The Sky Is Falling!!! (Not!)

(Posted by Jim Winter)

Well, it is if you’re here in Baltimore, like I am for the weekend. The remnants of Dennis blew into town shortly after I did and combined with Chesapeake Bay’s already unpredictable weather. Note to Baltimoreans: I hereby promise not to go to Marley Station to shop anymore. It rains hard every time I do.

But I’m not talking about the rain when I say the sky is falling. What I’m talking about is the “Woe unto us! The poor, bedeviled professional novelists!” Last week, I read no fewer than three blog posts about how making a living at writing novels is hard, and how there will never be another Ed McBain because there’s no opportunity.

I also looked at the authors’ Amazon ranks. On the day in question, all three had lower ranks than I had at the time. I am a small press author who has to fight to get on store shelves and depends quite a bit on out-of-trunk sales and online shopping. Theoretically, my rank should be somewhere around Boston Teran’s last novel (which effectively killed his career for the forseeable future.)

They blame the publishers. They blame the chainstores. They blame their agents. Nowhere do I hear authors blame themselves. They ask, “Why can’t I be Ed McBain or Lawrence Block or Stephen King and write prolificly?”

First off, McBain, God rest his soul, was a freak of nature. This is a man who, at the start of his career (as Evan Hunter) forced himself to slow down to 8000 words a day. (For those of you who want to know, that translates into 32 typed, double-spaced pages.) Stephen King, no slouch himself when it comes to production, banged out about eight pages a day before he kissed the grill of a minivan and slowed down. There will never be another Ed McBain again not because the opportunity isn’t there. Create the next 87th Precinct and you might not be able to produce them fast enough. It’s because only Nora Roberts comes close to his level of production.

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