Recently, a friend sent me a copy of an article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A well-established author had just signed a "17-book deal" with his publisher. This will go along with the "more than 40 best sellers" he already has. "Ultraprolific" is one of the words that was used.
The article didn't really surprise me. I had heard an NPR interview with the writer who stated that he currently had quite a number of books in the writing stage. The number blew my mind. (I only have three in the works: one that I'm taking a sabbatical from, one that is only a plot, and one that jumped to the head of the line and the muse hasn't let go!) During the radio interview, he credited his output potential to a great team. His stories are given over to others to write. It's his creativity; they help supply the words. I suppose it's not unlike the idea of a master and his/her apprentice. It's all above board, and obviously a successful business model at a time when publishers' decisions have to be based on an author's "platform". As I see it, it's a much better idea than the strategy of making celebrities into authors. (Actually, it's the same thing, but it begins with a celebrity who is also a writer.) My wife is a prolific reader, so this whole discussion led to an epiphany: "Oh that explains why I like some of his books, but not others! They are written by different people."
Writers of a certain age will tell you that the industry wants young writers, ones that can stand on a platform for a long time. Some young writers will tell you that if their first book doesn't climb the heights, doors shut pretty quickly. When I was in college in the sixties (shows where I am), we often protested in song. It's easy to fall back into old patterns, and I find myself humming "Where have all the writer's gone?" But it's a stupid question. We're all here! In fact, there are so many of us that the publishing industry has to be running scared. Already there are machines that will print out a perfect bound book from any electronic file you want while you wait. Imagine two million titles available without the need of a "special order." And those books would be on paper! How does that kindle the imagination?
If you've read this far, you probably realize that I'm just whining about the same old, same old. Maybe writing is become a craft where an apprentice works under a master. No offense, but I can't go there. I have my own stories that wake me up at night, and that's where my energy lies. I've gone the small press route, and have become a master of lower expectations! I do believe that there are a lot of good books available through small presses. Unfortunately, I live in a state that disregards the in-state presses and writers in favor of throwing accolades at the well-established. Guess you can't blame them. They always look better standing next to the governor in a photograph!
My hope is for a massive revolution by readers, who will want to actually know that the words on the page came from the imagination of the one who penned them. Readers who will say to their state's arts council, "We already know who is famous, but who is writing and publishing good books around here?" Okay, I'm gearing up for a new protest. I'm calling for a new class of activists. Jump in if you know the words- "Where have all the readers gone?"
Causes Robert Smith Supports
Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, Presbyterian Disaster Relief