I’m frustrated. A little angry. But most of all, opinionated (Yeah, I know.. what else is new?)
Over the past few days people have been chattering about a couple of articles dealing with authors and publishing. One is a New York Times story about best-selling authors now being told to publish more than one book a year.
The other is a breezy analysis from Forbes which basically says that anyone with a good brand can become a successful author.
At first I saw these articles as the antithesis of each other, exploring both the opportunity and the curse of the digital revolution. But then I realized they actually were the mirror image of each other. Or more accurately, cause and effect. Bottom line: the two articles reinforce an inherent paradox. A Digital Catch-22.
The New York Times article examines how best-selling authors, many of them crime fiction authors, are now being forced to double-down on product. Authors like Lee Child and Lisa Scottoline are now expected to write more than one novel a year. Whether it’s a short story (in Lee’s case) or a second novel (in Lisa’s), Big Publishing is requiring more product. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Michael Connelly has been doing this for years. Lee Goldberg, too. And, of course, Joe Konrath. More power to them. They are amazing writers. Most of us aren’t.
The Forbes article discusses how writers are increasingly interacting with readers through social marketing and working hard to create their brand. The key sentence for me was: “If someone writes well and is skillful about how to build his or her brand, incredible things can happen.“
Hold on. Not so fast.
Incredible things? Well, maybe. Financial success? Perhaps. But what about the phrase “writes well” which the Forbes article kind of tossed off? What about the quality?
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