1. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    Do authors feel 'pressured' to write more and more after their first success?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jeff Countryman, Sep 1, 2015.

    I'm curious about some of the 'cookie cutter' books I see by the same authors and was curious if this comes from the fan base 'demanding' more (not necessarily a series but more stories because they enjoyed the style etc.).

    Has anyone experienced/worried about having the pressure of publishing more and more (and faster and faster) after their first success?
     
  2. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    Hi Jeff
    Authors sometimes forget that publishing isn't just about being creative; it's a business. There are as many, maybe more pressures on the modern published writer as in any other business.

    From experience you tend to get pressure from four different areas which can lead to those 'cookie cutter' books you speak of. The first one is usually the most positive, and that is self-pressure to deliver something that is better than the book before it. Which is fine for some writers, it challenges them to improve. But in others it can be too much pressure and they don't succeed in their endeavours, leading to many authors who are one-book wonders.

    Then you have family/financial pressures. If you've jacked in the day-job on a one or two book success, you now have to deliver a book regularly enough to live off. That's not easy either; the modern mid-list author is an endangered species I'm afraid to say. It can be safer to cave into demands of your publisher and sell that creative soul than risk losing the roof over your head.

    Which leads to the third pressure, perhaps the most negative one. Your editor will want a stream of books from you because there are other writers waiting to pick up where you left, and you both know it. After a couple of books you might want to write something different to keep it fresh; but your editor won't and nor will the accountants. They want more of that success, or even an improvement. It's their money, after all.

    And finally there's the fans demands. But the pressure from those quarters tend to be via your editor, unless you are lucky/unlucky to be an author of a successful series of books with a fan-base of thousands. Then, expect emails and letters and awkward questions during book signings about when the next book in the series will be out. Some writers feel obligated to go on, even when the story has already been told.

    These pressures change a little when you're a self-published author; they actually become more acute: no advances to fall back on; upfront publishing costs; a fan base the author must plug into regardless of painful feedback - so many pressures!

    If you consider what a writer has to do to get published these days you can't blame many of them for bowing to cookie cutter demands. I almost did, but I chose the route of more creative freedom. I can't say that it was the right decision (financially it wasn't) but it has meant writing is still a joy for me and not something I feel pressured into doing.
     
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  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I remember reading Ken Follett's introduction to Pillars of the Earth. It said something like "Everybody thought I was crazy for writing a book about cathedral building. I'd been known for years as a successful mystery/crime writer and when you find that you can sell in a certain genre, the smart thing is to keep churning out books in that genre."

    I've paraphrased grossly because I don't have the book with me but you get the gist. It's a risk to depart from what your established fan base are expecting.

    On the other hand, Pillars was a bloody massive success. Other authors have also very successfully switched between genres - Tess Gerritsen springs to mind. I love both her early sci-fi-ish books and her more recent crime/detective novels.
     
  4. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Yeah I feel it. Partly it's financial. But equally it's partly about wanting to achieve ever more success. And when you have one book flying off the digital shelves it seems obvious that a sequel has a good chance to do the same. The only problem is that I simply don't have a muse that works that way.

    I write a book and finish it, and then that mostly seems to be it for me. I want to move on to something new and fresh. I may not even want to stay in the same genre. As a result Maverick has a half written sequel that I can't see myself finishing. Dragon which I get loads of requests to follow up on, has nothing. And I've written five pages of a sequel to The Arcanist and given up.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Some might. Others might enjoy the success and cash and think weee let's see if I can do this again. Also I'm not sure if some authors feel they're doing cookie cutter books. Even the most established author repeats themes. It just becomes more transparent when a horror novelist does it. The literary authors are just better at embedding. Everything an author does has a bit of cookie cutter to it. Not that you can really compare Enid Blyton to Nabokov.

    I wouldn't want to let my audience dictate what I write. Wouldn't be doing them any favors anyway. But then again I wouldn't want to be a drag-ass making my audience wait years and years before I put out the next book.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I always said (jokingly) that if I were going to try for traditional publication, I would have at least 6 completed books done before I ever approached an agent! I wouldn't tell the agent this, of course, but I would certainly have them done, to throw into the wheelbarrow every time it rumbled past demanding MORE. So many authors are expected to churn out books at the rate of one every year or two. That's just not me.

    However, I'm not going for traditional publication, so it doesn't matter to me. I'm retired, not dependent on income from selling books. I just want to turn out good ones, the best they can be. Selling is not that important to me. Getting them out there for interested parties to read is my goal.
     
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  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That's really interesting, can I ask why you singled out horror? I find that one of the genres with the most diversity among authors. When I think of "cookie cutter" books my first thought is Jodi Picoult - I noticed once that even the blurb of her books are formulaic.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Harper Lee didn't :)

    But I've read that the publishers are looking more toward yearly releases, or even two books per year from an author. That's just from information on blogs of writers, editors, and the like, and not anything I've seen required from a publisher, but it certainly looks like the market is moving toward faster output and that would put stress on authors.
     
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  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Is one a year really that demanding, if it's your main job? Or do most published authors still have a regular job as well?
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Most authors whose books you see on the shelves at Barnes & Noble are not making enough to support themselves full time through their writing. I may be able to find the source for that, I don't have it off hand. Of writers with a traditional publishing contract, the ones who can live just off their writing are in the minority. But even with a job, a good book a year seems doable. Two might be pushing it.
     
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  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Well, a lot of the horror authors I've read can tend to use similar themes ( I wouldn't exactly call them cookie cutter but they seem to have created their own formula ) - John Saul's very much into possession, Charles L Grant had very cowboy-ish heros and entities that could be defeated ( I wasn't surprised when he switched to westerns ) Bentley Little - I've read nearly every one of his books and they fit a very similar pattern - family goes to exotic/new location which is usually taken over by some cursed ground or a pack of people that are serving as a diabolical entity. Ruby Jean Jensen loved putting kids in turmoil. Richard Laymon loved pitting the average against the whack-job. A lot of romance authors can do the same thing. I'm not as familiar with sci-fi so I can't say.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Or the whack-job against the average (e.g. After Midnight). :)
     
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  13. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed. Six months seems like a short time to produce a good book, even with a professional editor helping.

    I don't need a source - I believe you!
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    GRR Martin must be driving them nuts! He's not called Grrrrr for nothing.
     
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  15. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    As has been said, there are various pressures, from a publisher to financial, to produce another book. As for 'cookie cutter' that depends some on the genre and some on the writer. If there's a winning formula, and the author enjoys telling those stories, there's nothing wrong with it.

    There is pressure to do at least as well or better than the previous release (for me that includes quality). I think it's personal and also if you hope to continue with a publisher. They're interested in a profit and have only so many publishing slots per year that they can manage/have to fill, but the expectations vary from one publisher to another.

    I can say that I sometimes get messages (emails and such) from readers, asking when the next novel in the series is going to be released. That is another form of pressure.
     
  16. BookLover
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    BookLover Contributing Member

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    I think this pressure to turn out the exact same thing is really evident in children's books. It's almost ridiculous how when a certain picture book does well, the author starts churning out more and more of that exact same thing.

    Pinkalicious became a series of Purplicious, Silverlicious, Goldilicious. I think there's an Aqualicious now. And then all the little reader books that go along with those.

    Fancy Nancy. Good Lord, who knows how many of those there are.

    Jan Brett had a hit with The Mitten. So what does she do? She writes basically the same story with The Hat and The Umbrella. Just stuff animals into objects. It sells.

    If You Give a Mouse a Cookie became If You Give a Pig a Pancake, If you Give a Moose a Muffin, If You Give a Dog a Donut, If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, and on and on.

    They just call all these duplicates a "series," and they sell. They sell well. The authors certainly don't seem upset by it.
     

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