Monday, November 23, 2015

Big Bucks and Big Publishing

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article in its Thursday edition (HERE).
It is about first time authors, big advances, the literary marketplace, success and more often, failure. To be honest it is all about money – big money.

I write thrillers and occasionally a literary work or two. But to sit down and read a 927 page novel such as City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (published by Alfred A. Knopf) is daunting, no matter how good the reviews. Writers only have so much time. Hallberg’s  advance of nearly $2 million does get the juices (and keyboard fingers) going though and the imagination. The publishing world it is like the lottery – millions play, millions lose. But it also being at the right place, with the right work, at the right time.

Four things must come together to produce a successful book: story, agent, publisher, and reader. Sure there are many other players in the process but these are the most important. Like baseball, it’s a simple game: you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.

As an author I know what it takes to write a book, even an award-winning book. As a self-publisher I realize how difficult it is to produce and market a successful book. As a reader I’ve learned over the past half-century what a good story is and what a great story is. All this still doesn’t necessarily produce a “blockbuster.”

Andy Weir’s The Martian is one of those books. I’m sure Andy, when he started out, wanted to tell a simple story. Maybe the modern version of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. He serialized the book, sold it for $.99 on Amazon, got noticed, sold the book to Crown, and the rest is as they say history. The real story is that every book has a history, unique to itself.

For me the writing process is almost more enjoyable than the finish. That may be the reason I’ve not flogged my books in front of agents and publishers. I sent a few queries out, toes in the water thing, but never allowed the publication process to dominate the writing. For me it is all about the story—someday, the great horned-toad willing, someone will wave my book in the air and say this is the greatest thing they’ve read since sliced bread. That will be nice.

More Later . . . . . . .

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