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View Full Version : Publishers cater to binge-readers, get books out faster



JournoWriter
02-17-2014, 05:27 PM
A recent NYT article discussed how some publishers are putting out series with less time between books to help satisfy readers' demands for binge-reading.

As a reader, I think this is the greatest thing EVER. As a writer, AAAAGGGHHH, now I'm supposed to write even faster?

The article mentions how ebooks are changing the buying dynamic, with people able to get the next book in a series with just a click. I know I'm certainly guilty of that - just did it with Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards series.

For those of you more experienced in the trade pub world, is this really a trend, or did the Times just come up with the right handful of examples? How do you think this approach might change your business?

Link: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/books/impatience-has-its-reward-books-are-rolled-out-faster.html

Torgo
02-17-2014, 05:34 PM
I certainly think the Vandermeer story is interesting - I just finished ANNIHILATION, by the way - recommended. It's quite a short book, I think, almost a novella in some ways, so the trilogy may end up being the length of a long novel.

The thing you need to balance out, though, is the finite amount of time and attention readers have. We can't publish everything at the same time, for fairly obvious logistical reasons, and readers can't read everything at once. I welcome a bit more speed in certain ways, but it can't all be simultaneous. And indeed I've noted favourite authors being asked to speed up their writing so that they can get two books a year out, and the resulting work being about half as good. (The converse problem is when a book takes years to come out - adult readers will wait for a Scott Lynch or George RR Martin, but readers of children's books may well have outgrown the series.)

amrose
02-17-2014, 06:00 PM
Mr. McDonald quickly came up with an idea that was believed to be a first at Farrar, Straus: publishing all three books on what he called a “rapid fire” schedule, partly to avoid antagonizing readers.

“You can end up with angry and perplexed fans,” he said.

I haven't noticed this sort of reaction to series books unless one or many of the installments ended on a cliffhanger. Even though George R. R. Martin gets a lot of fan flak for writing slow it doesn't seem to have much effect on him.

shadowwalker
02-17-2014, 07:19 PM
As a reader, I know I've been frustrated that I can't read the next book for months - but I'm not at the point where I'm angry or want books shot at me one after another. I hope publishers don't get so paranoid about the level of frustration (which really should be seen as anticipation) that they send out relatively slipshod work. Not to mention, there's such a thing as a saturation point. I can remember finding a collection of an older series and buying the whole lot, reading one after another - and by the fifth book, I was really quite tired of it. Had to put it away and continue weeks later.

jjdebenedictis
02-17-2014, 11:54 PM
Torgo's point about children's books is a good one, but (as an adult) I want good books.

If the writer can pump out good books faster, then great, but I've noticed in a lot of artists whose work I like a tendency for the books/albums/etc they produce to be better when there's a larger gap between them. I would honestly counsel them to take the time to put out something amazing rather than toss out something that's only good. I value that extra edge of quality.

I guess I'm not a binge reader. A bad book costs as much as a good book, so I make a point of only being in the market for good books.

Torgo
02-18-2014, 12:04 AM
Torgo's point about children's books is a good one, but (as an adult) I want good books.

If the writer can pump out good books faster, then great, but I've noticed in a lot of artists whose work I like a tendency for the books/albums/etc they produce to be better when there's a larger gap between them. I would honestly counsel them to take the time to put out something amazing rather than toss out something that's only good. I value that extra edge of quality.

Yeah, as I say, I've been noticing the pressure to publish more taking its toll on writers I like.


I guess I'm not a binge reader. A bad book costs as much as a good book, so I make a point of only being in the market for good books.

Speaking for myself, I do like to plough through a long series of books, but so many good long series already exist that I don't really need to be get het up waiting for a new one to get up a head of steam. Even if you like excellent thrillers, for example, and you live in the UK, you probably haven't read all John Sandford's books. There are twenty-odd books in his Prey series and they're all pretty much top-notch. These days he publishes two a year, in two different series, which I anticipate keenly; but I probably wouldn't mind if he published one a year or one every two years, because I can always go back and catch up on the 20 Robert B Parker novels I haven't read yet.

The catalogue for genre fiction is impossibly deep compared to what constitutes the catalogue of watchable TV drama box sets/netflix seasons. The binger's dilemma isn't quite the same.

bearilou
02-18-2014, 01:21 AM
Even though George R. R. Martin gets a lot of fan flak for writing slow it doesn't seem to have much effect on him.

It may not have increased his writing speed but I'm not so sure that the amounts of vitriol he received when he had taken so long between two books didn't have some kind of effect on him.

kuwisdelu
02-18-2014, 01:28 AM
Speaking for myself, I do like to plough through a long series of books, but so many good long series already exist that I don't really need to be get het up waiting for a new one to get up a head of steam. Even if you like excellent thrillers, for example, and you live in the UK, you probably haven't read all John Sandford's books. There are twenty-odd books in his Prey series and they're all pretty much top-notch. These days he publishes two a year, in two different series, which I anticipate keenly; but I probably wouldn't mind if he published one a year or one every two years, because I can always go back and catch up on the 20 Robert B Parker novels I haven't read yet.

The catalogue for genre fiction is impossibly deep compared to what constitutes the catalogue of watchable TV drama box sets/netflix seasons. The binger's dilemma isn't quite the same.

Yeah. I don't read much genre fiction, because whenever I consider it, there's just so damn much of it, and I'm a slow reader. It's overwhelming if you want to get familiar with another genre but you don't devour books very fast.

Torgo
02-18-2014, 01:35 AM
It may not have increased his writing speed but I'm not so sure that the amounts of vitriol he received when he had taken so long between two books didn't have some kind of effect on him.

The consensus seems to be that the most recent one wasn't quite up to the mark (although I haven't gotten to that one yet.) The real pressure on him now though is that he has to try to keep up in some way with a juggernaut TV series.

There was a similar thing that happened to Jeff Lindsay, author of the DEXTER books. He wrote a brilliant debut and a good sequel; the first book was then spun out into a nifty TV series, and it rapidly became clear that in the sequels the TV writers were writing his characters and plots better than he was. He started to go off on weird genre tangents into dark fantasy in mid-series, only to swerve away when the fans reacted with bemusement. That's the kind of pressure that can really screw you up.

Mr Flibble
02-18-2014, 01:43 AM
I'm going to have to be a bit vague here (Although I have this to a certain extent with the books in my sig which came out 5 months apart)

>>

<<

But you don't necessarily have to write the books faster. They might, for instance *cough* put back the publishing date of the first so that you have time to get at least the first two in the bag and the third in edits, or maybe all three done before you publish. Especially if they are going for three in three months or something. It worked really well for Brent Weeks (Who I think I'm right in saying had written all three books in his first series before he sold.)

Allegedly.

Torgo
02-18-2014, 01:45 AM
I'm going to have to be a bit vague here (Although I have this to a certain extent with the books in my sig which came out 5 months apart)

>>

<<

But you don't necessarily have to write the books faster. They might, for instance *cough* put back the publishing date of the first so that you have time to get at least the first two in the bag and the third in edits, or maybe all three done before you publish. Especially if they are going for three in three months or something. It worked really well for Brent Weeks (Who I think I'm right in saying had written all three books in his first series before he sold.)

Allegedly.

Oh, absolutely. There's probably a limit to the number of books you can bank, though - Vandermeer's three might be enough. You couldn't queue up 20...

Mr Flibble
02-18-2014, 01:48 AM
Lol, no!

But if say you write in trilogies, mainly, you might have a couple of years between series, and then three books all at once.


Um.

I mean, so I hear.

Anyway, the time you get is something your agent can negotiate, and you can discuss with your publisher. Some publishers (and I suspect genres) are more likely to do this than others, but they are all flexible to an extent.

eyeblink
02-18-2014, 01:48 AM
Oh, absolutely. There's probably a limit to the number of books you can bank, though - Vandermeer's three might be enough. You couldn't queue up 20...

Didn't David Wingrove do just that with the rewrite of the Chung Kuo series? Admittedly sixteen of them are rewrites of eight previous novels split into two volumes each, plus two new novels at the start and two new at the end.

I've read two of the new series. No plans to read any more.

amrose
02-18-2014, 01:51 AM
It may not have increased his writing speed but I'm not so sure that the amounts of vitriol he received when he had taken so long between two books didn't have some kind of effect on him.

If you mean emotionally, I agree, but I was just talking about perceived output speed on my end since I don't know him and also have no industry knowledge about his work.

scribbledoutname
02-18-2014, 03:00 AM
I'm really happy with this.

I was kind of chafing at the idea that you might have to wait a year or more between each book unless you happen to be a huge name... especially for those of us who write fairly quickly.

It's a lesson I learned about life from fictionpress.com/fanfiction.net and other archiving sites; the more work you put out, the more visible you are, the faster you gain popularity and the more likely you are to keep your fans (because you stay relevant).

I can't begin to imagine how many fans GRRM would have lost permanently if GoT hadn't gotten its own TV series.

So yeah, this actually makes me very happy :)

Kate Thornton
02-18-2014, 04:41 AM
It's an interesting idea. I know a series writer (Sue Ann Jaffarian http://www.sueannjaffarian.com/ ) who writes at least one book per year one each series! That woman is always busy!

I am simultaneously writing book I and book II of my romantic suspense, book I being nearly done and book II begun rather nicely. It gives me perspective on the story arc and keeps me going.

I think if you write genre and in series, having the second - and even third - books in the bag when you query has got to be a good thing.

Liosse de Velishaf
02-18-2014, 05:12 AM
Personally, I am a binge reader. I don't usually buy series books unless a good portion of the series is out already. So on the one hand, I like the binge publishing.

On the other I get that putting out all the books like a machine gun doesn't work for every author or series.

jeffo20
02-18-2014, 05:15 AM
Did we just have this thread somewhere, cause I can swear I just posted this same sort of thing....

Huh. Maybe it was on a blog or something, I don't know. Anyway, I can't binge read. I've binge-watched TV shows (though my wife would not allow us to watch more than an episode of Breaking Bad per night, as it was just too grueling), but there's something about reading that, for me, binging on one author just doesn't work. I get sick of the voice, or characters, or something. I tend to need a break between books in a series, often with something completely different, genre-wise.

blacbird
02-18-2014, 05:30 AM
Publishers cater to what their marketing analysts think they can sell the largest quantity of. As such, they are no different from WalMart, ToysRUs, Target, HomeDepot or MacDonald's.

If the fastly-produced huge volume books are what the analysts perceive the reading audience responds to. that's what they'll accept and promote.

If you can write that kind of stuff and be satisfied by doing such (e.g., James Patterson), go for it. I ain't good enough a writer to do that. So I choose a different path.

It is goddam dark and creepy in these woods, though.

caw

caw

Lexxie
02-18-2014, 10:38 AM
I think that sometimes, the waiting makes the experience even better. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm as impatient as the next reader, but really the wait makes it possible to digest the story, to anticipate, to wait.

However, there are also some series I have 'discovered' late, and read 12 books over the span of more or less 12 days. And that was truly awesome as well! Especially because that truly helped me realize how well the overall story-arc was planned by the author, with a little thing happening in the first book becoming part of the main plot-line in book 7.

I think that the electronic age has made us a lot more impatient than we were before, but I also believe that some good things are definitely worth waiting for.

gothicangel
02-18-2014, 11:59 AM
I never read books by the same author one after another. I read Clan of the Cave Bear last summer, and I've just taken the second book out of the library. I read Mantel's Place of Greater Safety in November and still haven't recovered yet to tackle another of her books.

You can always tell when there's pressure on an author to increase their output, and the quality begins to dip. Real fans of a series/author are not going to be 'lost' because it takes an author longer to write a book than some readers would expect. I wish a few of my favourite authors would do that, to get back to the standard of the original books.

It takes me 18 months to research and write a book. If I had a publisher applying that kind of pressure, I would rather self-publish than knowingly let the standard slip.

gothicangel
02-18-2014, 12:03 PM
Huh. Maybe it was on a blog or something, I don't know. Anyway, I can't binge read. I've binge-watched TV shows (though my wife would not allow us to watch more than an episode of Breaking Bad per night, as it was just too grueling), but there's something about reading that, for me, binging on one author just doesn't work. I get sick of the voice, or characters, or something. I tend to need a break between books in a series, often with something completely different, genre-wise.

For me, someone like Hilary Mantel burns my brains out for six months. I think I recall not being able to read something too literary for a while after the most recent one (looking forward to her upcoming short story collection of course.)

lauralam
02-18-2014, 07:02 PM
I think it depends on the book and series. For mine, I don't think I could write them much faster than one a year. It's not even that I'm writing it the entire time, but having a break of a few months while I wait for betas or an editor to get back to me help me think about the big picture and develop things more. I bounce around on other books in the meantime, but from research to book on shelf, it's usually at least a year.

Hapax Legomenon
02-19-2014, 12:44 AM
I am wondering if this would not lead to faster writers but for publishers being more intent on buying a whole series at once rather than insisting that the first of a series be able to work as a stand alone.

Which, is pretty bad for me, consider I like standalone books, but meh.

amrose
02-19-2014, 12:52 AM
publishers being more intent on buying a whole series at once

That seems like it would be a really big gamble for them.

bearilou
02-19-2014, 01:20 AM
Although this could be a really big thing for writers who can write fast enough to keep up.

I mean, what do those writers do when they have more than one book in the pipeline? By the time the publisher's ready to take on the next book, how many do they have ready to go? Seems like it would be frustrating that all their work is tied up in the admittedly lengthy process of getting a book to print. Wouldn't this sort of stepped up production speed suit them if they can keep up quality and suit those fans who do like faster releases?

I'm a little uncomfortable with the assumption that if a writer can keep up the writing speed that it would automatically suck more than if they stayed with the plodding (to them at least) pace of one book a year.

shadowwalker
02-19-2014, 09:17 AM
I'm a little uncomfortable with the assumption that if a writer can keep up the writing speed that it would automatically suck more than if they stayed with the plodding (to them at least) pace of one book a year.

I didn't get that idea (but I may have missed something along the way). I'm seeing more concern that writers who don't normally write at that kind of speed would be "encouraged" to do so, and thus the writing would suffer. I'm sure there are writers who could actually speed up their writing without sacrificing quality, but I'm not sure it would be a good thing to put that pressure on others.

frimble3
02-19-2014, 10:40 AM
I think the pressure for more books, faster, is the result of writers writing inconclusive books. Cliff-hangers, trilogies that are one big book split into three, etc. A proper standalone book, even if part of a series of books about the same setting or a continuing character, doesn't leave that frustrating, unfinished feeling.