of the "creative genius" stereotype that is commonly ascribed to creative types—creativity is not a spigot that can be turned on or off at will. Some are better than others at channeling their thoughts into a cohesive work on a regular basis, others truly struggle with it (I'm very much in this last group, fwiw). Again, it's the height of arrogance to sit there as a consumer and pass judgement on someone else's inner world.
eric orchard
8. orchard
Personally, it never occurred to me to complain about the time between GRRM books. I feel that they are certainly worth the wait and would be disappointed if Mr. Martin was pressured into releasing a book that didn't meet his standards. The books are extremely rich and are not diminished by re-readings.There are other very good books being published in the meantime.

@pablodefendini and think about Moorcock's multiverse books! Everything would have to be posthumous!
Jen Hill
9. greybon
Great post Megan. Well said @pablodefendini. @orchard it never occurred to me either...until the complaints started coming in that Martin was working on Wild Cards books. Who knew?

@cgeye #6

...note that no one forced adoption of Web 2.0 tools on writers...


Going beyond what @pablodefendini said with creative processes and blowing off steam by doing whatever online, I just want to add that yes, publishers do actually ask authors to use Web 2.0 tools. First question out of my mouth is always, “What is this author doing online?” And if the answer is nothing, the next question is, “What can we do to get them online?” It helps with exposure and you know, shows that they are human and what not. Authors don’t just sit up on shelves removed from the rest of the world.
Richard Fife
10. R.Fife
Pablo: I agree whole-heartedly.

...I had a charged up to-do to add further after this, but honestly, I think plenty enough has been said.

Author's have lives, and there is plenty of time in a day to "goof off" and still write, and writing is honest work, despite popular evidence to the contrary. Anyone who has deeply edited a manuscript can attest to this.

In all honesty, fans should feel grateful their authors take time out to blog and talk to them. There is a reason most author's are semi-reclusive, and the brave ones that put themselves out before their fans have my respect.

Greybon@9:
Ah, but many author's want to... Shelves are cozy.
Kage Baker
11. kagebaker
And has it ever occurred to any of you that most writers have to hold down day jobs in order to pay the rent?

"Catblogging" my shiny metal you-know-what.
Felicity Shoulders
12. Felicity
@cgeye #6

Hmm. I'd note two other effects of the greater 'illusion of transparency', as Pablo puts it, that web contact between writers and readers gives:

1. Readers become fans. If I read a story by Josephine Schmo and I really like it, I may look at her website. If she blogs often and winsomely, I will add her RSS feed to my feed-aggregator. I do this because the blog is amusing, and because I liked story #1, but after I've read her blog for a year and feel that she's not only a gifted writer but a person I like and want to support, you can bet I'll read story #2 when it comes out, and buy the first Josephine Schmo novel. I'll hear about all these things, and maybe even a reading she's giving in my area, on the blog. You're right that no one is forcing writers to blog or tweet, but it's not as if the activities don't have real, tangible benefits to writers.

2. Writers become familiar. (What does familiarity breed?) This is the uglier side of #1. How many people took the time to type angry letters to Roger Zelazny if they thought he wasn't writing fast enough? (I initially wrote that sentence with 'Isaac Asimov' and then tried to imagine anyone thinking he needed to write faster. Heh.) It took time, paper, a stamp, and a certain amount of chutzpah to send a nasty letter through a fairly formal medium to a distant being, the Writer.

It's not just that writers are letting the readership see that they're watching BSG and taking pictures of their pets that causes this backlash: it's the fact that the readers are used to the internet, its low bars to communication and false sense of intimacy, and have no compunction about dropping a nasty comment at a writer's blog or rattling off a drunken complaint over e-mail. Even though, as Rothfuss's blog post shows, those actions are ultimately counterproductive as well as rude.

Does #2 outweigh #1 (and the other benefits of blogging someone in any profession might enjoy)? Probably some writers think so. But I don't feel qualified to make that choice for them, or complain about how they make it.

...And everyone said that whilst I was typing. Ah well, here goes.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
13. pnh
I've been following this at GRRM's LJ, also at Scalzi's and Stross's blogs. I'm struck by several things.

One is the people who say "Hey, 'fan' is short for 'fanatic'; of course fans are crazy and offensive." To which my gut response is: not on the planet I grew up on. In the science fiction fandom I joined at sixteen years old, in 1975, the kind of behavior GRRM is complaining about would have been considered jejune...indeed, to justify such behavior by claiming that "being an asshole" is inherent to "being a fan" would have been considered, by us, utterly beyond the pale. Our whole attitude toward the project of "fandom" was that we were all part of a community in which fans were the social equals of pros, not a bunch of teenyboppers having vapors about people with the exalted "pro" status. I'm pretty sure George R. R. Martin internalized a very similar set of values when he came into the field just a few years before I did.

Another thing I'm struck by is the people who insist that "the customer is always right" is the be-all and end-all of contexts in which to discuss a delayed book like Martin's. What this tells me is that not only do I never want to sell a book to these people, I also never want to go to a diner with them, or be their employee, because I'm pretty sure these are people who are mean to waitresses and beastly to their own employees. "The customer is always right" is a useful sentiment for members of an enterprise who are urging one another on to new heights of competitive achievement. As a flag waved by aggrieved fans, it's the mark of an asshole. "Customers" are no more "always right" than any other class of human being. Yes, one should cater to "customer" desire if one wants success in business. No, this does not mean putting up with unlimited crap. There are limits to everything, and there are some things your money simply can't buy.
David Lev
14. davidlev
I'm actually a bit relieved that George R. R. Martin doesn't produce more SOIAF books, as they are kinda thick, I'm kinda a slow reader, and I've got college, a girlfriend, friends, parents, not to mention at least 100 other books (including at least 2 of Martin's previous works) that I need to read. Although I'd probably put the next book of Martin's at the head of my reading queue, I like having breathers where I can discover other readers.

Perhaps why some people have been getting exhasperated with Martin is that the next book is supposed to be made up mostly of all the bits that he had already written for the last book before he realized that he needed to split the book into two parts. Therefore, he should have "already finished it." I'm sure that Martin has done more than take all the chapters for the characters he didn't use in the last book and stick them together, though. Martin strikes me as the kind of writer who needs a lot of time to properly construct a book given the complexity of his story. A rushed SOIAF book would not be a good one.
Matthew Jude Brown
15. cgeye
First, it's kinda stunning how no one challenges my more controversial point -- that since writers let the market define them as factory workers, folks will complain when the line slows down. Since no one can do anything about that, let's slag the poster about woolgathering? Catblogging? (sigh)

So, OK. Let's go to the complete videotape snippet:

"I'll be the dissenter here, and note that no one forced adoption of Web 2.0 tools on writers that now permanently document just how much time in the day they might spend woolgathering. I mean each company can now trace back how *all* of their employees lollygag, but for writers? How are they supposed to represent their work as gathering Deep Thoughts, when they're catblogging on Fridays? "

1. Is 'woolgathering' a bad thing? It's the stuff upon writing is based. I implied it wasn't important; it is.

2. Companies as well as rabid fen can now pounce on any apparent 'woolgathering' through Web 2.0 evidence, and guess what? *Woolgathering is a different kind of productivity that is still important*. Instead of being defensive about it, why not educate your readership right *now* about your creativity? Are you going to create a better-informed and -supportive audience by mirroring their pissy-little-gitness?

2a.

3. "How are they supposed to represent their work as gathering Deep Thoughts, when they're catblogging on Fridays?" Um, if you haven't noticed, *everyone* catblogs, or dogblogs, or petblogs, or kidblogs, so my apparent condemnation of it is the equivalent of spitting on the Internet's apple pie. Are we so fargone in blaming evil fans, evil downsizers and evil everyone-who-is-not-me that we no longer can tolerate sarcasm? Sincerity is the new black? Fine.

I'll shut up, now, beyond saying that Felicity speaks for me about the false senses of intimacy on the 'net that tend to get us into trouble... such the trouble I'm in now. Consider my shiny metal ass bitten, and I'll learn how not to care when the oversharing writers I've read in blogs want me to care about their favorite charities, or their pet rock bands, or anything else I'd ignore if they were merely distant acquaintances. More emotionally healthy that way.

Matthew Jude Brown
16. cgeye
OK, one more point, and it relates to PNH's discussion on Making Light about American's waning trust in experts/authorities, as well as @greybon's post:

"Going beyond what @pablodefendini said with creative processes and blowing off steam by doing whatever online, I just want to add that yes, publishers do actually ask authors to use Web 2.0 tools. First question out of my mouth is always, “What is this author doing online?” And if the answer is nothing, the next question is, “What can we do to get them online?” It helps with exposure and you know, shows that they are human and what not. Authors don’t just sit up on shelves removed from the rest of the world."

Can I just add that *everyone* who is using a social networking tool for the benefit of their job is facing the same necessary decisions about what to post, for whom? A professional demeanor must be crafted for each net-space, and each person's level of intimacy therein must be crafted to prevent embarrassment or loss of work reputation or intellectual property. This work is not easy; I understand why conflicts in our corner have risen up, but it's tough all over.
Pablo Defendini
17. pablodefendini
it's kinda stunning how no one challenges my more controversial point -- that since writers let the market define them as factory workers, folks will complain when the line slows down.

It’s not really surprising that no one has engaged you on this point, seeing as it’s not true. If writers—at least in the realm of fiction—were treated like factory workers, constantly prodded to put out product on a set timetable, regardless of quality, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The conditions that lead to people complaining about writers taking their sweet time wouldn’t exist.

I get your point about “woolgathering”, apologies for misinterpreting you earlier. However, in my defence, sarcasm is hard to pick up on in written conversations. However, I don’t think the public at large is misinformed, or uneducated, as you say. As a matter of fact, when I referred earlier to the idea of the “creative genius”, I was referring precisely to the common misconception that the public at large has about creative types in general: that they’re all flaky as hell, and always on cloud nine, and not concerned with the nitty gritty of daily life. If anything, I’d say that the public is misinformed in the other direction: some of the savviest, most down-to-earth individuals I know are artists. They have to be, because they’re for the most part self-employed and are running their own businesses. They don’t have time for fooling around.

EDIT: That's not to say that there aren't flaky creative types, just that they're not as prevalent as people think.
Kage Baker
18. kagebaker
Leisure to blog during the day job? You must be joking, or are wilfully misunderstanding.

When I HAD a day job (I was laid off recently from the place where I'd worked for 13 years) I had no time to blog. I'd have been fired if I tried at work, and I certainly had no time when I got home.
Matthew Jude Brown
19. cgeye
18@kagebaker: My apologies for making a wrong and insensitive assumption.

17@pablodefendini: about this --

"If writers—at least in the realm of fiction—were treated like factory workers, constantly prodded to put out product on a set timetable, regardless of quality, we wouldn’t be having this conversation"

-- I'm not sure the publishing industry *hasn't* encouraged a factory-worker POV through marketing and the extension of series past one writer (such as posthumous continuation of VC Andrews' work, and series using multiple and/or ghost authors).

In the cases of the writers discussed here, it's clear their work is their own, and it's their right to keep schedules the way they like. But then again I keep on seeing the trumpeting of other authors' clockwork production habits -- James Patterson, Joyce Carol Oates, Dr. Asimov -- and how marketing departments present their regularity as a virtue. That, or how a long-delayed work Must Be Something Special, due to the wait fans had to endure for it.

We might be better off with an industry with less hype, but what else sells books?
Matthew Jude Brown
20. blocksmash
"Just remember: you rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles."

And we are still stuck with just the first chapter of Buttercup's Baby.(shaking fist angrily at William Goldman)
Arachne Jericho
21. arachnejericho
@cgeye #19 -

I keep on seeing the trumpeting of other authors' clockwork production habits -- James Patterson, Joyce Carol Oates, Dr. Asimov -- and how marketing departments present their regularity as a virtue. That, or how a long-delayed work Must Be Something Special, due to the wait fans had to endure for it.


First off, any company that thrives has several different business strategies at any given point in time. Some of those strategies are short-term gain; some are long-term gain. Some projects are short, some projects are rushed, some projects are long and need time to get right. Companies that focus too much in one area or another are not companies that survive very long. This is true even if you're a monopoly like Microsoft.

Thus I don't really see any marketing "contradiction" with respect to valuable writers working at different rates on different kinds of works with different characteristics.

Secondly, writers, if anything, aren't work drones. More like software engineers at a high-tech company like Google. I suppose that's why I don't see the contradiction---I don't work a normal 9-to-5 job where everything is the same day-in and day-out. I work a complicated tightrope balancing act with extremely long hours on a large variety of problems (short-term, medium-term, long-term; things done for money now, things done for investment later; etc). And like software engineers, some people are better at different kinds of projects and tasks than others. Forcing people into holes they don't fit, rather than levering their potential, is counterproductive and, well, stupid.

Of course, many people assume that software developers develop in industry-sized chunks as well. Managers who assume this are usually the ones who run projects into the ground.

Third, the more creative something is, the less likely you can get it into a fixed period of time. This is because there are no reliable rules, because the problem is fuzzy and there are many unknowns. In this way, programming and architecture share a kinship with writing and what people think of as the arts.

In software development, we lop off features to make schedules. I'm pretty sure people don't want writers of beloved fiction series to do the same. But as they say, the faster you want it, the more has to be cut. And the more complex a project is, the more has to be cut.

The argument that the developers can simply be pressed into more hours is one that ends with developers leaving. And the argument that the developers are all lazy is one that ignores the high-tech neurosis of America, e.g., everyone wants to get it right so they all work overtime anyways, even if they sometimes do go skiing. I have witnessed ski trips that turned into complicated design conversations while contemplating the bunny slope, and it's not because anybody forced us to, nor that we were on a schedule, yadda yadda yadda. Writers are no different in that sense.

Creative endeavors engender that kind of obsession. They permeate the time schedule in a way that is both joyful and painful at the same time, because in a way you're *on* all the time. People may see you blog or create ebooks or post comments or whatever, but they don't see you spending hours behind the keyboard or in meetings or whatever in the wee hours of the night or on the weekends. There is nothing more sobering than realizing you've just spent your entire weekend in Vancouver trying to figure out how to do something more efficient at work.

Which all goes to say: writing is not a normal job and doesn't follow normal work hours rules or thinking.

It's nearly 3AM where I am, and I'm up working.
Matthew Jude Brown
22. Thaco_Mark
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Martin for my podcast and this was something we debated asking him about. We ultimately decided not to out of respect for him - he was nice enough to allow me to speak with him, likewise I should be nice enough to not ask.

One thing I haven't seen brought up in these arguments is my solution: I wait until the series is done before reading it. I was waiting on Jordan to finish his series before I started reading it. Now, I guess I'm waiting on Sanderson to finish it. Speaking of Sanderson, I just started Mistborn last night because I understand that the third one is coming to paperback in the coming months. I miss out on some of the internet "conversation" about these series (I have yet to delve into the TwoT posts by Leigh, for instance) but I never have to fret about when the next one's coming out. It's already out.
Matthew Jude Brown
23. gav (nextread.co.uk)
@ pablodefendini # 7

Wow, now that's a reaction and a half.

You've assumed rather a lot about me and my views. You're jumping head first into your own conclusions I'm afraid.

I was being a bit extreme with suggesting wait until the end of a series. But there does need to be a balance.

I notice that they've laid everything on the writer again. Talk about pressure to them - no wonder they have trouble writing. I purposely said arrange the publication around the writer and not whip them.

And I put more responsibility on the publisher!

Orbit did manage it with Brent Weeks and very successfully too, BTW.

Why is it such a strange idea for a publisher to support a series from the start? Wouldn't that give the writer a sense of security so that they can get on with the writing and not having the pressure to live up to false sales and performance targets?

And if the series is that good it should get some certainty.

Again that might be impossible with your current publishing lottery model but treating the whole idea of publishing as a game of Russian Roulette can't be right either.
Joe Sherry
24. jsherry
Gav - I think that makes sense to a point, and the point being when the writer has a mostly finished series to turn in (or several volumes in a series). Naomi Novik's Temeraire series is an example of this - the first three books were published a couple of months apart. It gave readers a big jump into her series and built hype for each subsequent book.

At some point, though, in a longer running series the publisher can't hold onto the books forever. Or even five years. They need to publish books.

Would you rather have the two Scott Lynch books now or have waited until he wrote all 7? What if holding on to the first two books for five years before publishing would have equaled less sales and not more, thus wasting the investment?

I'd rather Elizabeth Bear's novels published when they are ready, not when they're all done.

And sometimes - buying the initial volumes IS the investment and that if they don't sell you won't see the later ones from that publisher.

How many books in a series should the publisher sit on before they should publish?

I don't have answers, only that I disagree with what you're suggesting here.
Matthew Jude Brown
25. gav (nextread.co.uk)
@ Jsherry

Naomi Novik is a great example. Maybe have two sitting ready to go and have the third a good chunk done?

I honestly don't know the answers. And it's not down to ignorance. Writing/publishing isn't a quick and easy process. I'm just wondering if there is a better way to manage it.

But releasing the start of a series and saying just because it might not sell don't bother writing the second one yet doesn't really sound the most warm and creative place to be in.
Beth Meacham
26. bam
Far more books fail than succeed. That's the sad truth. Publishers really never know whether a book, and a series, will succeed or fail until the readers start buying books.

It would be insane to sit on a series for five years, get the writer to invest all that time, have the publisher invest all that money, and end up with a series that fails on the first or second book.

When you see a trilogy published at rapid intervals, you're looking at something that was already written before a publisher acquired it.
Irene Gallo
27. Irene
I know each age has it’s marketing hurdles but the sub-thread upstream -- that writers need to be entertainers beyond their books -- is regretful even if it's becoming a reality.

There are a number of writers whose blogs I?follow because they are witty and entertaining bloggers, because they point me to other things I?am interested in, and because I?actually like snapshots.....but it means I enjoy their online persona not necessarily their books. On the other hand Mary Rickert has little-to-no online presence and yet I devoured Map of Dreams and can’t wait for another. All I know of her is that she’s lives in the Midwest, all I want to know is when a new collection will be out.

I understand that writers can skillfully use the internet as part of their storytelling and entertainment value, but we’ll miss out when that becomes the sum total of their marketability.
Megan Messinger
28. thumbelinablues
But releasing the start of a series and saying just because it might not sell don't bother writing the second one yet doesn't really sound the most warm and creative place to be in.
It's not, it's true. Because publishers are in the business of putting forth wonderful creative works that make us happy, people don't remember the "business" part at the beginning of the phrase. No one really likes that publishing has a bottom line as much as software companies and widget factories do, but everyone likes it when authors get paid for their creativity and amazing books are made available.
Kage Baker
29. kagebaker
My first publisher bailed on me halfway through the Company series, despite good critical reviews and reasonably good sales. They didn't even bother to put out the fourth book, "The Graveyard Game" in paperback.

Over the next three years, as my agent and I desperately tried to find a new publisher (because a writer in my predicament stinks like week-old fish, to bookkeepers) I got letters every week demanding to know why I hadn't put TGG out in paperback. Other fans wrote to me assuming I was waiting to publish the next books in the series until I got a higher price for them, and criticizing me for my greed.

And that's all I'll say on this subject, because I have to go write. Which I now do for a living, God help me.
JW Doom
30. jwdoom
Martin gave us a flawed product and said the rest was coming soon. This in itself was a pretty crappy thing to do, but it had been five years and we were feening.

The further delay is infuriating and, frankly, insulting (although not as insulting as Martin's response to criticism on his LJ). All the noise above and from Scalzi, etc. are excuses.

Martin failed to deliver. He broke a promise to his fans. End of story. If there's a reason for the delay, by all means let it be known. But now he's just whining about people being mean to him (ever hear of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad Theory? Whose idea was it for you to blog?).

Should people be mean to him? Of course not. It's unproductive. Is the anger of his fans justifiable? Oh yeah. But Martin knows he can delay as long as he wants, because he has the goods, and other paying projects. Our collective tender bits are in his hands. It's unforgivable.
Pablo Defendini
31. pablodefendini
@jwdoom (if that is in fact your real name, sir or madam) #30

Hm. The irony implicit in your invoking of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad Theory in that comment in particular is not lost on me.
Samantha Brandt
32. Talia
#30: If you find his previous book wanting and are finding the wait intolerable, simply let it go and move on and stop buying his stuff. I know its hard to believe, but there are other authors in the world to read, you know.

You also assume an awful lot about why the book's been delayed. For someone theoretically a fan of his work, you are going out of your way to paint Mr. Martin as a villain.

Perhaps its time to move on?
Dave Thompson
33. DKT
That Pat Rothfuss comic cracked me up, man. I don't know if I'll buy his book because of it, but I'd certainly by a comic book written by him!
Arachne Jericho
34. arachnejericho
A sort of amused counterpoint to all the "why is George R.R. Martin wasting his time not slaving away at book?!?!??" silliness:

So a crazy thing happened during the time I was waiting for A Feast for Crows to come about. I found out that George R.R. Martin had a blog, and wandered over to read as much of it as possible.

And found that he blogged so rarely! My favorite authors blog far oftener than he does. I wanted him to blog *more* and was disappointed that he didn't. Football FTW, you know? I'm always curious about the Other Life that my favorite writers live.

Also I just bought his other stuff.

By the by, his other stuff is damned good. Fevre Dream I would count among the vampire novels I did not cringe at after a bit too much time spent with vampire novels. And it's an excellent novel even outside of the vampire aspect. I fell in love with Tuf Voyaging and now wish he had written more of those. Oh man, how I love Haviland Tuf. And some of his short stories are just full of awesome (I'm thinking of "Sandkings").

This is perhaps cheesy, but I felt better reading his storytelling and writing styles applied to entirely different tales in subject/structure/etc. Perhaps it's the Gaiman Fan Effect, but I really like it when authors write all kinds of different things. It gives you a chance to appreciate their roundedness, and also common points to look for particular aspects of their storytelling and suchlike.

Not that I think poorly of authors who write just One Thing in their lives. It's all good. But if I have more samples of the writings, I can hope to dissect all of them even more. Because that's how I roll. You can give the lit geek a Master's in Computer Science, but you can't get the Comparative Lit out of the lit geek.

But really, I want to read more of his bloggery. Even though I now know there are fans who will kill me if I ever emailed him this. Pah.
Matthew Jude Brown
35. gav (nextread.co.uk)
pablodefendini - I notice after your rant you've failed to address any of the points I've made.

Talk about insult and run...
Arachne Jericho
36. arachnejericho
gav,

Why should he respond when your points have been addressed by other people?
Pablo Defendini
37. pablodefendini
@gav

If there's anyone who can't "insult and run" on this site, it's me. You just haven't said anything that's not a re-wording of your original point, and I'm not in the habit of repeating myself.
Matthew Jude Brown
38. superwench83
Yes! That Princess Bride quote is so spot on! Awesome. Thanks for that.
Jeffrey Richard
39. neutronjockey
You know, this world of digital transparency is going to result in a lot of bitter writers and other industry professionals. I say 'we' enforce a handwritten novel submissions only policy and dust off the Gutenburg press (I'll even allow for the metal movable type mod).

Pablo, I hope you like doing wood carvings. O.o
Rich Rennicks
40. RichR
Two things:

First, I love Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Yes, there have been times over the past decade when I wished that the next book was out already, but those stopped at a certain point when I found that the delicious treat about a huge series is that I'm compelled to reread many, if not all, of the previous books shortly before the new one arrives. Otherwise, the new book can be a little hard to follow or seem loose or disjointed because some things (side plots, minor characters, etc.) don't come easily to mind. I've found I have to view the series as one book in many volumes, and rereading them is a great pleasure -- there is so much in one of these huge series that one reading can't do it justice.

Five or six years ago, I had the daunting task of being on a panel with George R.R. Martin at Confusion in MI. I asked if he thought authors who successfully launched a successful extra-long series had an added responsibility to the readers (over and above the usual responsibility to deliver a really great book) and he was very adamant that yes, he felt that he needed to go one step further, to take chances and make it worth the huge investment of time and attention that the reader makes. So I think he's likely under great self-induced pressure to make each book special and reward the reader's faith in him.

Secondly, apropos of nothing, another side of this whole "waiting for the next book" issue is how it's changed the job of a bookseller in a subtle way. For years now, whenever someone comes in asking about the new Martin, Jordan, Rothfuss, etc. it's become my job to talk to them. It's almost like being a grief counselor (and often has been since Mr. Jordan passed) or a bartender. Sure people are disappointed the book's not out or imminent, but in general the anticipation seems to be part of the fun of the series. I can usually point them to another great fantasy series or backlist by their beloved author and everyone's happy.

Maybe the grouches need to get off the instant-gratification machine (internets) and out into their local bookstore or find a SF/F book club to learn about some new authors?
Arachne Jericho
41. arachnejericho
@RichR,


Maybe the grouches need to get off the instant-gratification machine (internets) and out into their local bookstore or find a SF/F book club to learn about some new authors?


Or google "recommendations george r.r. martin game of thrones" (which is what I did back then). Or find a Song of Ice and Fire message board and look for the long, long book recommendation thread or even entire sub-forum on the matter. Or find the blog for The Tower of the Hand and locate recommendations. Or Amazon recommendations. Or the Amazon forum recommendations.

Or heck, I dunno, buy some George R.R. Martin books in his "other" category.

There are lots of places to find this information on the Internet. It isn't the case that the Internet *doesn't* have this information or that it's difficult to find or that it's bad information.

In any case, it's kind of obvious that the worst grouches *do not care* and would not bother.
Rich Rennicks
42. RichR
@ArachneJericho

Sorry, didn't mean to bash the internets. Just a comment that the "buy it now" abilities of life on the web can make people more focused on instant gratification and less understanding that their favorite authors may have a life apart from their word processors.

I get (probably the best) half of my book recs from folks on web.
Arachne Jericho
43. arachnejericho
@RichR,

Generally this all reminds me of people freaking out when it took Rowling, OMG, two years instead of one (or maybe it was more years? I dunno, I never kept track) to write one the Harry Potter books. It was a little bit before teh Internets really took off, but it was the same deal. Even though the participants in the Song of Ice and Fire fiasco are older, they act just like the little fans back then whose maturity filters had not yet fully set in.

My conclusion is that the web helps people who want help, but the people who don't want help stay the same, and actually are happier that way, making other people miserable. An IRL person can probably have a bigger impact on them, directing them (almost physically) to other bookshelves, but would these people even ask if they knew?
Matthew Jude Brown
44. gav (nextread.co.uk)
@ pablodefendini

Does that mean your taking the attitude of "I'm right your wrong" rather than have a conversion on your views?

That's kinda sad.

It seems that you're saying that there is no other way than the way it's done at the minute. And publishing is in the hands of the Muse?
Arachne Jericho
45. arachnejericho
gav, you truly do bring back the memories for me.
Matthew Jude Brown
46. blightboggle
I did not read any comments on this post yet but I have to say that I disagree when it comes to George Martin. He is the only author on your least that I am anticipating his next book. His last post in regards to the next book is dated Jan. of 2008. C'mon aothors do not owe us anything in the way of a concrete release date but they do owe us a reasonable account of where they are. Brandon Sanderson keeps a % log on his site. What a great idea! But that is even more than I ask for. Maybe every 3 months he can drop by his blog and let us know if he wrote anything lately. Too much to ask???
Paul Andinach
47. anobium
He's said he's working on the book; one might reasonably suppose that this involves writing something at least once in any given three-month period. What do you actually gain by making him take the time to tell you something you already knew?

I could see the point of asking him to post something if it's been three months and he hasn't written something. Although I rather think that he'd do that anyway.

(By the way, when did it happen that authors started owing their readers an account of their progress? For most of the publishing industry's centuries-long history, readers could count themselves lucky if they even knew the book was being written, let alone how far along it was, before it showed up in their local bookstore.)
Matthew Jude Brown
48. blightbobble
from what I have read, or not read there has been nothing for over a year. Certainly you would agree that at some point there should be news. Say in 15 years we have heard nothing. Would it be ok then to keep us in the dark. Extreme example I know but I am just making a point. I read his blog. He writes in it almost everyday and sometimes several times a day. Is it too much to ask for just a sliver of info. I am not mad at anyone I just think that part of being an author means you should give reasonable accounts of where the upcoming work is. Not what number word you are on or the day the book will be in stores but just something, anything would be good.
Richard Fife
49. R.Fife
Not to be cruel or bitter, but I still have to ask "Why Blight?" Authors are (typically) not paid for work they haven't done yet, so it isn't like they are being currently paid to write. Author's write because, in their minds, they have no choice. The words have to go to the page. If that feeling isn't there, they don't write. I mean, that is like saying Harper Lee /owes/ the people who liked "To Kill A Mockingbird" further writing.

Now, I will grant in the specific case of Mr. Martin, he kinda started the ball sliding down the slope by saying things and not carrying through (for the record, I am actually oblivious of the details of the controversy, seeing as Song of Ice and Fire is still on my "to read" list). But, whether he says things or not, he has not recieved capital gains or binding commitment to provide his readers anything. He could decide to abandon the entire project unfinished, and oh hum well (well, perhaps not, depending on how his contract is written, but still). The only people an author owes anything to are his agent and his editor/s.

In short, if you aren't happy, stop supporting the man's work. Nothing motivates anyone like a hit in the wallet.

(No, I didn't just go watch the Watchmen and leave semi-bitter at society, honest!)
Matthew Jude Brown
50. blightboggle
I am only commenting in his case, because as you mentioned, he is the only author that I have read that qualifies. I do not care about how long his book takes. I am inclined to read long, long series i.e. The Wheel of Time, The Sword of Truth etc. and waiting for the book is not my specific hiccup with the issue. It is lack of reasonable updates. I have read some of the posts that have started this topic and let me assure you that I am not ranting. I am too big a fan of the series to give up on it. So much so that I crave info about its progress. My singular wish is that when he blogs about Terrell Owens getting cut from the boys' that he could write a sentence or 2 about how his prgress is going. Something else another person pointed out is that he is currently finishing and releasing more of his Wildcard books. So my question is which is he working on. Can't be wrinting both at the same time. No matter which approach e is taking I will be supportive for whatever thats worth.

I will leave you with this. I would like to reread the first few books to lead up to the new release just like I plan on doing with Jordan/Sandersons AMoL. How can I plan that if I have no reasonable idea of where he is? Nothing malicious just a plea for a teaspoon of info.
Matthew Jude Brown
51. Sandyg
I think reader rage largely lies in just how amazingly LONG these things take. I've been reading WoT for something like 25 years. During that time I've built 4 homes, Installed more massive business Networks than I care to count, married had a child and put her through college, then divorced.
Couple this with the fact that AMoL now gives every indication of being TWO volumes and it looks more and more like it will be November 2010 or 2011 before this thing is all out.
This is asking a lot of some awfully patient readers. I'd MUCH prefer the just take same approach I think it was Daw took with "To Green Angel Tower" and just release both volumes at once even if is it DOES take longer
Matthew Jude Brown
52. Lucas H
I am immensely looking forward to AMoL, as well as the rest of Martin's work. I can't imagine how hard it must be to write the quality AND quantity of work which yall do.

That being said...this article kind of comes across like "whiny celebrity" syndrome. Oh boohoo Britney, the paparazzi are following you... (so to speak)

It is as bad, in its own right, as your fans who demonstrate a "middle-of-the-road entitlement."

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