Friday, April 2, 2010

On Giving Books Time by Barbara Fister

I'm sure we can all remember reading a book by a favorite author that seemed rushed. Thrown together. Not worth the investment of both money and time, and deeply disappointing.

Publishing houses are businesses, but they're only in business as long as they have people who want to buy what they have to sell.

Barbara Fister makes a fabulous point in this post, and with her permission, I'm reprinting it here

A little background. A well known author with a strong reader base was late submitting her latest manuscript to her publisher. Because the release date changed, she felt the need to publicly reassure her readers she was okay, and closed with the hope they would find the wait worthwhile.

I know that "write faster!" is often meant as a compliment to beloved authors, but I wonder if something's a little haywire with our culture when a writer who spends the time she feels is needed on a book to get it right has to reassure readers that she's not in trouble.

In the interviews with Dennis Lehane that I posted yesterday he mentioned how much he felt disappointed in Prayers for Rain because he had adhered to a schedule and handed in a manuscript he felt wasn't ready. Know what? I was disappointed in it too. How often have we groaned over series writers whose work seems to have slipped? I think it's because they feel they must publish books regularly whether or not they have a story they're burning to tell. It's a disservice to readers and writers to be in too big of a hurry. It's especially a disservice to the stories!

I realize that writers who write for a living feel they have to produce, but it's not because they need the money, which in most cases isn't a living wage, anyway, it's because they need to "build their brand" and they worry about losing their readers or their book contracts. A book a year is a given, and some say more than one a year is needed to really succeed. (Why did MacDonald's just drift into my mind? No, I'm not hungry...)

If I love your books, I will wait for you. Truly. When the books is ready, I'm there! Do what you think you need to do. You're not a brand, and your books are more than a product to me. I love them, I don't want them rushed out the door like a kid who's half asleep but late for the school bus and realizes too late he left his algebra homework in his bedroom and is wearing only one sock.

Hum along with me: "I'll be there..."

Meanwhile, I have a TBR pile that could reach the moon, so don't worry about me. I have things to read while I wait. But I won't forget you. Take your time.

Barbara's second novel in the Koskinen series, Through the Cracks, will be released next month from St. Martin's Minotaur. Here are a couple of early reviews:

"Koskinen connects with an array of well-drawn supporting characters . . . Thoughtful attention to the complexities of police work and social justice lift this gritty mystery well above the norm. Koskinen's empathy with both cops and victims as well as her fierce, brittle independence make her easy to root for."
Publishers Weekly

". . . packs a real punch. It will appeal to Sara Paretsky fans and mystery readers who long for tough and savvy female investigators."
Library Journal

All things good, in good time.

CR: Under the Dome by Stephen King. Leaving for Tucson and seriously debating whether or not to put this one on hold until I return. Not because it isn't good (it's vintage King), but because of the heft.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Amen. In this time of "faster, shorter, text messaging," it's all the more important to remember why we read. Each of us has a different reason for coming to the printed page, but one thing is for sure: if the author did a rush job, it shows.

  2. In this time of faster and shorter, texting and soundbites, it's time to think about why we read. The craft of writing can't be rushed. It would be as if the patron told Michelangelo - Hurry Up! I need my statue tomorrow. Ludicrous.

  3. I think about the authors who've been conditioned to think they "have" to put out a book a year in order to be viable. Maybe early in their careers, but surely not after they've developed a following.

    Part of the issue, I think, is the editing that happens—or rather, doesn't happen—with manuscripts from best selling authors. Not sure why, except maybe the publisher knows the books will sell regardless of whether or not they're ready. Cost cutting, eagerness to get it to market.

    And then I also think about the authors who have found themselves locked in to a series they've grown weary of because it's successful. That's when writing would turn into a job.

  4. I loved this post wherever it first appeared (can't remember how I came across it now), and am so glad you reprinted it, Peg. Barbara just so clearly loves books like old friends--she's willing to invest, even if that means not deriving instant gratification. I would love a fan like her someday...

  5. I appreciate Barbara's support for authors to not feel rushed. Sometimes I think it is a fear that our readers will forget us. Thanks for posting this.

  6. Most artists, by nature, are an insecure bunch.

    I'm so insecure I can't quite put myself in the artist category.


  7. Having pent a career in technology as an engineer, I developed a "motto"; You can have it right, or you can have it now. But you can't have it right now. Seems a good response from a rushed author.

  8. This trend is a disservice to everyone all around--even the publishers, if they'd admit it. People will eventually quit buying books by big name authors because they've become sub-quality. I know of at least 3 authors I have quit buying because of this. A well-written book with good editing is worth the money.

  9. Oh, Suzanne, I couldn't agree with you more. Readers (myself included) understand that writers can't hit a homerun every time. I forgive my favorites a lapse every now and then. After all, I hope they'll forgive me. But as a business model? Everyone pays, and everyone loses.

  10. Very appropriate post, Peg. On target!