A Small Observation Regarding Words and Releases
Posted on July 17, 2011 Posted by John Scalzi 207 Comments
I’ve noted before that comparing one author’s process and career with another’s is a situation fraught with difficulty (and often, some stupidity), so take the following with a grain of salt. That said, for everyone who ever bitched about George Martin taking so damn long to write A Dance With Dragons, allow me to make the following observation:
George Martin’s previous novel, A Feast for Crows, came out in 2005, the same year as my novel Old Man’s War. Since OMW, I have written The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, Fuzzy Nation, and my upcoming 2012 novel (Agent to the Stars and The Android’s Dream were written prior to 2005). Martin’s written A Dance With Dragons. So I get credited with being reasonably prolific whilst Martin gets slammed by the more poorly socialized members of his fan base for slacking about.
The Ghost Brigades is about 95,000 words. So is The Last Colony. Zoe’s Tale is about 90,000. Fuzzy Nation and the 2012 novel are about 80,000. Add all those up, and I’ve written roughly 440,000 words worth of novels since 2005. A Dance With Dragons, so I am told, clocks in at 416,000 words. So, in terms of total novel words written for publication since 2005 (and omitting excised material), there’s a 5.5% difference between the amount that I have written for novels and what Martin has. If we’re talking about the actual words published, written since 2005, there’s a 13.5% difference — in Martin’s favor, because my 2012 novel won’t be published until, well, 2012.
Shorter version: During those years the unsocialized were snarling at Martin for being lazy or procrastinating or indolent or whatever, he wrote about as many words for novels as I had. By this superficial but easy-to-quantify metric, on the novel front he was as productive as I was, and most people seem to agree that I’ve been pretty productive these last six years. I just spread my words around five novels while he poured all of his into one.
Yes, but — some of you are about to say. To which I say, yes but what? Martin should have been releasing the story in smaller chunks? Well, and if he did, how much crap would he have gotten for milking his fanbase and releasing books that weren’t sufficiently complete as stories in themselves? The publisher should have sat on him to write faster? To what end? So he could have sold more books? Look, I’m a New York Times bestselling author and I sell perfectly well, thanks for asking, and by the end of its first week of sales, it’s entirely likely A Dance With Dragons will sell more hardcover copies in the US than I have sold of all my novels, in every printed format, since Old Man’s War came out in 2005. How many more books can one human reasonably be expected to sell? Waiting six years and releasing a novel large enough to herniate a small human works just fine for Martin. His publisher would be foolish to mess with that. And so on. Any “yes, but –” argument one can make can be refuted on entirely practical terms.
In the end it comes to this: Why did it take six years for A Dance With Dragons to come out? Because that’s how long it took. Martin wasn’t being lazy, any more than I or any other author lucky enough to be regularly published these days has been. One hopes that those who are already primed to bitch at Martin about why The Winds of Winter isn’t instantly on their shelves will keep this in mind. Martin’s writing as much as anyone. He’s just writing big.
“He’s just writing big.”
And getting well paid for it. A situation I as a bibliophile would like to happen to many more good authors.
Plus, I would bet that it takes a whole lot more work to keep that many words in the same story making sense.
If I may be allowed a minor quibble, my reading of the afterword to Feast is that Martin claims to have written quite a chunk of Dance with Dragons at the time of release of Feast of Crows, and the completion would follow within the year.
I actually didn’t start reading any of the books until the HBO series came out as I had been caught by long authorial delays before in such series (May, Donaldson, Eddings, …). I knew that the televised version would unleash a sea of unavoidable spoilers and that seems to have been borne out so far. So it became of matter of switch off the intertubez or catch up on the books.
In software, it’s well-understood that writing a system of size 2N takes more than twice as long as one of size N, and is more than twice as hard. Do you think the same holds true of writing books? How does serialization or other chunked release schemes affect this? My hunch would be that serialization does improve output but at the cost of quality, just because you can’t tweak Book 3.1 to resolve a problem that doesn’t become apparent until you start writing Book 3.3.
“how much crap would he have gotten for milking his fanbase and releasing books that weren’t sufficiently complete as stories in themselves” – dunno about that. Do ASoIaF books work standalone? It’s been so long that I’m resigned to having to re-read the entire series so far before tackling the next one just to have any hope of remembering who’s who; no bad thing, but it does impose an upper limit on how long a series can get.
Fan is short for fanatic. Fanatics aren’t known for being rational they are known for being fanatical.
A good follow-up to Neil Gaiman’s blog on the issue of waiting for A Dance with Dragons.
“By this superficial but easy-to-quantify metric, . . .”. It is NOT superficial. It is the crux of the matter. And i am sure there is some “overhead”, timewise, for the publishing of each one. GRRM keeps his to a minimum!
I know this is just a blog but this error irked me for some reason: “. . . novel large enough to herniate small human . . .”.
I just don’t understand a fan’s sense of entitlement. As if they own the writer’s time and intention. I understand wanting desperately to read the next installment. But wanting something doesn’t entitle you to it.
Martin could have chosen to just not write and we have no say in it. We don’t have any right to tell him to do otherwise.
Martin could take 20 years to write a novel of 100,000 words. Again, that is his choice and not ours.
I don’t think he has to justify his choice either. Anymore than I have to justify my choice of career, clothing or pet. He writes books, a publisher agrees to publish, we buy.
Buying does not give us a contract on Martin’s time or talent. Only the publisher has a contract with the writer and that is not a buyer’s business.
If a blog post can get a standing ovation, I’d stand up immediately and give one. Actually, one sec, brb afk.
There, done. I’m sitting back down now.
“…slammed by the more poorly socialized members of his fan base” a key phrase. I wish I had an answer of how best to work with/interact with poorly socialized people (whether co-workers, friends, family, or fans). Your post here is one of the most reasoned rebuttals to the “wtf wheres my book, you lazy bastard” crowd anyone could have the pleasure to read. And yep, I’m speaking for “anyone”, but I really mean me, of course. I ust didn’t want to be selfish.
I look at it more as: yes, it took a lot longer than he advertised, but that’s the nature of creative work.
He could have shoveled unfinished dreck out the door, but it would have been dreck and the fans would have hated it. See also: Robert Jordan’s Crossroads of Twilight, the nadir of this series.
I don’t have much of a problem with him taking his time. There are 10-15 writers in Fantasy alone I read – I have a hard time to catch up with the books released actually. Of course, staying with a story for 15 years (and another 5-10 years to see the finish) is quite a commitment, and it can get frustrating.
So I guess we’ll have to start complaining that you’re not writing fast enough now? Just so things are even? Then maybe someone will write a song about it.
Salome @ #6: http://scifisongs.blogspot.com/2011/07/free-mp3-george-rr-martin-is-not-your.html
Quantity is really not my problem. If that’s how long it takes him to write that much, I don’t like it, but I can accept that. I don’t like it mostly because my enjoyment of the series is lessened by the long waits as I forget a lot of detail and want to know where the story is going. Yet I can still accept that.
However I do feel that many chapters and plot lines in A Dance of Dragons (and for that matter in A Feast for Crows) did not progress the plot or the characters and could have been left out. Of course many will disagree with me and obviously Martin will, but I still feel somewhat cheated. Waiting a long time for quality books I’m okay with, waiting a long time for something that is (in totally my own and personal opinion) not up to the quality of the first books, makes me a sad panda.
Also, it’s not like he hasn’t also been busy with other projects during that time (most notably getting the Wild Cards series back on track).
GRRM has also been editing the Wild Cards series, as well as Warriors with Gardner Dozois. And tons of A Song of Ice and Fire related stuff, included consulted with HBO on the TV series, and writing an episode.
Didn’t someone here say something about multiple income streams?
Mike, I’ve done a little serial writing myself for the gaming biz, and all I can say is, results vary by author and project a lot. Enough so that I’d be surprised if there are any good generalizations to be made about it. (Be it noted that I do expect that my writing this means that there will, within a day, be a string of solid, well-founded generalizations made about this very subject.)
This GRRM word count in the last years isn’t even including the other things he’s published in Wild Cards and so on. Even more impressive word count then.
Theyis @14: But there’s a difference between “I am disappointed with how it turned out” after the work is done, and “I am angry at the author for not finishing a book I want to read.”
The inability to acknowledge that one’s own wants are not the pivot point of the universe is not, sadly, limited to fandom.
Everyone who reads GRRM knows that they get more from reading his work than from reading nearly anyone else. What aggravates me about hanging on his words is that we all KNOW in the bottom of our hearts that his next project will be promised on a date 6 years from now, then after that date has come and gone it will be re-promised a year later, then after that date has come and gone we will get a new date that may or may not happen.
I was joking with a friend when I forecast this doom, but am starting to wonder if Songs of Fire and Ice will be finished by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson….
When I do book talks, etc., a fairly common question is, “How long does it take you to write a novel?”
My typical answer is, “Seven to fourteen months, depending on if anything goes wrong.”
It’s true enough, although I can actually finish one in three or four if everything goes right. And I’m just as likely to add these days, “Or never,” to the seven to fourteen month figure, because I’ve discovered to my dismay that I am not necessarily a machine that can churn out publishable fiction without occasionally needing a break, spewing out garbage, or breaking down for a psychological overhaul from time to time.
I didn’t mind the wait. It didn’t seem that long a wait for a book that big and I knew it would be big. The books in the series were getting bigger as they went along. I reread them as I waited and skimmed Wikipedia to keep up to date.
It’ll probably take me a year to read this book so when I am finished it’ll only be a few short few years before the next book is out.
6 years is nothing, I’m still waiting for Diane Duane’s The Door Into Starlight. She actually posted a blog entry last week that she might work on finishing it if there is enough positive feedback people want it.
That’s all fair enough. If it takes 5 years it takes 5 years. I always try and research the length of a series before I buy the first book. That’s why I never read Jordan’s WoT. Still, I understand if people are upset about the time they have to wait for the next book for a series they love.
Yeah, I think, to an extent, that he didn’t do himself any favors (and may have waved a red flag at the less-socialized members of his fan base) by his afterward in FEAST FOR CROWS where he claimed that the material comprising DANCE WITH DRAGONS was already largely written (being material from Book 4 that was split off to form Book 5), and would be following “next year.”
Without that, I doubt there would have been as much hue and cry.
A book takes as long as it takes to write. However, it’s still understandable that fans are a little upset at how long it takes between books of series they love. Sure, fans have no right to demand that an author do nothing but finish the book they want, but you can’t take away their right to complain about it. It’s just as stupid for an author to complain about his fans complaining he/sh is not finished than it is for fans to think they have some right to get the unfinished book RIGHT NOW.
I agree that it’s not correct (or helpful) to slam Martin for the way he likes to release books (occasionally, and en mass). That said, I have to say that I personally am not sure that I still care (or even remember) enough about that particular series at this point to jump back in. I have a sinking feeling I’d need to reread at least the last book to have a clue where I am, and as stated in the post, these are not small books. Sadly, time isn’t nearly as in abundance as it was when I was in college :(
@20, that is a very disturbing thought. I personally find anything written by Kevin J. Anderson to unreadable. His constant crowing about delivering four-five books a year on time, all with the same ” I’m rewriting Star Wars formula,” as if that is an indicator of quality, while bad mouthing authors who miss deadlines.
Some writers can turn out a lot of high quality work consistently, others take more time. Martin hs admitted that saying A Dance With Dragons coming out a year after AFfC was a mistake.He had to scrap a bunch of the pages because they were not moving the story forward.
Dance looks like it may have solved the issues but until we read the next volume we will not know for sure.
I don’t buy it.
Suppose that last week Martin had stood up and said: “I am actually releasing ‘The Winds of Winter’ now–that is what I have been working on for the past six years. Really, only three important things happened during ‘A Dance with Dragons’–Gljva’f oebgure Xrina gevrf gb ubyq gur Ynaavfgre snpgvba gbtrgure ohg trgf nffnffvangrq ol Inelf. N arj Gnetnelra cergraqre fhccbfrq gb or Cevapr Nrtba nccrnef. Wba Fabj nggrzcgf gb gnxr gur Jngpu fbhgu naq trgf nffnffvangrq. The rest you can quickly pick up from context as you read ‘The Winds of Winter’.”
I think we would all be a lot happier now. I know I would be. I think you would be. And I suspect Martin would be.
Books–especially 1000 page books–should advance the story, not just tread water. The Aristotelian Unities: They are not just a good idea, they are the law…
Gareth @ 25: Thank you! I have been thinking just that for several years. Now, I know that words written like that in the afterward to a novel are not a contract between an author and the reading public. I also know from my own efforts at blogging that any kind of creative writing comes at its own pace, but there is such a thing as setting and managing expectations, which is where things broke down between GRRM and the twits in his fanbase.
It’s up to GRRM to write what he wants, and then it’s up to his fans to decide if they want to read what’s been delivered. Personally, I’m still waiting for Card to finish The Tales of Alvin Maker, but life goes on in the meantime.
Well said and a good comparison.
Sadly, it will probably fall on deaf ears (or in this case, more accurately, blind eyes).
John, you have experience in the publishing world, and have written in other fora than SF & F. Am I simply missing it in other genre, or are SF & F fans notoriously ill tempered with respect to not getting their way than other groups?
My sense in following/reading SF & F and its fandom is that they do tend to an oversize sense of entitlement and a tendency to bite the hand that feeds (see every screed diatribe about any and all movie adaptations, crappiness of, disappointment about, one each).
At the risk of starting a flame war, I just never see the level of puerility regarding a sense of entitlement that I see in SF & F fandom anywhere else, with the possible exception of investment bankers.
Your argument is ineffectual against my poorly-socialized personality and massive entitlement issues.
Well said, John.
>>At the risk of starting a flame war, I just never see the level of puerility regarding a sense of entitlement that I see in SF & F fandom anywhere else, with the possible exception of investment bankers.<<
@32: I am an SF/F fan and, as a lawyer, I've worked with plenty of investment bankers. You have this just right.
I figure all of the people who are complaining about Martin are really giving him (somewhat strongly disguised) compliments. They’re saying, “Your work affects me so strongly that I forget my manners, so enormous is my desire for more of your work.” Most writers can only dream of being loved with the hate that Martin gets. :-)
I humbly suggest that any fan who thinks Martin must write faster should first try their own hand at writing 4-novels-in-one-volume or forever hold their peace.
I had my fingers crossed that the afterword to ADWD would also promise a release date for TWoW, and that said release date would either be two months from now or sometime in 2025. I wasn’t sure which one would provoke more fanboy angst, but either would have been funny.
Poorly socialized fans were giving George Lucas shit for years about the other six episodes of Star Wars not coming out fast enough. So he decided to teach the little ingrates a lesson with episodes 1 – 3.
That’s very sweet of you, John, but for the fanatical, your math will not cut it as the starting date is not the publication of Feast of Crows, but instead the publication of Storm of Swords (Book #3.) Writing Book #4, it got so large that George’s publisher said that they needed to cut it in two. Rather than mess up storylines, Martin decided to split the ms. lengthwise and that split was published as Feast of Crows, a book that greatly upsets many fans because they think it’s boring as it doesn’t have the three major pov’s in it and introduces new characters. Martin then realized that the remaining ms. he had did not, actually, work. So he largely scrapped it and started over, then had to go through many revisions, eventually getting the book done. So in terms of words written, he’s probably lapped you several times, but according to upset fans, Martin took eleven years to produce A Dance with Dragons, not six. Of course, you could take another major author who has been producing for eleven years and run the numbers with Crows and Dragons, and it would be the same, but it’s unlikely to change views that Martin is a sluggard. The justification for the anger is often stated as the fact that Martin “promised” the book, didn’t deliver, “promised” it again, didn’t deliver, etc., because the poor man was trying to estimate when he could get it all to work for eager fans demanding to know. But apparently honest mistakes based on desperate hope by a creative author are considered iron clad promises that are treason to go back on. Essentially, Martin kept moving the date of Christmas and some of the kids couldn’t take it. And having gone forty rounds with them numerous times, I know that you will not change their minds that it was unavoidable, that Martin didn’t mean to hurt their feelings, etc. I’ve never seen fans react that way to any other series/writer. Maybe Dickens, where they would wait by the docks for the next installments. But it has now unfortunately become part of the burden for newer SFF writers “writing big” — that if they run into difficulties, as a number of them have, that this is treason, especially if they promised that they would deliver the shiny new toy at a certain time. It just got worse after Robert Jordan sadly passed away, before finishing his epic series.
Random thought – do publishing contracts for multi-book series generally include delivery deadlines? If so then maybe those deadlines, or their absence, should be visible to the public. Then a customer can make their own informed decision on whether to start an unfinished series and hope for the best, or wait until the whole thing is done. It would also allow the book market to reflect preferences for “regular even if rushed” or “not ’til it’s done, however long that takes”.
My own personal response to anyone who would suggest that they should have access to the details of my personal business without my consent would not be especially polite.
Oh, sure. I wasn’t suggesting anything becoming public without the consent of all parties involved. It just seemed like a possible way for authors to use their greater knowledge of contracts and preferred working styles to pre-screen for the sort of reader who was likely to end up getting, um, poorly-socialized.
Salome @6, et al: I really loved that post when Neil Gaiman first posted it. It seemed like quite a lot of the kvetching died down after that. What Charlie Stross and others spent several hundred words in various blog posts trying to say, Neil said in just seven: George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.
And when Neil Gaiman speaks, even the poorly socialized listen.
My first thought was exactly “George R.R. Martin is not your b_tch”, as is just true. Hell, if he had taken some more years to finish it, then so be it – my main concern is quality, and if he thinks the book is not finished, then it just is NOT finished!
I think he was always honest with us.
Just my 2 cents, before I write myself into a rant on that… You are right.
In truth I am orders of magnitude more peeved with publishers who don’t keep the early parts of a developing series in print. I’ve waited for the end of a few series and then found I can’t buy volume 1. Publishers are running around generating lots of great publicity with “long awaited OMG concluding awsum volume” and it never once occurs to them that they might get some new readers if they kept a few of the OMG awsum old volumes in inventory.
I’m definitely in the camp of those who think Martin would’ve gotten a lot less flack if he hadn’t mis-promised “next year” in the afterword to AFoC. I can think of half a dozen other authors of monstrous epic tomes whose delays didn’t get the same vitriol because no one was expecting anything faster. Heck, Lois Bujold doesn’t even write hugely long books, just very good regular length ones fairly slowly, but all her fans have come to expect this so it’s ok.
Note that I’m not really blaming Martin here- I sure know a thing or two about underestimating projects myself! I just don’t think that Martin has uniquely puerile fans compared to the average author. He just goofed once in setting expectations and it came back to bite him. Lesson learned, presumably. Note the lack of promised date for the next one. ;-)
Also, ASOIAF is UNGODLY complicated. That’s a really big part of why they are awesome, but I also think it’s also a really big part of why they are taking so long. I really think the poor dude has written himself into, not so much a corner, as a deep, dark, twisting cavern. It’s going to take him awhile to wrap it up.
Anyone who doesn’t agree should try to write a series with that many POV characters and plot threads, while also maintaining Martin’s quality of prose. Seriously.
And I am entirely too invested in this world to want to see it get half-assed. Not that dude needs my permission or anything, but, seriously, do what needs doing to make sure the last book is as blindingly good as the first.
As attractive as it is to compare word counts, I suspect that the critics will just do math and say “Yeah, John, but you did lots of other things too… if GRRM had just done what you do and cranked out 2000 words a day…” [insert silly math showing the book should have been out years ago]. Of course, this misunderstand the nature of creative work.
What some of these fans should also consider is that Martin as by this time realized that the work he’ll be remembered for is the ASoIaF series. I’m quite sure that not only does he want to put out the best work possible so he and his readers are satisfied at present, but I’d imagine he also wants the entire series to be right.
I get why people are impatient. Unlike your work, John, the fans of this series haven’t had anything to tide them over and 6 years is a LONG time between books. But I can’t imagine any true fan wanting dreck sooner versus a great novel more slowly.
Maybe it’s just having grown up in a different time, but as much of a fan as I am, I would never consider demanding anything from an author. I might go so far as posting a comment that I am ‘eagerly awaiting’ a book, but no more than that.
Which is not to say that I don’t pout and rant about the unfinished state of a book I MUST READ NOW! in private.
One thing that I think aggravated the response to the delay; Song of Ice and Fire isn’t a series. A series, to me, is a bunch of books with the same character group and/or setting, each of which tells a complete story. Possibly with some foreshadowing.
SoIaF is really one *extremely* long story. So it’s less “Where’s the next story in the series” as it’s “Where’s the next set of chapters?”. Without the sense of individual episode completion, there’s a greater sense of entitlement to wanting the rest of it.
Tom @51: right. I think the distinction between “series of books” and “serialized book” matters. Not to the point of making anyone anyone else’s bitch, but yes, dammit, when you start publishing a serial there’s an implication that you’re going to finish it. Maybe it’s my own silly fault for drawing that implication, but it’s there.
It’s not unreasonable for GRRM to take as long as he wants/needs. It’s not unreasonable for potential readers to want to steer clear of unfinished serials for fear of being left hanging. But, especially as the world stumbles toward electronic formats where an ever-increasing number of older *finished* series are still available, how does new unfinished very-long-form fiction survive?
I don’t have an answer, and it bothers me.
*implication => inference, dammit
You know, anyone who things George Martin is abusing them by taking too long between books needs to have a look at the spacing between David Gerrold’s War against the Chtorr series. Six years is nothing.
I think the issue is people get so deeply invested in the worlds authors create for them that they get, well, testy while being forced to wait.
Heck there are probably fans out there who’d pay for a daily screenshot of their favorite author’s word processors.
Dancing Dragons? Is this some new fantasy series? Sounds interesting. What’s it all about?
I am about a third of the way into “Game of Thrones.” If “A Dance with Dragons” is half as good as this, let him take all the time he needs to tell his stories. I’m both kicking myself for waiting so long to start these books and glad there are already a few for me to enjoy.
Heh, I was wondering how long it would take for someone to bring up Gerrold’s War against the Chtorr. It was cruel of Gerrold and his publisher to include a teaser chapter for the fifth book, putting the protagonist in extreme danger at the end of the fourth book, when the fifth book was unfinished. I’d have to admit that I was upset when Gerrold wrote several non-Chtorr books without the fifth book getting published, but I’ve since realized that Gerrold must have gotten stuck and has been unable to work out the plot-lines. My guess is that this is more frustrating for him than for me, as I have moved on.
ya… I’m not buyin’ it. Even if youse only types 70 words a minute, 440K is only a couple weeks work, even at part time! Now get back to work!
Writer sweatshops, that’s what we need. Oh wait, we have them… they’re called tee-vee.
As a fan, I’m climbing the walls for the next installment myself but, much like a motorcycle repair, I’d rather have it “right” than “Tuesday”.
I wonder though; if the series goes a full run, it’s supposed to be one year per book, more or less. I expect there’ll be some pressure on him to stay ahead of the production schedule…
And, there’s always the ever present worry that he’ll choke on a peanut or something and we’ll never find out how it all ends. It’s a testament to his story telling skills that you just have to know what happens to even the most despicable characters (perhaps even especially them…) and that you really can’t guess where it’s going to go.
For those who are indeed complaining about the fact that he takes 6 years between books, the remedy truly is for Doctor Watson to show up at their door and tell them that the Earth revolves around the sun.
For those whose complaints border on expectation management, I think they have more of a case than you think because I am not entirely sure about the nature of the author-reader contract. That’s like saying you promise a client/patron work and keep missing the deadline. The client/patron, a model that I think 21st century consumers fit, has every right to complain and go pick up something else. . The fact that complaining does nothing to fix any problems or better the relationship doesn’t matter. It’s business, not personal, so I think that’s how authors should take it. That’s the reason I am a bit taken aback by Neil Gaiman’s George R.R. Martin is not your bitch statement. Both sides are heavily invested, personally and financially, so maybe that’s why the tensions are rising. Don’t they say business and pleasure don’t mix well?
That said if/when I have done something creative, and published it for the world to see, then I’ll have a more substantive argument for you.
But in the end, G.R.R.M. is going to take as long as he needs: which I assume is more than other writers because as someone above so astutely pointed out, he has more POV characters than I’ve ever seen in a series. Glad I’m still only 120 pages in Game of Thrones though.
I am still heartbroken that Barry Hughart gave up on finishing the Li Kao and Number Ten Ox series but I don’t blame him.
Anyone remember Harlan Ellison’s THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS?
When it comes to making people wait for a book, GRRM’s an amateur.
Sharat @59: Unless GRRM was funding his book with Kickstarter, or the readers agreed not to read other SF/F so they could buy his next book, it’s not a client/patron relationship. I don’t understand why you think 21st century readers fit this model. They’re people who want to buy the book when it comes out someday; they’re not investing exclusivity or money now.
Authors are entitled to spend their time however they like. But on the flip side, I’m entitled to spend my leisure time and disposable income however I like.
Authors like David Gerrold, Joel Rosenberg (R.I.P.) and Martin have successfully convinced me to not buy the first book in any finite series until the last one is in stores. Were I a Robert Jordan fan, that’d be another data point, I’m sure.
I’m more than happy to throw money at all you authors of unfinished and future series — but not a book at a time, not anymore. Jo Abercrombie, I look forward to your forthcoming new tetralogy, once it’s finished. Patrick Rothfuss, can’t wait for “The Doors of Stone”, so I can pay you for the whole series (unless it turns out that the series needs a fourth book, of course). I don’t think my attitude is as rare today as it was ten years ago, and I think it’s going to become more common.
So, by all means, publishers — continue to publish the first in the series without the final one in the hands of your editors, for as long as it is good business. I hope beyond hope that eventually it no longer is.
Eh, I’m still waiting for Glen Cook’s last Dread Empire novel. Or another Shattered World book by Michael Reaves.
mythago @62: “client/patron” is way too strong, but it’s a stretch to say that “They’re people who want to buy the book when it comes out someday; they’re not investing exclusivity or money now.” In the context of a serialized book like LotR or ASoIaF, as opposed to a series:
If *nobody* bought Book One, would Book Two even get published?
If *nobody* thought Book Two would ever get published, would anyone buy Book One?
When someone buys Book One with the idea that their purchase will *help* Book Two to get published, how is that not investing money now?
Sharat B @59: “The client/patron, a model that I think 21st century consumers fit, has every right to complain and go pick up something else.”
I agree that the “client/patron” has every right to complain, but I disagree that the reader/consumer fits that model. The client/patron in this case, is GRRM’s publisher, Bantam Spectra, and the editors and such in their employ. They are the ones with the right to complain, and AFAIK, they aren’t doing so, at least not publicly.
There are so many reasons that the suggested solutions in this thread are problematic.
I had a series that started almost two years after the “delivery deadline” due to the onset of the recession and a change in release dates. This was not disappointing to a waiting fanbase, as it was the first book in the series, but it WAS disappointing to me, because the release triggered setbacks of all my payments dates as well.
Publishers don’t always keep earlier books in series in print AND they cancel series halfway through if sales aren’t to their liking, leaving authors and their fans (early adopters of abandoned series, or latecomers to OOP early books) in the lurch.
There is an increasing expectation, especially in my genre (young adult) that the books in your series will come out every 9-12 months, because some bestselling series do, which does not take into account the fact that many NON bestsellers MUST write something other than the series to keep paying rent and/or a publisher that won’t give them that many release dates.
And yeah, like Neil Gaiman said, life happens. My next book got pushed back by three spans due to a difficult pregnancy. It sucks that I don’t have a book out this year, but if I’d been at an office job, I’d have had to go out on sick leave (or I might have lost my job), so it’s pretty much the same thing.
“The client/patron, a model that I think 21st century consumers fit”
Yeah, no. Anyone who has a contract with a book publisher has a business arrangement with the publisher. The publisher is not a patron, the writer is not a client — they are business partners — and the reader’s primary economic relationship is with the publisher, not the writer. Even with a Kickstarter-type of situation, it’s not client/patron — the people who put up money are best described as subscribers, not patrons.
I’m sure some readers arrogate themselves the position of patron in their heads, but that doesn’t make it so, nor should they be entirely surprised if the authors themselves disagree vehemently.
Sharat B @#59: You’re right in identifying that many 21st century consumers think of themselves as being in a patron role. This isn’t because they legitimately are or because of that model actually being functional in the places they’re trying to apply it, it’s because 20th century marketers figured out that people like to have their asses kissed, and so marketing campaigns became an arms race to more obsequiously tell the customer they’re the lord of the universe, while legions of underpaid, underemployed customer service representatives ground their teeth and said “yes, sir, thank you, sir” while their next meal hung by their ability to take the abuse of a petulant pseudo-adult who has been infantilized to suit the needs of mass commerce and can’t understand why the world isn’t acting like they’re as important as they were told they were.
When people who have absorbed the expectations inculcated by that system run smack up against having services they desire provided by those whose livelihoods do not depend on taking shit from customers with a smile, they wind up as “taken aback” as you were upon encountering Neil Gaiman’s commentary on the topic.
Luckily for the corporations who sell them their self-image, they’re usually able to cope with the cognitive dissonance by falling back to the position that it must be somebody else that’s wrong, since they’re the customer and the customer is always right, so Neil Gaiman must be a big fat jerk.
Diana @67 “Publishers don’t always keep earlier books in series in print AND they cancel series halfway through if sales aren’t to their liking, leaving authors and their fans (early adopters of abandoned series, or latecomers to OOP early books) in the lurch.
Is this one place where self-publishing electronically is of potential interest to authors? I can see some situations where the sales aren’t interesting to the publisher but selling a few thousand copies and keeping 70% of the proceeds might be worth it to an author. Or does this situation usually mean sales are so low that even a 70% share of the sales isn’t economically interesting?
#63 pretty much nailed it for me. Of course Martin can write whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He doesn’t owe me anything.
But after watching his planned trilogy expand to four, then five, now seven, maybe eight…it’s fair to say that the reader’s expectations were set inappropriately*. As I’ve watched the story go from tight to turgid over the decades, I’ve learned my lesson: I’ll never read another Martin novel until the story is done and can be judged on the merits of the whole.
Likewise, if I were to walk into a movie theater to see a two-hour movie, only to find that the movie goes on for six hours and ends in the middle, I would probably not see many movies by that director again. That director is not my bitch, but don’t pretend their activities don’t have consequences.
* This pathology is not unique to Martin; it’s an affliction suffered by much of the genre.
James @ 63: So, by all means, publishers — continue to publish the first in the series without the final one in the hands of your editors, for as long as it is good business. I hope beyond hope that eventually it no longer is.
I think your model only works for new writers with a series of trunk novels, that by some miracle were all publishable. It will always be good business for the writers and readers to publish books as they are available, after all everyone needs to eat.
By the same token, you are of course perfectly fine to spend your money as you see fit. I think it is good that enough people will spend money on series as they become available, otherwise they would never exist at all.
If I may be allowed a minor quibble, my reading of the afterword to Feast is that Martin claims to have written quite a chunk of Dance with Dragons at the time of release of Feast of Crows, and the completion would follow within the year.
OK, here’s the direct quote: “…will be along next year (I devoutly hope) in A Dance for Dragons. You know something, if Martin could have had DfD finished to his satisfaction in six months rather than six years I’m pretty sure he would have. My ego isn’t so far out of control that I seriously believe Martin lies awake at night dreaming of new ways to piss me off for years on end.
Sharat@59: author-reader contract. … Both sides are heavily invested, personally and financially, so maybe that’s why the tensions are rising.
Both sides of the author-reader relationship are heavily invested? Because an author will spend thousands of hours on writing, editing, rewriting, massaging, a novel, and the money they make from that novel might be their livelyhood. Most readers read that novel for maybe ten dollars and maybe one or two dozen hours of their time.
maybe I’m misreading something…
Yeah, I think, to an extent, that he didn’t do himself any favors (and may have waved a red flag at the less-socialized members of his fan base) by his afterward in FEAST FOR CROWS where he claimed that the material comprising DANCE WITH DRAGONS was already largely written (being material from Book 4 that was split off to form Book 5), and would be following “next year.”
Gareth@25: If you read the afterword to A Feast for Crows (‘Meanwhile, Back On the Wall’) that’s not what Martin said at all. It’s a LOT more complicated than, IIRC, the situation with Dan Simmons when he delivered the hernia-inducing manuscript that became Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. He’s always said that he saw it as a single novel separated into two volumes “because of the realities of publishing” and it was structured in such a way be could make that split with little re-writing. As I read it, Martin had to do something a lot more complicated than just cutting a manuscript in half with TO BE CONTINUED.
It’s disconcerting when you understate like that.
Wow this looks like serious sore spot for authors! As a reader I figure I am only entitled to what has been published. If GRRM decided he didn’t ever want to complete it then so be it. I should be glad he published what he did …. Now if we are talking FOX cancelling another show mid-season then I wil gripe!
@73: My quibble was with John’s calculation of wordcount/year based on DwD being part written already.
But here’s the thing: if I enter into a contract with someone to do work, I may pay him in chunks as the project goes forward so that he can pay his rent, but the contract will also stipulate that the job be finished. It’s strikes me as very odd that the genre fiction industry may be one of the only industries in the world where the contractor (the writer) may get paid for partially completed work by the contractee (the publisher) with no stipulation that the job (series) be finished. When I hire someone, I want a plan so that I can have someone else complete the job if the original contractor is unable to do the work. Why does this not happen in publishing contracts for book series? If I need my bathroom renovated, I would never contract someone to tear out my tub and then enter into a new contract to re-do the plumbing and put a new tub in based on how well the tub removal was accomplished. I want a schedule, plans and mockups of the finished product.
Sure, two books in a projected seven-book series are of more use to a publisher than a bathroom without a tub is to a homeowner, but having all the parts and plans (the unedited manuscript and/or a plot synopsis with sign-off to Sandersonize it) to finish that reno is even more valuable.
And if the contractor doesn’t want to enter into a contract for the whole reno (a seven-book series), I’m sure he can still pay his rent fixing leaky pipes and installing low-flow toilets (standalone books).
I’m just saying that I would prefer that if an author has a 3000-page book, they deliver the whole thing to the publisher at once rather than in 750-page chunks, irregularly, over a period of years. Might this reduce the amount of finite-length serialized genre fiction on the shelves? Probably. I don’t think that’s a bad thing in and of itself, either.
In any case, as I said, I hope that more people stop buying Book 1 before Book N is done. I can’t agree anymore that buying Book 1 of an unfinished series is a net good.
I would like to second Dave Smith in comment #26. The first three books were released within 2 years of each other. That’s already 6 years. Feast took 5 years and Dance almost 6. Does anyone wonder that people are annoyed? Arya gets one chapter after 11 years. The series can be compared to Wheel of Time and you also have a word count on the Wikipedia page and use this indeed superficial number to show that a lot more words can be produced in a similar timespan, but well. You also see the same progression: 1 year gaps between books widened to 2 and later 3 years, which can also be blamed on Jordan being mortally ill. Epic stories tend to get lost in themselves and mired in their own complexity, progress seems to get slower the more the author writes. I feared the same after A Feast for Crows. Thankfully A Dance with Dragons seems to bring things back on track.
The point I want to make is that some write more, some write less and that readers have no moral right that authors have to deliver anything at all. But 5-6 years? That is stretching human patience quite a lot. J.V. Jones and her Sword of Shadows series also had a 5 year break and many people forgot about her and the series. The series was no longer translated to German, after 5 years the German publisher apparently did not believe in success anymore.
Well, we readers will have to deal with 5-6 years per book. That’s a pity and I can understand everyone who urges GRRM to hurry up. I know no author likes deadlines or people pushing him to write more, write faster. Some readers by now have children that are as old as they were when they started reading the series. I wouldn’t call them impatient. :)
“I hope that more people stop buying Book 1 before Book N is done.”
That’s an excellent way of assuring no series ever gets completed, as publishers will kill series before they’re completed if there’s a lack of interest.
“When I hire someone, I want a plan so that I can have someone else complete the job if the original contractor is unable to do the work. Why does this not happen in publishing contracts for book series?”
Because generally speaking the publisher doesn’t own the copyright, the author does. If I were you I wouldn’t walk into a bar full of writers and suggest that authors should be required to relinquish their copyrights to the publisher if they don’t complete a work within a set (and arbitrary) period of time.
Beyond this, the fact that you’re trying to make an analogy between a contract for a writer to produce a novel and a contract for someone to replace your bathtub suggests you don’t understand that novels aren’t bathtubs. One is a unique intellectual creation out of someone’s brain; the other is an object, mass-produced in a factory. Likewise, to imply the job of a writer is functionally equivalent to the job of a building contractor is to misapprehend both jobs significantly, to the benefit of neither.
That said, if all you’re interested in is mass-produced text objects whose salient feature is that they appear on an arbitrary but regular schedule, I’m sure such a thing can be arranged. Don’t be surprised if they feel sort of same-y and unsatisfying.
“But 5-6 years? That is stretching human patience quite a lot.”
Depends on the human, I’d say.
@Longasc: Pwease pwease try to avoid inserting spoilers even of the mild variety you’ve written.
There’s a handful of writers for whom I’ll buy works in progress and shelve them till it’s all done, but that’s based on a track record of liking their earlier work enough to do so. With GRRM, the last thing I’d read was The Sandkings in OMNI 30 years ago, so I didn’t even start GoT till HBO’s airing.
I remember enjoying the House 3 prequels to Dune after saving those up for a few years and then diligently bought up the pre-prequel series as they were released, sat down to read them, and threw book 1 across the room after a couple of chapters.
I’ll probably like Charlie Stross’s Merchant Princes series, but he was producing enough other non-serial material to keep me satisfied until I can squeeze in time to read the set. I’ll buy one volume to test the waters (as I did with GoT) and then spring for the rest if that works well. Reading densely plotted material like Stross or Martin demands that I do it in one go as I just don’t have the time to do re-reads nowadays.
The longest wait I recall was the 8 years for the third volume of Ricardo Pinto’s Stone Dead of the Chameleon series (released 1999, 2001, 2009). I moved house with the first two unread hardback volumes several times before the conclusion appeared. I went from great! to grumble to superluminal-skim as I went through the volumes.
So while I have no claim on an author’s schedule, both author and reader must recognise that each other’s tastes and enthusiasm will change over the course of a long-gestating series.
Now back to the last 80pp of FoC….
out of curiosity, can fans like these be safely ignored by authors? Or is there some way such ‘fans’ could have a negative economic impact on the author beyond them not buying the book if its too late for their liking?
I assume a large enough random selection of readers of a particular book will find completely assinine reasins for not liking that book (the main character was an old man and I am a teenager who hates old people, I dont like the ocean, why would anyone fish alone in a skiff thats just stupid, and who cares if he hasnt caught a fish in 84 days or not.)
In the end, do these kinds of ‘fans’ who complain about waiting too long between novels get lumped into the rest of the ‘youre hate mail will be graded’ group?
“That’s an excellent way of assuring no series ever gets completed, as publishers will kill series before they’re completed if there’s a lack of interest.”
It’s also a way of pushing fantasy authors towards trying to contain their story in fewer pages.
I disagree with the underlying premise that Martin’s tale as begun in Game of Thrones requires five thousand more pages to tell properly. I’m sure he would disagree, but there are literally hundreds of pages in the third and fourth books that added nothing for me.
“It’s also a way of pushing fantasy authors towards trying to contain their story in fewer pages.”
In the sense that they won’t be getting other book contracts because their first books sold so poorly, I suppose this is true. However, aside from that, It doesn’t appear anyone else here is talking about the desirability of fewer pages. Rather the opposite: They want all the pages, however many of them there are, before they commit.
“I disagree with the underlying premise that Martin’s tale as begun in Game of Thrones requires five thousand more pages to tell properly.”
Heh. “This food is terrible! And the portions are so large!”
Thanks for the wonderful commentary. I am now won over to the side of readers have no reason for complaint, but disagree about the point on Kickstarter. Since some people are using the funds they get from fans to quit full-time jobs and work on whatever their project may be, I think that effectively establishes the patron position. Does that mean we should be patrons of the arts like kings and lords were? No. I think I’m-your-rabid-fan-and-think-I-need-to-put-my-money-and-mouth-to-use-bringing-you-attention patron is much cooler.
I blame the instant gratification society we are building. Blogs, tweets, txts (aka overpriced modern teletype in mobile form), cell phones, the Internet, satellite TV, 24×7 live news coverage… I think people forget that Mr Martin actually has to sit down and write. Why some people can’t just enjoy the journey he is taking us all on with his incredible story, instead of finding bitter reasons within themselves to do otherwise, is just inexcusable behavior by spoiled fans who are used to some series that are churned out in a couple of years, where the entire story is only comparable to a single one of GRRM’s novels in length.
A Song of Ice and Fire is being compared increasingly to Tolkien, fairly or unfairly, it holds it’s own against the gold standard for fantasy, and in this reader’s humble opinion, is more finely crafted and enjoyable to read.
You are a good writer job, buy Martins books are far more complex than yours. It is understandable why it takes him longer to write these books. One thing we have to also look at is that Martin’s books sell so well, he can afford to wait 5-6 year per books. Authors who do not sell at his level cannot. They need to pay the rent. I remember Martin blogging about how he had to take 3 years of work and throw it out. How many authors can afford to do that?
I like martin and I am happy to wait for his books. Then again, I need to re-read the first 4 since I forgot too much before touching Dance with Dragons.
“That said, if all you’re interested in is mass-produced text objects whose salient feature is that they appear on an arbitrary but regular schedule, I’m sure such a thing can be arranged. Don’t be surprised if they feel sort of same-y and unsatisfying.”
The term I’ve run across in the past is “extruded fantasy product”. SEE ALSO: Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide to Fantasyland.
(Neither of which, I hasten to add, apply to GRRM’s work.)
There might also be parallels with Stephen King’s Gunslinger books (which may also provide a bit of a cautionary tale about the risks of the author just sitting down and finishing it), although it’s not an exact match — the Gunslinger books were a sideline to his main body of work, at least from a publishing/popularity standpoint.
Me, I’ll keep buying the books as they appear — partially to support the ongoing series and partially because of my lack of impulse control. I’m not sure when I’ll work them into the reading schedule, but that’s because at this point I feel like I have to go back to the beginning of the series, which is a somewhat daunting prospect.
Bu my timing math, Martin and A Song of Ice and Fire is still ahead of the amout of time it took Stepehn King to deliver The Dark Tower in whole. I loved both series, and I want to see Martin finish his. However I don’t want to see martin finish in the way that King did. The last three volumes of Dark Tower where a violent shift in the series, and somwhat unsatisfing at the end. He rushed it, those last three volumes didn’t have near the care that the first three did put into them. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to read them.
So lets put it this way my daughter is almost three now, if the final volume of the series is a High School graduation present for her, I am OK with that.
Can anyone name an instance where a publisher launched any sort of noticeable campaign to win new readers to a recently completed series?
@Mike: if I buy Book One in the hopes that thus means Book 2 will come out, and the publisher cancels Book 2 et al due to poor sales, can I demand my money back? If not, then I don’t really get the ‘patron’ analogy.
Yes, it’s disappointing when an author doesn’t come out with the next book when expected, but disappointment is different from “the author is cheating me.” The risk to the author is that the fans will move on and/or lose interest in their future writing. Me, doubt I’ll be reading the new book, as by now I’ve forgotten half the plotlines and have no inclination to re-read four volumes to get up to speed. But that has nothing to do with GRRM HOW DAR U MAEK ME WAIT.
I always felt that no matter how much I liked a series and wanted to read the rest of it, there were plenty of other things out there for me to consume in the meantime. It’s disappointing to get through a handful of books and realize there isn’t more, sure, but no different from eating the last cookie in the jar. Go have something else, you’ll be fine.
@ #80 Longsac: If you’r going to include even minor spoilers in your comment (ie how many chapters character x gets), label your post “**spoiler**”. Not everyone has finished Dance yet. Including me. Thanks.
I confess – I didn’t sart the series until late 2010 – at the time the release of the HBO miniseries was still an unknown as was the ‘real’ release date of Dance with Dragons- I was hesitant to make the emotional commitment to the work/series and then to hit a wall with it unfinished/never to be finished. Also my attention span seemed to be about 1M words or so for a series (never started Robert Jordan’s series for that reason). A friend of mine was a huge fan of Song of Ice and Fire and encouraged me to start (“even unfinished it’s a great read” he said) Within a few weeks of me starting, HBO committed and ‘Dance’ had a release date – I tease my friend that GRRM was waiting for ME to read GoT before wrapping up DwD- In reality, GRRM had his reasons , I’m sure they are good ones and they really aren’t any of my business
to all the whiners out there – 6 years isn’t even that long between titles in a series – longer than average, perhaps, but there are plenty of series’ w/ longer gaps
Jack Vance (one of my favorite authors) took 13 years between books 3 and 4 of “The Demon Princes” series
Did anybody else catch the publication of G.R. Dickson’s Antagonist in 2007? Sure, he had to write the story from the grave, but at least it got written! Can’t wait for the next novel, concluding the Childe cycle, hopefully to be published in 2020 or so….
What I think annoyed alot of fans wasn’t just that he was taking so long, but also how he would talk endlessly on his blog about his other side editing projects that no one cares about and try to sell his calendars and minature figurines. It gave the appearance that he wasn’t giving priority to the series of books that made him so rich and successful, even though that probably was not the case. Also the fact that he is 60 something and about 300 lbs is making all of the fans nervous that this series will never be finished. And, unlike Jordan he will probably not allow his work to be finished posthumously which would be such a tragedy.
Ah, yes, the “He’s fat and old and not doing WHAT I WANT HIM TO DO” argument. That’s a lovely argument, it is.
This would be a fine time to link once more to my 10 Things to Remember About Authors piece.
Let the record show that I purchased and enjoyed “Warriors,” the book that he edited on the side. Not so much Wild Cards; I tried that years ago, but it wasn’t my thing. I might say that I prefer the “Dunk and Egg” novellas to the main series; at least the novellas aren’t so crushingly dark. I also really enjoy the 2011 calendar. So count me as a reader who didn’t mind his side projects.
re: Brian Mac @ #99
GRRM also contributed to /edited “Songs of the Dying Earth” a good read in it’s own right
I enjoyed the “Dunk and Egg” stories as well – I hope GRRM produces more with these characters – (more short works published as a collection? I’d buy it)
Gratuitously following up on my comment @#69 a bit, I think the reason this topic is like a seething froth around writerblogspace is that Customer Service Reality not only arises out of the big business corporate economic model, but needs it to survive, since you have to have a large organization that can put layers of human reactor shielding (five bucks says you could line up 1000 people who have worked CSR positions and every single one of them would say that’s the best description of the job they’ve ever heard) between the people who need to produce the goods and services and the whingeing customers, to prevent the reactor from going supercritical. But then the fucking internet goes and disintermediates everything and facilitates indie projects and makes the relationship between creator and consumer proximate, and ALL THINGS GO BOOM.
I’m not sure what your record for post on a certain topic are Scalzi, but you might get to it here. Especially if all the incredibly reasonable folks who come at it with all the bullet points about why GRRM is such a horrible person, and this is everything he’s made us endure as we’ve waited find out about this string.
This whole argument just strikes me as silly. I’m not a fan of Martin’s (not because of his schedule–his writing just isn’t to my own idiosyncratic tastes), but even if I were, having this sort of angst about YOU OWE ME BOOKS BECUZ I READ THE FIRST ONES is just dumb. If no other books by any author were being published during this wait, I suppose I could see it, but there’s literally hundreds of enjoyable fantasy (and sci-fi, and horror, and even *gasp* “general” fiction) books out there. The time and effort spent by some folks whining about this could have been spent finding other books and authors to enjoy or, heck, even writing a book of their own to get some insight into what’s involved.
Really, what makes for the better life? Griping about something you want to have be are not truly owed, or finding something new and fun? Seems like an easy choice to me.
If anyone has read the Chtorr series by David Gerrold, waiting for a GRRM book is nothing. The last book was published in 1993, the next one _may_ be out this year. Fan drama is just not dramatic.
Well, yes. The fact that Martin has, in fact, been quite acceptably productive over the six years or eleven years in terms of a “published word count per annum” sense is well worth noting. The fact that George Martin Is Not Your Bitch — the crux of which is that it doesn’t bloody matter whether his word count since 2005 is four hundred thousand or a million or zero, because he’s allowed to write what he wants at the pace he wants — is even moreso, and makes his actual productivity somewhat less the real issue.
Are the torches-and-pitchforks segment of his fan base are being unreasonable? Of course they are. And yes, there’s plenty of good, sound, well-reasoned arguments to be made to that effect. Funny how appeals to reason spectacularly fail to win over people who are being unreasonable.
Are such responses unreasonable? Yes.
Were such responses predictable? Yes.
Given that they were predictable, were they avoidable? Of course.
I don’t see the real problem being that it took Martin ten years to get out two books. I think a major contributing cause of the torches and pitchforks was that Martin kept telling people that the next book would be out in a year, oh no next year for sure, oh probably by Christmas, oh certainly next summer. The problem was not that the fans were waiting, the problem was that they were both waiting and being continuously and repeatedly misled as to how long that wait was going to be.
Trying to reason with unreasonable people doesn’t work, because it’s too late by that time. Not giving people a reason to be unreasonable in the first place works better. Martin isn’t at fault for writing too slowly, but he is at fault for repeatedly and publicly underestimating his timeline. It doesn’t excuse his fans’ behaviour or response, but it contributed to the foreseeable result of that response, and it could easily have been avoided.
I don’t wait for books to be published, books wait for me until I have time to read them. If not a single novel gets published after today I still couldn’t read all the books I’d like to, even if I live to be a hundred-and-fifty.
I generally agree with James Cowling @#63 with the modification that I won’t start a series by an author with a poor track record of finishing his other series in a timely manner (yep, it’s my disposable income, so I get to define what I think is “timely”). In general, I very rarely ever start 1000 page novels anyway, because my aesthetic sense about what makes a good novel leans far away from that length.
Martin gets to make whatever decision he wants about how often and at what length he publishes, but I don’t have to support those decisions. I certainly wouldn’t start a series knowing that I’m probably going to have to re-read the last one to make any sense of the latest one. In general, unless you’ve already been so successful that you don’t need to work anymore, it’s probably a rather bad business model to do as he has done for any number of reasons such as getting hit by a stray meteorite and pissing off your fan base (it doesn’t matter if you’ve pissed them off for what anyone thinks is a legitimate reason or because they don’t like how you part your hair, you’ve still lost potential income). While it’s fun to bitch about what one thinks is unfair bitching by others (hey, that defines a LOT of politics), I’m not sure it’s any more productive than the original bitching. In this case, probably less so, as an author MIGHT pay attention to his fan base, but pissed off fans aren’t going to pay much attention to other authors defending the guy they’re pissed off with.
Stephen @105: good points, although I think “fault” is a little harsh; I’d definitely agree that, certainly after having botched one deadline, it’s wise not to give into the pressure to give a new one. “It’ll be done when it’s done, in the meantime here is a novella, and my recommendations for other fine authors’ works” is more likely to mollify all but the totally unreasonable.
Chris @97: What part of “GRRM is not your bitch” was unclear to you?
I always wait with great anticipation for next book in a “universe” lets face it sometimes the author finishes the “series” but they may at somepoint go back to the universe. Its good when they have some idea of the next release, but it doesn’t kill me when I don’t know when the next book will show, sometimes I think I’d prefer not to know so I am not dissappointed when the author misses the date.
Patrick Rothfuss took a bit longer than expected to produce “Wisemans Fear”, I’ve noticed he has been quiet about the next book so far, good for him. drop it when its ready.
All the fantasy world knows that Katherine Kurtz has at least one more book coming, but all has been quiet in that corner of the world for 5 years now. Its Ok I’ll wait
Card drops hints of the final “Alvin Maker” book, and more from the “Enderverse” from time to time…I am still waiting to know what comes after Children of the Mind, there seems to be more story there, not sure if it will ever get written. I’ll take what I can get.
I don’t mind the wait. In fact, with some of my favorite authors, I will deliberately draw out the experience because once I am done with the book, I am done. I can’t unread it. I enjoy the anticipation, so I will read stories from other authors, in part, to make the experience last longer (sometimes).
The point I want to make is that some write more, some write less and that readers have no moral right that authors have to deliver anything at all. But 5-6 years?
Longasac@#80: Wow, I bet up in pop culture heaven, J.R.R. Tolkien is glad he lived before the internet. Fans of The Hobbit had to wait seventeen years for the sequels. What an asshole.
I generally can afford the time, patience and money to buy the books and put them on a shelf untill the series is finished, whilst reading the other books I have to read, no big deal for me. However it did give me pause to realise that I will be 40 by the time Brandon Sanderson’s projected 10 book Stormlight series is done. But I have however, noticed that there are plenty of debut writers that present you with an entire trilogy at once (ie 1 or 2 years), and most of them aren’t being to slow about their follow ups (Brent Weeks, Maria Snyder, Elizabeth Vaughan, Stephen Deas)
For long gaps, we could well mention Isobelle Carmody 8 years or Auel with a 9 year gap. but I think Melanie Rawn wins (on my shelves) with The capitals tower published 11 years after the last one.
Isn’t it a bit odd that an author with (then) 30 years of pro experience didn’t know the difference between a six-month project and a six-year project?
How many publishing professionals saw the notorious afterword during the process of production? How many of them said, “Y’know, folks, it might not be a great idea to imply the next book is coming in about six months”? How on earth did that afterword get through?
“Isn’t it a bit odd that an author with (then) 30 years of pro experience didn’t know the difference between a six-month project and a six-year project?”
Says the writer with 20+ years of pro experience: No.
Craig @111: I don’t think your analogy adds anything to this. No one was expecting a sequel to The Hobbit. It’s a self-contained book that doesn’t require LOTR’s additional world-building.
ASoIaF is one long book with IMHO arbitrary divisions between volumes – each one just binds one hand-grippable set of chapters.
Doug @113: That afterword could have been cut or corrected after the 105th printing post the date when it made no sense.
His afterword in Feast of Crows set unrealistic expectations. I understand why it was done but that afterword should have been updated once he realized he was going to gut the second half of crows and rewrite and extend it.
I don’t mind that it took so long to write because it takes as long as it takes. What I do mind is that Martin himself set up unmanageable expectations if only because this originally was part 2 of a single book that was split due to publisher profitability margins based on word count. Had this not been the second of a completed single novel, the issue would have been moot.
As it is, I didn’t bitch, whine or feel that I was entitled to anything. I did, however, feel mislead specially because it was originally part 2 of a single novel split due to publisher constraints.
John @81 – “That’s an excellent way of assuring no series ever gets completed”. Well, ish. It’s an excellent way of motivating publishers to convince readers that the series isn’t going to drag on forever without ever reaching a resolution. As things stand, their financial incentives seem to be stacked in a way that rewards exactly that.
mythago @92 – were you responding to me? There are at least two Mikes in this thread, and I’m starting to lose track.
I wasn’t defending any ‘patron’ analogy; I was defending an ‘investment’ analogy. As with many investments, there’s a level of risk involved; I have to weigh the risk (that I’ll be left hanging without ever knowing how the story ends) against the reward (financially thanking a writer I enjoy, helping to ensure that the next book is seen as commercially viable). I understand that Life happens; I understand that creative problems happen; I understand that writers have responsibilities that may be better served by pursuing other avenues for a while. But when the entire writing community stands up and proclaims in one rather grouchy voice that no, they don’t recognize even the *tiniest* shred of obligation to try to finish the second half of a story after taking my money for the first half… well, the perceived risk goes up a bit.
chaos @101 – nicely put!
Craig @111 – “The Hobbit” was a self-contained book with a proper ending. Had there been a 17-year gap between “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King”, I suspect that LotR’s impact might have been diluted a bit.
If all you’re looking at is monetization of the assets, then yes, by all means, expect that your readers will purchase book 1 in the hopes that Book N happens before they die — with all the cliffhangers, myriad plot lines, and everything else that modern serial novelists pour into their works to hook the reader. You shouldn’t be surprised, and have little reason to be indignant, if your fans prove less patient than you’d like for them to be.
I think you’ll find that there’s a bit of a backlash lately, though, with books that seem to have no endpoint and take forever to write and still come out in terms of decades or half-decades instead of years.
I have news for you: I’m not actually, at a base level, interested in whether the people I read are making enough money to continue their craft. I’m interested in the story and how it finds its way into my grubby little consumerist hands. Anything else beyond that is empathy, and above and beyond our basic wants and needs.
This is not a one-way street, and people are welcome to bitch all they want. The book won’t come any faster, and in fact if the novelist is a contrarian, it might come slower or not at all, but there’s simply no backing away from the fact that GRRM made a representation, never really backed away from it wholeheartedly, and left people strung along for twelve times the amount of time that he gave them anticipation it was going to take. You then blame the readership for being surprised and at times irked?
Steven Erikson recently completed a 10-book series of 1000+page books each. Anyone know how many people complained that he wasn’t doing it in their timeframe? He made those books (except for the last one) essentially self-contained. You felt satisfied after reading each one (well, if you like the series, heh). Cliffhangers, uncompleted plot points, dozens of mysteries — they’re fun, and they hook the reader — but they also generate anticipation, and anticipation can turn on you.
John @114 All the more reason, then, for someone else in the process to say, Hey, let’s not publish something that says, “all the characters you love or love to hate will be along next year (I devoutly hope) in A Dance with Dragons, which will focus on events…” Especially when the acknowledgments for the same volume begin with the sentence, “This one was a bitch.”
On the other hand, it’s not like anyone is arguing that the afterword was a good idea.
James @63 captures what I thought I thought about this. I’m not much of a reader of long-form serialized novels. I haven’t read any of Martin’s work, and maybe part of that is because it’s a really long story that isn’t finished yet.
But then I started thinking. I, like seemingly half the planet, read the Harry Potter books one by one as they came out; I didn’t wait until “Deathly Hallows” was out to read “Sorcerer’s Stone.” I watch serialized TV shows, some of which get cut off before the full story is resolved (and some that go longer than they should have). I watched all three Star Wars prequels (shudder). Clearly I don’t have a problem with serialized fiction. So what’s special about serialized “epics” like the SOF&I series that would make me more reticent to read those than to partake in other serialized fiction before the stories are complete?
I think one difference is the expectation of a regular schedule. I can take serialized fiction, but I’d like my installments at regular intervals (with allowances for breaks). An episode a week, a book every couple of years–I know what to expect with that. But if a TV series showed two episodes in two weeks, then waited three months before showing the third, then showed the next two episodes on consecutive days three weeks later–well, I suspect I’d be frustrated.
Which is not to say that anyone who produces serialized fiction owes me regular installments or that I’d have any right to complain about an author failing to churning out stories for my entertainment. It’s more that when an author lives by eager anticipation of the next installment, that sort of fannish fervor can get nasty when the timing of the next installment is not predictable.
Also — although Christ @97 states it inartfully, I think it’s legitimate to wonder if an author of long-form serialized fiction might croak before the serial is done–especially given the number of authors to have done just that. Of course, where that gets silly is when people complain that the author won’t hurry up and grind out the rest of the series before he dies. Although some authors might be obsessed with getting their lives’ work completed, no fan has the right to expect authors to forgo a decent retirement by playing dancing-monkey for fans.
Frank @#104: Really? Awesome. I’m actually pretty excited about that. Here I thought he just lumped the whole concept.
Mike@115: I don’t think your analogy adds anything to this. No one was expecting a sequel to The Hobbit.
That’s simply not true. The rather complex history of The Lord of the Rings is well-covered elsewhere, but George Allen & Unwin were (unsurprisingly) very keen on a sequel to a critically and commercially successful title for them. There was some typical back and forth where JRRT pitched ideas that were rejected, and he wrote the first version of the first chapter of LoTR (“A Long-Expected Party”) in December 1937.
While Tolkien gave them fair warning that he wasn’t the fastest writer on Earth, and had a demanding day-job that had to come first (sounding familiar?), I don’t think A&U expected to wait ten years to see the manuscript; and another two for revisions. It’s certainly a matter of record that they were (quite rationally) unsure about publishing such a large books; and Tolkien was not shy about his displeasure at the eventual decision to bring LoTR out in three volumes in 1954-1955.
But I think both parties would come to agree the wait (and all the angst) was worth it.
(Another?)Mike@117: Had there been a 17-year gap between “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King”, I suspect that LotR’s impact might have been diluted a bit.
The gap was eleven months. And I think it would be fair to say that Tolkien was not pleased, but had reached the point where he was glad to see Rings in print at all. His preference always was for a single volume, but A&U said no for perfectly rational commercial reasons. When he offered it to another publisher, they said a single-volume version would only happen with substantial cuts (and re-writes) Tolkien wasn’t willing to make.
James @63, Jim@120, and realta fuar@107 Pretty much capture most all of my feelings on this. I’ve never read Martin with the exception of his award winning story “Sandkings” and after reading this discussion, there’s little chance I’ll start reading his novels. After a little research, another point that has occurred to me is that Martin may well have been under no real pressure and had no real incentive to do anything differently. He clearly had little concern for his readers or he would have corrected the afterword to his previous novel. His previous work and the HBO series and any advance he had received for this series may mean that he was under no financial pressure to do what he originally said he would do. Sure, his publisher may have been yelling at him on a regular basis, but without expensive, slow, and problematic legal action, had no real recourse except to wait like
everyone else. Since “A Dance with Dragons” has had phenomenal sales since it was released, this doesn’t bode particularly well for any future work in that universe. Somewhat similar situations seem to happens quite regualrly as I doubt that, say, Anne Rice, Tom Clancy, or Stephen King have accepted any signficant editorial input in years (Rice has said this publicly, it’s all too obvious with Clancy, but I could be wrong about King).
Sure, no writer is any reader’s bitch, but all writers would do well to remember that we’re not THEIR bitches either. I doubt any of the famous writers who have come to Martin’s (and by so doing, their own) defense have done themselves any long-term favors.
Craig @122: Yes I know about the publishers asking for a sequel, but it’s not like a) one was necessary, or b) that the public learned in the 1930s that the author was a world-building geeky philologist, and c) the Great Depression and WWII probably distracted some of the readers anyway. Heck I read The Hobbit in the early 70s and didn’t know LOTR existed. It wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the book or on the cover. I just read it a few more times.
I still don’t see any useful comparison to the GRRM case based on the type of book, reader expectation or author’s statements.
coolstar @#123: Every day I get to make anew the choice of whether to do what I’m here to do or start kowtowing to absorbed-entitlement-with-his-mother’s-milk types like you in order to grub a few extra bucks. It’s harder than it sounds, but still easier than you’d like. The only regrets I have are about the days I chose to placate you.
Jim@120: Also — although Christ @97 states it inartfully, I think it’s legitimate to wonder if an author of long-form serialized fiction might croak before the serial is done–especially given the number of authors to have done just that.
You say “legitimate” and I say “spectacularly douche-y”. Like everyone else, I was surprised and saddened to hear of Kage Baker’s death from uterine cancer — something she and her family chose to keep private until a few weeks before she died. As a fan, I’m really glad that she was well enough to work (and complete the Company series) until very close to the end. As a human being, I really don’t see what would have been achieved by “wondering if she was going to croak” if her cancer had, say, delayed publication (or even prevented her from finishing) The Sons of Heaven.
Writers are not our bitches. Fans might also want to remember that writers are human beings, with families and friends, who don’t really give a damn about your entitlement issues. And nor should they. “Fan” doesn’t have to be a synonym for “ten pounds of jerk in a five pound bag,” but I can understand why people think otherwise.
You have issues. You should talk to someone about them. Seriously.
Craig Ranapia @ 126 —
I think if you look at Jim’s post #120 in full context, your reply was unwarranted.
It is legitimate–or human nature, if you will–to hesitate to buy an unfinished product because you’re worried that the hoped-for series climax may never come. That hesitation isn’t “spectacularly-douche-y” and doesn’t mean that fans think the writers own them anything other than a complete story.
That complete story can be told one book at a time (Harry Potter or Reacher) or in a series of stories with mini-climaxes (Smith’s Lensman series)–or by a series of stories that are incomplete on an individual level but add up to something more than the sum of the parts. It’s okay in my view for readers to wonder which one they’re buying into, and to hesitate because they’re not sure the final synergy will be achieved.
“I doubt any of the famous writers who have come to Martin’s (and by so doing, their own) defense have done themselves any long-term favors.”
I don’t think there’s any sense of entitlement in preferring to buy a complete novel over an incomplete one, and I don’t think that any cogent argument can be made against that. By all means, lambaste the asocial creeps who demand their ‘due’. Going much farther than that is perhaps not the wisest form of self-promotion.
John @81: I am fine with the idea of publishers killing a series that is already in the can due to low sales. If this means that the author of a 3000-page epic only gets paid for the first 750 pages, that’s just a case of the market at work. I would also be fine if such a (pie-in-the-sky, I realize) market shift meant fewer working genre authors writing multi-book epics. The authorial expectation of payment for incomplete work is equally as egregious a sense of entitlement as is the attitude of the autistic beachballs who demand that Martin be chained to his desk.
I think that it is right and appropriate for readers to take responsibility for their own reading habits and to not expect authors to “be their bitches”. The best way readers can take that responsibility is to vote with their wallets. Don’t gamble on the story ending — be sure it has an ending before hitting the ‘purchase’ button. This takes the risk off the shoulders of the consumer market, and places the risk back on the shoulders of authors and publishers, where it should be.
Nick @#127: Thanks for your kind advice. I’m sorry there’s no one you can talk to who can help you with your problem.
I’ve always been understanding and appreciative of Martin taking his time to make his books the best he can. I also love his knight collection and I’d like to see more pictures of it.. During football season, I’m always eager to see what Martin has to say on his blog.
“The authorial expectation of payment for incomplete work is equally as egregious a sense of entitlement as is the attitude of the autistic beachballs who demand that Martin be chained to his desk.”
Oh, please. Authors don’t expect to be paid for incomplete work, nor have they ever. They do expect to be paid for turning in a book which meets contractual specifications. It’s not “entitlement’ for an author to be paid in full when he or she produces a work that does what it’s contractually meant to. Whether that contractual specification meets your definition of a “complete work” is neither here nor there, unless you happen to be the publisher contracting the work.
“all writers would do well to remember that we’re not THEIR bitches either.”
It’s certainly true that no one’s forcing you to buy the work if you don’t want it, for whatever reason you don’t want it. On the other hand, if you do want the work, you get it when the author (and the publisher) decide you’re going to get it, and that’s pretty much a fact.
And in the specific case of Martin, as his first week sales will register in the hundreds of thousands, it’s pretty clear that all the wailing and gnashing of teeth didn’t much matter when it came time to put cash on the barrelhead.
“Oh, please. Authors don’t expect to be paid for incomplete work, nor have they ever.”
A novel without a beginning, middle and end — say, part 1 of a 5-part series — is an incomplete work. You and I might disagree on that point, but I don’t think you could convince me otherwise. Fulfilling the contract for the first book in a series does not mean that the work is complete. They’ve been contractually paid for part of the whole.
In any case, clearly you’re emotionally invested in this, as much or moreso as many of the autistic beachballs far on the other side of the spectrum. I wish you well, but I see no point in further discussion. I’ll agitate for consumer responsibility elsewhere. And often.
“Fulfilling the contract for the first book in a series does not mean that the work is complete.”
Well, no. That’s wrong. The first book is complete. The series is incomplete, but it’s called a “series” for reason, which is to say, it’s made up of discrete elements; in this case, novels. And when the individual novels are completed, the author gets paid for them. This is not actually a tendentious point.
“In any case, clearly you’re emotionally invested in this”
I get exasperated by silly arguments, yes.
“A novel without a beginning, middle and end — say, part 1 of a 5-part series — is an incomplete work. ”
It’s an incomplete series, but not necessarily an incomplete work. Each one of those books has it’s own beginning, middle and ending, so each one was a complete book.
Nick from the OC@#127: It is legitimate–or human nature, if you will–to hesitate to buy an unfinished product because you’re worried that the hoped-for series climax may never come. That hesitation isn’t “spectacularly-douche-y”
That’s a fair point. If you decided not to start on the Harry Potter books until after Deathly Hallows was on the shelves out of a fear that Rowling might have a run in with a Death Eater, I’d find that odd but entirely your business.
An equally fair point is #4 in the ’10 Things… About Authors’ post John linked to up-thread. Authors frequently won’t tell you about the details of their lives. If you want to muse on line about author X. “kicking the bucket” before they finish series Y., you may want to consider said author may well be in a very similar position to Kage Baker — who, I suspect, didn’t need any reminders of her own mortality. Or they may be going through a million other forms of crap (from illness in the family to severe depression/writer’s block) that is 1) none of your business and 2) affecting their writing in ways that strangers holding an on-line death watch isn’t doing a damn thing to help.
@JS 131 Yes, I was well aware of that when I wrote that comment and considered that that fact means that some readers probably ARE the writers’ bitches. Still, there’s no way to know if those sales might have been even greater.
Then again (and I’m the very last person to ever subscribe to a “conspiracy” theory). there’s also no way to know if that publication date wasn’t deliberately held up in order to maximize sales, as a tie in to the HBO series. Since the lead time for such a production is probably even greater (possibly by years) than the lead time for a novel, I’d actually be rather surprised if that wasn’t the case (at the level of a few months to, who knows, a couple of years?). It would be hard to argue that the series (which I can’t watch from my location) hasn’t helped sales of both the latest novel and the previous ones, This was a fairly predictable outcome, I would think. I doubt that any publisher would have wanted the latest novel published before the series. So, as you said, Martin certainly hasn’t suffered from any delays in publication, whether the same can be said for everyone else I think is at least arguable and is certainly quite subjective. While I am all for personally subsidizing the work of authors I enjoy, I have no more investment in helping those authors MAXIMIZE their income than they have in mine.
GRRM is a brilliant writer, and ASoIaF is a great series, but it has been so long since the thing started that I have forgotten a lot of it. If I had a lot of spare time, I would be delighted to reread the entire thing up to the current point (plus the new hotness) at every release. Since I don’t, I’m just gonna wait until he is done.
No one is obligated to purchase books by authors, and if you are one of those people who truly hate buying something that is incomplete, then don’t do it.
However economically the current state of affairs makes sense, and will NOT CHANGE.
1. It takes a considerable amount of time to produce a truly long work such as A song of Fire & Ice or the Harry Potter series.
2. Both of those hits have grown in appeal over time, especially the Harry Potter ones. The delays in putting out the books helped the appeal grow.
3. No working writer is going to delay publishing their books 10 years to have a ‘complete’ series so that they can then get less income at the end, rather than more.
4. No publisher will reduce their income and limit the possibility of a growing hit by sitting on books for a decade that could be realizing income for them.
I find this whole thing rather silly, there are plenty of good books out there. If one author is delayed, I’ll read something else.
“”Ah, yes, the “He’s fat and old and not doing WHAT I WANT HIM TO DO” argument. That’s a lovely argument, it is.”
Not an argument, but a valid concern from his long term fans who are concerned that we may never see the end of this series.
Authors are very reluctant to admit that they owe anything to fans, and rightly so. But at the same time, as fans, we have the right to publicly worry on the internet about our favorite fantasy author who is likely to croak before he finishes the best fantasy series ever.
I agree fans have a perfect right to feel concerned regarding the health of their favorite authors. I do think it’s less nice when they send them angry notes telling them to hurry up because they might die, which is one of the things that happened in Martin’s case.
(it’s worth noting that that vast majority of writer fans are perfectly well socialized, even when they’re impatient. It’s the tiny obnoxious minority who pulls stunts like that.)
I don’t think most authors would suggest they owe nothing to their readers. I for example very strongly believe we owe them our best efforts when we write. It’s what I hope for as a reader, so it’s what I try to do as a writer.
Then again (and I’m the very last person to ever subscribe to a “conspiracy” theory). there’s also no way to know if that publication date wasn’t deliberately held up in order to maximize sales, as a tie in to the HBO series.
M’kay, Coolstar… that does beg the question why this cunning exercise in cross-platform synergy didn’t see Dance with Dragons on shelves Tuesday April 12th instead of three months later — you know, the week of the première when HBO’s hype machine was about to have a warp core breech. Don’t really think coming out a couple of days before the Emmy nominations had much to do with Dragons shifting almost 300,000 hard covers in a single day. But the show definitely didn’t do sales of Thrones any harm, which may explain why Bantam and Voyager both released tie-in editions of the book before the series aired.
Craig Ranapia @ 135 —
Why do you insist that the only reason a novel in a series would be delayed is because of the author’s ill-health. How is David Gerrold doing these days?
You keep throwing down this emotion-laden argument about something that doesn’t need to be so emotional. Granted. too many fans want to make it emotional, but I also think there’s a rational point to be made–and so I made it. I think my point is valid on its own, and does not depend on whether an author will or will not share personal details regarding health or financial straits or publisher battles or … whatever.
I would love to believe that hypothesis, and could, if only we hadn’t seen five editions of ‘Wild Cards’ in the meantime. I’m just sayin’. Oh, and the HBO GoT series. Can’t ignore the timely release of that :-)
Even through that, I can’t fault him for milking his stellar achievement in writing for a bit more cash. We’re all human. I’m looking forward to this latest installment as much as anyone.
I didn’t know some fans had sent GRRM messages saying they wished he’d hurry up because they were afraid he’d die before he finished the series. That blows, beyond a doubt.
Hell, my only fear has been that *I* might croak before getting to finish the series. (I damn near did die a few years back, and kept telling my husband and son that I couldn’t die yet, I still had a couple book series to finish, and wanted to see the end of the Harry Potter movies.)
The week I got out of the hospital happened to be when the previous GRRM book came out, and I had my husband buy it for me. I was in no shape to read right then, but I stuck it on the shelf. I figured that even if things went to hell for my own health, at least I’d have all the books to date set aside and my kid would be able to enjoy them even if I couldn’t. (He’s working his way through them now, in fact. He made his way through all the Colleen McCullough “Rome” books, and the Vorkosigans by LMB, among others, and when he asked me what series I thought he should start next, I pointed to GRRM.)
If I kick off before I get to see the end of this series, I’ll be pissed, yes. But not at George R. R. Martin. Just pissed in general, I suppose. I feel thankful to have had the pleasure of reading the books I’ve read.
Nick from the O.C.@142:
Why do you insist that the only reason a novel in a series would be delayed is because of the author’s ill-health.
I don’t, so on to the next silly question. I was responding to a rather creepy (IMO & YMMV, of course) comment that it was somehow “legitimate” to (and I quote) muse about the health of “author[s] of long-form serialized fiction might croak before the serial is done–especially given the number of authors to have done just that.”
You keep throwing down this emotion-laden argument about something that doesn’t need to be so emotional.
OK, I’ve flunked out of the Vulcan Science Academy. Whatevs. Yeah, I got “emotional” seeing folks bitching about The Wheel of Time being incomplete hours after Robert Jordan’s death was made public. More precisely I got queasy and pissed-off because, IMO, it was fan-entitlement of a particularly tasteless kind.
For that matter, yeah, I’m kind of disappointed that our host pushed The High Castle back to whenever it’s up to the usual exacting standard of Scalzi-ness. Has done so more than once with the full support of his publisher (who he actually has the contract with), IIRC. I’ve dealt with it. Not least because I know full well that any “Scalzi, you are my bitch” attitude would get coyote ugly. For me.
And I think John would be perfectly entitled to get a tad emotional about some complete stranger telling him to get to work ’cause he’s not getting any younger. Even if that emotion would probably be no stronger that a quiet eye-roll while hitting the delete key or a burst of snark.
This post makes an interesting pairing with “A Writer, Pausing.”
As John writes here, “In the end it comes to this: Why did it take six years for A Dance With Dragons to come out? Because that’s how long it took.” But I think there’s a lurking second half to that sentence, which is “and his publisher is fine with that.” Swainston’s publisher, in her telling, was not. I think Swainston’s situation is more typical than Martin’s. Even authors whose books sell in the millions have been subject to considerable pressure from their publishers to deliver a book.
Speaking of power and publishers and delivery dates, it will have long been clear to everyone involved that the end of the first HBO series would be the sweet spot in the calendar for the release of the next book. So the book took as long as it took, but it didn’t take so much time that it missed this very opportune release date. As Tchaikovsky said, “I am in the studio at 8am. The muse had best be prompt.”
I don’t see it as “creepy” to ponder whether an author will die before completing a series. When a reader is thinking about starting into some serialized fiction, it is reasonable—and legitimate—for that reader to consider whether he or she is about to start a story that will never be finished. High word-count epic serialized fiction is particularly prone to incompleteness (or completion by other authors). Maybe the author will lose interest. Maybe the first book won’t sell well enough to merit the next installments. Maybe the author is writing in serialized form because she’s can’t wrap up storylines. And yes, maybe the author will die.
It’s not necessarily morbid or creepy to wonder to oneself whether an author will be able to complete his epic series before he dies. Nor is it self-entitled or insensitive to decide whether to begin reading a series based on whether one thinks the author will live long enough to finish the series. What is obnoxious is for readers to expect authors to adjust their output to suit readers’ demands. The variations on that theme—complaining that the author is doing something other than churning out the next installment, telling an author that he should get cracking on the novel because he’s fat and going to die soon (really? Someone did that?), and so forth—all cross the line. That, I suspect, is the kind of behavior that drives authors mad.
Wondering if an author will live long enough to complete a series isn’t evil. It’s what one does and says about it that matters. Not reading an unfinished epic series because you don’t think will be finished? Perfectly reasonable. Telling the author to get cracking and finish his series for you? Not.
As for reacting to an author’s death by complaining that a series won’t be completed—well, I didn’t see what people wrote after Robert Jordan died, but disappointment that the Wheel of Time series wouldn’t be finished by Jordan is natural. When artists die, we lose the works they would have created had they lived. Whether its the paintings Van Gogh never painted, the films Marilyn Monroe never made, or the songs Jimi Hendrix never played, their fans are justified in saying, “Well, crap. Nothing more from them.” That’s not crass, that’s loss. As long as the fans aren’t blaming the artist for not being more prolific, it’s okay. And although some in fandom are that crass, that is not true of everyone who suggests that an author’s ability to finish a series is a legitimate topic of thought.
Craig @ 145 —
And I think John would be perfectly entitled to get a tad emotional about some complete stranger telling him to get to work ’cause he’s not getting any younger. Even if that emotion would probably be no stronger that a quiet eye-roll while hitting the delete key or a burst of snark.
You keep posting with the same emotions you imagine the authors would be “perfectly entitled” to feel. Yet the thing is, unless you’re a sock puppet, you are neither GRRM nor Scalzi–both of whom are obviously capable of handling their own eye-rolling snark as necessary.
Guys: Deep breaths, please.
” telling an author that he should get cracking on the novel because he’s fat and going to die soon (really? Someone did that?), ”
Immediately after Robert Jordan’s death was reported, someone left a comment on Martin’s blog. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but the person was angry and demanding Martin hurry up or he too would die before finishing his series.
So yeah, someone has done that.
One other thing to think about is that while you were just writing during those years,
George R.R. Martin has been involved in editing at least 2 Wildcards novels, and,
IIRC, has edited several other compilations and books, been consulted for an
RPG sourcebook set in the Wildcards universe, and been working on the ground work
for a Wildcards trilogy, as well as likely being consulted on the Game of Thrones RPG
and television series scriptwriting.
All in all: Mr. Martin has been busier then the people screaming at him not working
Alex @151: GRRM has likely been busier then the people screaming at him not working, period.
I keep trying to ‘like’ this post but nothing is happening. So if you get 87 likes from a single person–sorry.
I used to be the impatient sort but hopefully was never so crass as to bitch about an the author–it was more ‘I wish I hadn’t learned about this series until it was finished.’ But then you don’t get the joy, yes joy, of waiting. You don’t obsess and reread the early books over and over again and you don’t forgo all obligations on release day because goddamnit you’re not going to be able to breathe without knowing what happens next. After finishing Wise Man’s Fear I’m decidedly in the ‘let the authors take their time’ camp. I’d rather have a book worth rereading while I wait than a placeholder before the finish.
Anyway, thanks for these posts–between this and your responses to solicitations for writing advice, I think you could probably publish an Emily Post style book on How to Be a Decent Writer, Reader, and Human Being
You are not, as has been mentioned, forced to buy a book. So if you choose to buy a book of your own volition, any type of book, no one owes you anything beyond the book you buy — that thing which your money pays for. If you buy Book #1 in a series, you may not buy Book #2. Therefore, you have no investment in the series beyond Book #1 that you bought and no one owes you anything beyond the book you bought. You have no right to talk to the author, much less advise him on health issues. You have no right to comment on any other projects the author may be doing or other activities. The only rights you have are the books you buy and the only investment you make are the books you buy, and choose to do so fully knowing that the market may then not supply you with other books from that author. You only get what you pay for and you only pay for finished books. You are not owed an estimate or an accurate estimate on when another product you might want is available. You are not owed anything if the estimate is changed. You do not have a relationship with the author. You do not have a contract with the author. You do not have a say so in the author’s life or how the author writes or doesn’t write. There are books on the shelf and you can buy them — that’s all you get. Life is hard and sometimes we can’t buy things we hoped would exist but never were created. But we never had a right to them in the first place and any argument that starts with the idea that you do is you lying to yourself.
As for Dances, the publisher actually had hoped to bring it out in 2010 for the Christmas rush, but that was not possible because Martin was not finished in time, nor was he finished in time for April. He never thought the series would be made into a dramatic adaptation. As he’s explained, as a screenwriter, he set out to write in Song something that would be a story completely impossible to film. Then the guys with the deal at HBO said, we think we can do it. But in any case, it doesn’t matter, because you aren’t owed anything unless the book is on the shelves and you buy it, and then you only get what you pay for — the book.
As I’ve said more than once, how (and why) people spend their discretionary income doesn’t really interest me much. I’m sure I’ve made a purchase or two that folks might think is peculiar — like my visceral and irrational dislike of novels with media tie-in cover art. I’m not interested in being anyone’s Reading Cop.
But we don’t actually disagree that what people do and say matters, not what they think. (Even though, as my Nana often used to say to me, you don’t have to say every damn thing that crosses your mind.) Hell, my favourite British mystery writer, P.D. James, is turning 91 in a couple of weeks – and the last novel featuring her series detective, Adam Dalgliesh, wasn’t exactly over-flowing with “closure”.
Am I hoping she’s got (at least) one more novel in her? Yes.
But I don’t think an impertinent on-line rant is going to motivate her much.
John@133: “Well, no. That’s wrong. The first book is complete. The series is incomplete, but it’s called a “series” for reason, which is to say, it’s made up of discrete elements; in this case, novels.”
I disagree that the individual volumes of ASoIaF can each be properly termed novels. It’s a series of discretely released chapters. The binding doth not make the novel, otherwise all those fat UK SF/fantasy books that get broken arbitrarily into smaller volumes for the US market would double or triple their authors’ novel counts.
Keep in mind also that during those six years, Martin also was doing loads of other stuff — editing Wild Cards books and other collections, helping write and produce a TV series based on ASOIAF, etc. Really, it may be frustrating to have to wait a long time for a new book in your favorite series, but there is no justification for any complaint beyond the occasional audible sigh. Normal folks then go do something else while they wait.
In other words, if the next ASOIAF book is *so important* to you that you feel justified in making a big stink out of it, very few people are going to have any sympathy for you.
All in all: Mr. Martin has been busier then the people screaming at him not working probably realize.
Quite. And for all I know (which properly is diddly squat), Martin way well be doing all these ‘side-jobs’ because A Song of Fire and Ice just doesn’t reliably pay the bills. Suspect some folks see headlines like “James Patterson inks $150 million deal” (which he’s denied, to be fair) or “J.K. Rowling’s $10 million Oz mansion” and assume GRRM starts the day Uncle Scrooge-style, with a refreshing dip in his money pool. He’s a “NYT bestselling author” who sold 300,000 hardbacks in a single day last week, right? HBO must have paid him millions for the rights to Game of Thrones, with even more to come?
I’m sure our host, and current prez of the SFWA, could write a pretty large reality check on that.
I’m sure our host (and the president of
This may not be as prettily worded as other responses to this thread, possibly because I’m neither an amateur nor a professional writer, but I for one am having fun “geeking out” on websites and Wiki and other fun stuff related to this series. The time spent on this thread alone seems like a more intelligent way to spend my time than, say, playing free cell. It’s fun thinking out hypotheticals, exploring minute details (*spoilery* you figure out which two characters were having a conversation in book one based on what said characters are described as wearing in book three? srsly, no way?!?) and chatting about my favorite things about this series with like-minded individuals. Maybe I’m simple minded, but I am being entertained. And cheaply, might I add.
I don’t mind waiting many years between installments, as long as I get some kind of gratification, and it’s not like Anne Rice’s “The Witching Hour”, which was a great book by itself, but at it’s climax just seemed to be an ad to “read my next book” which in my opinion was: big fat turd. “The Witching Hour” was still a really fun read, but for the life of me, I can’t even rememer the names nor the plots of the next two books. They just could not compare. (insert more well-read audience’s eye rolls here) Martin can take all the time he likes, if it adds to the story. And if his heart gives out or he gets run over by a truck, hey, I was entertained for a bit and still could have hours of discussion about could have beens and details that I didn’t pick up on til reread #3. (for the record, it’s a total of 4 rereads; bored, I guess)
Now can I please have a show of hands: who would rather read comic books or graphic novels about myth, backstory and other “referred to” plotlines within ASoIaF (a la Dunk and Egg), than just an illustrated version of the novels? Wait, that would require the author to stop advancing the story in order to explore entirely new plot lines…. nevermind. lol… srsly,tho, I’d rather read THAT.
All that matters to me is that Dance is a wonderful book worth every minute of the wait. I’m glad GRRM took the time he needed to write a great book. And it’s kind of nice to have the books and TV shows to look forward to now that Harry is all done. We’re living through a great time in Fantasy and SF.
I don’t think George RR Martin owes me anything but I am disappointed for a couple reasons.
1. Poor messaging created unfulfilled expectations. There would have been much less unhappiness with a 6 year wait if he hadn’t indicated that the book was mosty written and would be out in 6 months.
2. His current schedule combined with his age and weight create a real possibility that he will not be able to complete the works. Assuming he sticks to the current schedule and doesn’t expand the scope of the series yet again, it will take another 18 years to write and release the remainder of the series. The remaining life expectancy for a man born in 1948 is around 15.8 years. This gives a significant statistical possibility that the series will not be completed even given favourable assumptions that he will not (for a third time) expand the length of the series or decline in his productivity as he continues to age.
3. In my opinion, the first three books were very tightly plotted and had very consistent action (military or political) while the more recent two seem to be substantially more meandering and less active. Again in my opinion, it seems like as GRRMs success has allowed him avoid significant editorial influence tightening up his writing. This is IMO the primary reason that the expected series length has continued to grow because Martin can spend more time showcasing his world which he loves to show off rather than having a strong editor getting him to focus on telling the story.
I think that Martin wants to share his vision of this period of Westeros’ history with the world and if he continues down this route he won’t get to finish doing so. He doesn’t owe it to me but I think it is something that is important to him.
According to Martin’s website he’s also been editing an working on other writing projects during that span also
Again in my opinion, it seems like as GRRMs success has allowed him avoid significant editorial influence tightening up his writing. This is IMO the primary reason that the expected series length has continued to grow because Martin can spend more time showcasing his world which he loves to show off rather than having a strong editor getting him to focus on telling the story.
Perhaps you’re right. Then again Gordon Lish was a very “strong” editor of Raymond Carver’s early work. But I have to agree with this article that it’s an open question whether that was an entirely good thing.
Honestly, out of all the reasons to read the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling’s terse elegance as a prose stylist isn’t among them. Mostly because her prose is serviceable, at best, and there have been lengthy stretches in the latter books where I wanted to stab someone in the face with a sharp blue pencil. Her real genius, and what I’d be trying to amp up as far as possible if I was her editor, is in her sheer storytelling brio. I’d just swallow hard and squint past the superfluous adjective or two (hundred). :)
Perhaps Rowling is some lit-diva who won’t deign to be edited, or even if she was none of her publishers have a competent editor between them. It can also be as simple (and complex) as the relationship between editor(s) and author, different expectations and approaches etc. I love reading biographies and memiors of book people — but the more you read, the more you come to the conclusion that there’s no hard and fast formula for what makes a good editor (or publisher) any more than there is for a good book.
You are absolutely right, Craig, that there isn’t a formula for what makes a good book. Mostly, I’m commenting on the fairly dramatic change in style between books 1-3 and books 4&5 that seems to be more focused on describing the world with incidental storytelling than revealing vivid world through an exciting story. Maybe it isn’t a editorial shift that has resulted in this but that is my assumption. It just seems that all too often after an author becomes successful (particularly wildly successful) that the quality of their writing diminishes because of some combination of writer entitlement where they feel that they don’t need to take criticism (or at least make changes based on it) because they produce literary gold or that editors are hesitant to interfere with the authors writing because it is literary gold and they don’t want to ruin it (possibly because they can’t quite identify why it is successful). I just wish that gave editors got more credit for the outcome of good books because they really make a massive impact on the quality and content of a novel.
Kat Goodwin@154 is it! That is so totally and completely it. And I say this is as a reader. All this whining about when they expected the books and what the author said and blah blah blah. But then, I am the kind of the fan, whether for books, music etc., who doesn’t give much of a crap about the creator’s personal life, just the work. (To this day Scalzi is the only author’s blog I read and that was looooooong before I read any of his stuff, not being much of a SF fan. It took the Tor free ebook dealie a while back to get me on board.)
I’m a romance reader and we, more than anyone except mystery fans I’d guess, are used to getting books from our favourite authors on the clock like that. We wait about a year between books. Possibly even less if the author writes in different sub-genres. I’ve been figuratively dying inside because my last favourite author hasn’t released anything since Christmas and nothing new has been announced, oh god! Yet if she never wrote another word, I would only be moved to write an email expressing my sadness. I would never assume that she owes me anything, not even some press release explaining her professional demise.
Jim @147: There’s a big difference between “These books are coming out slowly, I hope (author) will be able to finish the whole series in his lifetime” and complaining that he needs to get on the stick and write faster because he’s insufficiently China Mieville-like in age and physique.
Even if he didn’t have a superior word count I will say that he also was helping sell a pilot to HBO(which can take forever) and edited a lot of anthologies(and contributed to Wildcards) for the six years while this was all going on. Not too bad.
Here goes: Yes, but he set himself up for this degree of complaint by releasing such large books more frequently in the past. Having said that, I would MUCH rather wait for an excellent book than have him rush through the latest book just to get it out “on time.” That doesn’t mean I’m not going to bemoan how long it takes. Kinda like how I’m bemoaning how long it’s gonna be until the Avengers movie comes out – hell, Captain America isn’t even out yet, and I’m chomping at the bit for Avengers! But I think that my complaints are less anger-based and more “oh boy, oh boy – I can’t WAIT until it comes out!”/kid on Christmas Eve night complaint, and I don’t think anyone has too great a problem with that except when they’re misread as the previous kind of complaint that you addressed in your post…
[Deleted for obnoxious GEORGE RR MARTIN OWES US FOR EVERYTHING GOOD IN HIS LIFE jackassery. Be tiresome elsewhere, please — JS]
Kat Goodwin@154 and by extension Imani @ 165 —
If you buy Book #1 in a series, you may not buy Book #2. Therefore, you have no investment in the series beyond Book #1 that you bought and no one owes you anything beyond the book you bought. You have no right to talk to the author, much less advise him on health issues. You have no right to comment on any other projects the author may be doing or other activities. The only rights you have are the books you buy and the only investment you make are the books you buy, and choose to do so fully knowing that the market may then not supply you with other books from that author. You only get what you pay for and you only pay for finished books.
So it’s purely an economic transaction then? There’s no emotional investment or permissible expectation that a reader may also become a fan of the author, the setting, or any of the characters? We buy a book and that’s the sum total of the author-reader relationship?
Permit me to respectfully disagree with your position.
This reminds me of the endless arguments about fan-fiction. By this argument, nobody should ever care enough to write fan fiction, or be permitted to indulge in its practice.
Yet it exists!
Whew! I was afraid my response would be viewed as too snarky (not how I intended it, but often intent is easy to misinterpret online), but given that you deleted the post below mine and not mine, I’d say my intent made it through. :D (Unless, of course, you deleted the one after mine on accident. In which case, sorry guy after me!)
Of course Scalzi’s putting the numbers down meant I had to compute what I’d done since 2005. I didn’t have a book out in 2005 (publisher moved my stuff from fall to spring list, so there’s a gap–not that I wasn’t writing in it.) But 2006 to 2011, five books published, six written (the one that’s a 2012 release.) The last three Vatta’s War books were 128,000, 126,000, and 129,000; the first two Paladin’s Legacy books were 170,000 and 168,000; the one in production now is 164,700. (In today’s publishing conditions, it’s hard to hold the line for long books that need to be long, GRRM excepted.) Counting only those on the shelves, that’s 721,000 published words unless my calculator lied (ran the numbers three times–total surprised me.) And the arthritis in my hands is well aware of that (and of the words written that didn’t make it into print.)
All that proves is that a) I’m not a slacker in comparison to Scalzi and GRRM and b) the accumulation of words alone does not ensure fame, fortune, or clout with publishers. (In terms of fame, having a popular blog or being a media personality probably accomplishes more; in terms of fortune and clout with publishers, it’s the sales numbers that count, though solid movie/TV interest doesn’t hurt.) I found the criticism of GRRM’s productivity misguided, especially the claims that a writer “owes” something more than the work itself. Like many of us, I do have the occasional green flash of envy when someone like GRRM has the freedom to spend years perfecting a major work and then getting it published “whole.” But, hey, that’s his good fortune based on his good work, and I’m not living in the back of a car having lost my house, so…no complaints.
Nick@170: Huh? I never said anything about limiting emotions in terms of what one feels as it regards “emotional investment” and “expectations”. But that’s completely different than determining how and whether it is right to *act* on those feelings. Why do you think being a fan entitles you to have any kind of relationship with the author beyond the book? It doesn’t, sorry. All the publicity, the blogs, showing up at conventions, answering fan mail, even bothering to give you an idea of when the next opus will appear — that’s all extra. Some may consider it wise marketing & necessary to becoming a success but it’s nothing fans are entitled to. In the same way GRRM isn’t entitled to your $$$ and adoration.
In short, you (general “you”, not personal) can care all you want but don’t pretend that these feelings place anyone under any kind of obligation to be influenced by them. Even saying, as archangel@168 did, that he “set himself up” because he released books faster in the past…what? LOL. The man is not a machine. I get that a fan can be frustrated and it seems normal to express that impatience, politely, sensibly. But to turn it into a blame game? “Dude, you owe me, you totally said that one time, and then that second time….you oowwwweee meeee!” It’s bonkers. Dude owes us nothing more than books that we’ve paid money for. So unless lots of people pre-paid for an item that never turned up…?
Nick @170: That is, in fact, the sum total of the author-reader obligation.
Btw, I did not mean to say that archangel implied GRRM was a machine. Just describing the mindset of those who took whatever statements he made about when the books would be published as a verbal contract under fandom law.
mythago @ 174 — yes, I agree with you. The way in which Kat Goodwin’s post was crafted, though, made me think Karl Marx would have been proud. From Wikipedia —
The Marxian analysis begins with an analysis of material conditions, taking at its starting point the necessary economic activities required by human society to provide for its material needs. The form of economic organization, or mode of production, is understood to be the basis from which the majority of other social phenomena — including social relations, political and legal systems, morality and ideology — arise (or at the least by which they are greatly influenced).
imani @ 173 — I never used the word “entitles” or implied it. To the contrary, I agree that nobody is entitled to the creative output of any creator, other than perhaps the entity that contracted for it and perhaps paid in advance. Your are arguing somebody else’s post(s) but not mine.
However, I assert that there is more going on than Kat Goodwin’s post would admit to. Further, I assert that if we simply call it an economic transaction and be done with anything further, then we are limiting our thinking and missing a big part of the reality of the situation. If it’s all about the economic transaction, then by extension fandom is a waste of time. Indeed, you expressly classify such activities (including convention-going) as merely “marketing” and I disagree with your premise and thus your conclusion.
That’s my point.
I think that fiction is inherently an emotional reaction much more than it is a financial transaction. so readers get emotional. that would be my goal as an author: to get the reader to feel something. If you read something and do not CARE what happens to the characters, you likely stop reading.
Fandom is sourced by people who feel strongly about some piece of fiction.
it seems that these particular fans feel quite strongly about the work of fiction but havent the capacity for empathy to see how their reaction might land on the author. Some might be aware and just dont care. people can be selfish that way.
there are people who say ‘congratulations on getting pregnant’ to someone who isnt pregnant. they were of a shape that might fit pregnancy, but the person didnt consider alternatives and how their words would land.
I dont know if pointing it outwill prevent it from happening in the future. butthen maybe GRRMartin isnt pointing it out to change anything. maybe he’s pointing it out because he is reporting how it made him feel.. because fiction is, in my opinion, about feelings.
I think that fiction is inherently an emotional reaction much more than it is a financial transaction. so readers get emotional.
Well, yes and no. I get “emotional” about a lot of things, but I’m also a reasonably well-socialised adult who realises that having an infantile hissy-fit when life doesn’t turn out to your liking seldom (if ever) gets you what you want. Toddlers throw tantrums when they’re frustrated; grown-ups are supposed to be able to moderate and channel their emotions into socially acceptable forms.
Fandom is sourced by people who feel strongly about some piece of fiction.
Sure, but as John pointed out most fans can “feel strongly” without being dick-bags about it. This blog is evidence of that. I wasn’t the only Whatever-ette who was pretty damn disappointed when John announced that The High Castle wasn’t going to hit its intended publication date. Ditto the times he’s pointed out that we probably shouldn’t hold our breaths waiting for a return to the OMW ‘verse, or sequels to Agent to the Stars. Much sadness expressed, but next to no “you iz me beatch, Scalzi” nonsense. Largely because we all know the Mallet of Correction and the Stiletto of Snark are fearsome weapons but even more because 99% of Whatever readers are reality-based non-recta.
Nick, we must be talking past each other. Kat Goodwin was addressing the entitlement certain fans had as it regards GRRM’s creative output. They felt they were owed something and she pointed out, in clear words, what is actually owed. You came in with all this emotional, fanfictioney woo woo which is certainly relevant to the reading experience in general but has little to do with whether GRRM owes readers a certain book at a certain time. I can’t make it any simpler than that. I don’t know why you’re trying to take her very pointed post about a specific issue as some grand treatise on the writer-reader relationship. Let’s try not to go wildly out of context here. It’s forcing you into painful misinterpretations in an effort to support your argument. (For eg, I never said that all conversation going between authors and fans is strictly marketing. I said it was privileges granted ie “extra”…that *some may* regard as necessary marketing. Let’s be honest here: a lot of writers don’t enjoy or do well at or have any desire to interact with fans much and having such an attitude doesn’t make them douchebags. There have been a bazillion articles on the transformation of authors into personable brands and how some aren’t comfortable with it.)
An author ought to give a person a quality book that inspires emotion, flights of fancy, yadda yadda etc….these may all be true but have nothing to do with whether GRRM owes any fan a certain book at a certain time because he mentioned a couple of dates and/or has hit a certain age. No doubt the problem comes when fans confuse the issues as Craig Ranapin nicely points out. That’s all I’m dealing with here. That’s all I see in Kat’s post. You see more…guess it ends there.
If you like the book, buy it. If it’s mediocre, read it at the Library. Bad, Ignore it. The author has signed no contract with the reader. We readers are not the people that have bought the right to publish it so that multitudes may be entertained. AS readers we don’t have enough information to decide whether or not the author is working diligently. Whatever you read on the blogs is not solid information unless the author specifically says “I have arthritis” or whatever may be a reason for not going ahead. Personally I would accept being bored with the book as an excellent reason, just for the reason that an author who is bored with the current work is going to do a bad job. Even if it is a great series, I wold rather have them work on something that interests them and come back to it. See Donald Westlake’s comments about why he wrote books that didn’t contain is favorite characters.
And thanks for allowing us to comment.
It’s a matter of understanding that your feelings don’t create obligations for other people. That can be a rough lesson, and some people manage to successfully die of old age without learning it, but it’s important.
Imani I quoted the portion of Kat’s post that I took issue with, and I explained why that point of view struck me as overly simplistic. I agree with the basic tenet that authors don’t “owe” their readers much of anything, but I disagree that the relationship is as black-and-white as some would make it. My position–and I feel I’ve been consistent here–is that looking at this situation solely in terms of the law of contracts or solely in terms of economics misses something perhaps ineffable yet nonethless tangible.
I get the authors’ point of view that they are captains of their own ships, and make ports of call when and where they desire–entirely at their discretion. I get the point that some fans are unempathetic jerks and have unrealistic expectations.
I wonder if there’s been sufficient attention paid to the readers’ point of view?
Enough said, here, I guess.
See Donald Westlake’s comments about why he wrote books that didn’t contain is favorite characters.
RobertVictoria@#180. Quite – and this was the man who wrote sixteen Parker novels in twelve years, then put arguably his greatest character on ice for almost quarter of a century. Why? Because basically he felt the books were getting repetitive and predictable, and if you don’t think you’ve got anything new or interesting to say move on. It’s not as if he was pulling a Salinger from 1974-1997.
Okay, Nick from the O.C., first off I hate Marxism so please don’t call me that, thanks. Second, of course we read to have an experience and that experience is going to contain emotion, at least vicariously. But that doesn’t mean that the author is your pal or knows who you are or has to accommodate your feelings which may be very different from other readers’ feelings (and so would be impossible for the author to tend to anyway.) The author provided us with a story, for which we decided to pay money, and then have the experience of reading it. What individuals may or may not feel beyond that is beyond the author’s control and not the author’s responsibility. The author did not force you to write fan fiction (in fact, some of them would prefer you didn’t.) It is a decision a reader makes to enjoy the work in a further way and readers have to take responsibility when they make such decisions, not try to shove it off on the author like the author is daddy.
Likewise, the decision to continue with a series, whether it is a serial story or not, is entirely the readers’. Martin has no guarantee of your money for future books and you have no guarantee that Martin — or Scalzi or Ms. Moon — will be able to deliver to you any further books of any kind. It is not possible for the reader or the author to give such guarantees and demanding them is a matter of false pretences. Recently, author Steph Swainston announced that she was taking a break from writing or at least publishing and pursuing a teaching job. She had reportedly been depressed and she felt pressured from fans with whom she was urged to interact and consequently felt pressured from her publisher to produce more books faster than her writing brain actually worked. Authors are a lot more exposed more frequently to their readers these days and it has created, for better or worse, a false impression for some readers that authors are indeed, uh, their bitches, that the author is responsible for their happiness and that they are owed something beyond the books that are available for purchase. And that doesn’t really create a constructive, positive connection between readers and authors. It’s hostile and it tends to escalate, and that really, really does not help authors write.
If I sounded abrupt earlier, it’s because I’ve had this conversation about Martin and fiction authors approximately about sixty times in the last six years. And it always comes down to people saying that they feel they are owed things beyond the book itself. But you can’t buy what the author doesn’t have to sell you and you can’t demand something you haven’t paid for. Emotion does not always deal well with reality, but in this particular situation, it has no choice. You accept it or you walk away. Disappointment is understandable and no one minds much if you express it, but passion is not an excuse for attacking or even nagging an author, which is what a small but extremely aggressive minority of fans did with Martin.
As for Martin promising delivery, he never did. He estimated and expressed a hope that he would be right, which used to be considered a normal thing for authors to do. At certain points, he tried to not estimate since people claimed that upset them, but his not giving an estimate upset them even more. Apologies were discounted as insufficient and insincere. The man was mocked. His wife was mocked. He was verbally attacked. Whatever he did was wrong, a scam, a failure, a grievous insult. It was bizarre. And it was based on a false idea of what sort of relationship existed between author and reader that bordered on stalking, certainly in some cases harassment. That is certainly indicative of great emotion, but not necessarily really healthy emotion.
Most people of course were not that extreme. But the expectation of what is owed is unrealistic and unfair. The author cannot give you what he or she doesn’t have and authors don’t know if they will eventually have it. They certainly usually try. They’d probably try even if you didn’t pay them for any book. But it is only the finished ones that you can buy and it is only what you buy that you have any claim to. And what you buy or don’t buy is your own responsibility and choice, no one else’s (not counting school assignments.) :)
Kat @ 184 —
I apologize if I offended you. I don’t believe I called you a Marxist but I get you are upset. For the record, I have never called, written, emailed, or even whispered anything to/from/or about GRR Martin before today. So I’m not the “them” you are complaining about.
But for better or worse, authors and readers are in some kind of relationship, some kind of community with a common purpose. We’re not talking about forced labor in the gulag here, but there’s something more to the story than A writes, B publishes, and C consumes what is provided when it is provided. Because if that’s all it is, then our little community is pretty damn poor. Or so it seems to me.
#63 echoes my sentiment too, especially since ADwD answered precisely one of the several questions I had after AFfC, introduced still more plot-lines, and resolved none. Just like I stopped buying Wheel of Time books after the fourth one advanced the series plot not a whit, I simply won’t be buying any more in the series until the series is complete and I can read from start to finish without the prolonged wait in between books. (For the record, that takes more patience, not less.) I’m not mad, I’m not yelling or sending nasty notes — or any notes at all — but there are only so many times you can yank that string before I cut it.
A serialised work does in fact depend on and demand something of its readers: you need their emotional involvement and interest to last to the next installment, if not the last installment. From a purely business perspective, retaining a customer is more profitable than finding a new one — it costs up to five times more in advertising to gain a new customer than it does to keep your current ones returning. To keep your current ones returning, their most recent memories of your work should be positive, or at least not so negative as to overwhelm their memory of past positives. ASoIaF has now reached the point for me where the glorious beginning is more than balanced by the uncertainty of there being an ending at all, coupled with the increasing certainty that before we get to that ending — if ending there is — there will be more four-hundred-thousand-word books that tantalize without advancing the story much. I’ll pass.
Yes, if everyone takes my view, then the series might be cancelled altogether for lack of sales. I’ll be sad if that happens. (I will also be more than a little relieved at having broken free before the choice was taken from me; I was silently smug about having jumped ship on Jordan long before the final disappointment.) What I will not feel is guilty. If an author truly acknowledges no obligation on his end to deliver what his readers are waiting for — and, in fact, what he’s done his best to ensure that they’re waiting for, with all the storytelling skill he could bring to bear — why, then, he must also conclude that there is no obligation on their end to continue caring enough about what he does deliver to read it, let alone shell out money for it. “And then what happens?” may not have a fixed expiration date, but if you wait too long, the children grow up.
Nick @182: If you have an opinion, it’s OK to just say that’s your opinion. Pretending that you’re the only reader on the thread or that someone who strongly disagrees with you is a Marxist does not help your credibility much.
Mike has a good point. One of the main reason that people got so upset is that he claimed to have most of Dance finished when Feast came out.
He can take his time, there’s plenty of other great books to read in the meantime. Still, don’t be disingenuous about things (if that’s the case with his afterword in Feast); just come out and say – “Hey, I’ve got a lot of stuff going on: editing, the tv series, a massive rewrite, etc. – the book is going to take some time.”
I doubt he was disingenuous — I suspect he did have a fair amount of writing done, which he parted out and assumed he could use, and then, once he started putting it into its own book, found he couldn’t use after all. It happens.
You didn’t offend me, Nick. I was just making clear that I don’t endorse the philosophy you were bringing up (and which was rather a first for these Martin conversations actually so at least you were taking a new tack.) There are many aspects to the SFFH community that involve readers and authors — and the interaction fostered by magazine letters pages, SFFH conventions and now by the Internet, which is kind of a massive on-going convention is a really special one, I think. But those interactions are voluntary by readers and authors — they are not included as a right in the package. Authors do deeply appreciate the support of fans overall, but at the end of the day — and this gets to the heart of it — no matter how much support and how much money an author might get, it’s not going to help you when you’re alone in the little room trying to write. An author may have to give up and let it ride or not publish — and Ms. Moon is right that Martin was in a better position than many to not give up and to tinker, but it’s the author’s judgement call and the author who has to wrestle with his or her brain to make it work.
Cairsten — you are trying to equate fiction writing to normal businesses — it isn’t. Martin is not providing you with a service and customer service is not the issue. He’s creating a work and getting his brain to work the story out is the issue. As you point out, Martin has no guarantee that you will be around to buy the whole story. And as I pointed out, you do not have a guarantee when you buy any work, even a serial one, that there will be more books in the series. You voluntarily choose to buy the book in the serial series knowing that you may not get the whole story. That was your choice. And it is realistically completely impossible for Martin and his publisher to guarantee you that you will get the whole story. No author can do that. It’s not an obligation. It’s a hope. It’s not a right to demand. It’s a desire — one which everyone, including the author, hopes will work out. That doesn’t mean that the author is not trying to have a contract come to fruition, finish the story, worry about his readers. It does mean that the only thing you have any guarantee on is the finished book you have purchased and took the risk on.
Caleb Armstrong: The book did not take the time it did because of the t.v. series or other projects. It took the time it did because it was a book that had actually been unplanned in the series and had to be substantially revised and reworked on a broad scale. And Martin did come out and say such things — they were not well received either. It didn’t matter what he said or how he said it or if he stayed silent while he worked, which he also tried, and I honestly think if you had cut the afterword to Feast, the situation would have been the same. As I said, it was a new thing for the genre. The only thing I’ve seen come close is King’s Dark Tower situation.
One of the main reason that people got so upset is that he claimed to have most of Dance finished when Feast came out.
Not picking on you, but I keep hearing this and that’s not what I read in that afterword to Crows. Martin also said that he could have have divided an infeasibly large manuscript into two more-or-less equal piles, scribbled TO BE CONTINUED at the end of one and said “I’m done”. I guess, if he’d done that, folks would still be bitching that Martin is a lazy, money-grubbing hack with no respect for the fans.
Could it be that writing Dragons was a little more complex than just cutting and pasting the (more or less) already competed chapters with Tyrion, Jon, Dany etc. into a new file? Chapters of a novel aren’t like short stories where you can shuffle the order and it doesn’t necessarily make a lot of difference – Stephen King arranged the stories in Everything’s Eventual with a pack of cards. True story.
Actually, Kat, writing is like a normal business in many ways. The product (not service, you’re right about that) is different, and the process of creation is different, but the first aim of any writer is creating demand, generating interest, to keep the reader reading (and hopefully buying.) No different from, say, a game software company — customer loyalty is the golden grail. And most of what I’m saying is that you (generic you, not you specifically) can’t honestly hold the simultaneous positions that the author, having done his best and successfully generated that loyalty, has not even the most tenuous duty to try to satisfy the demand he created, and that the customers, being denied that satisfaction, are, what was the term? Oh, yes, “spectacularly douche-y” — if they then decide to withhold their support and their money until the end of the series. I’m not arguing that Martin hasn’t tried; I’m quite sure he has. I also know perfectly well that whether he manages it or not isn’t entirely within his conscious control; I’ve enough unfinished stories of my own to not buy into the “if he’d just work harder” argument. But, for whatever reason, the disappointment is there, the disillusionment is real and not completely unfair, and while I would never defend harassing the man, I can’t see that deciding not to give him your money until whatever time he delivers the end of the story is somehow beyond the pale and destructive, either. There’s obligation on both sides when the relationship works well. When either party — but especially the originating one — shrugs off the connection, it’s at best naive of them to expect the other to continue to feel bound by it.
Cairsten@192 I don’t think the first aim of a writer is “creating demand, generating interest, to keep the reader reading (and hopefully buying.)” The first aim of the writer appears to be to (1) finish the book and then (2) convince the publisher to buy the book. While generating interest and loyalty are related to that, they’re somewhat out of the writer’s hands.
ut the first aim of any writer is creating demand,
I really think you should be careful about asserting what the first aim of anyone other than yourself is.
Cairsten #192: “No different from, say, a game software company — customer loyalty is the golden grail.”
It’s completely different from game software companies, customer loyalty is not the golden grail of fiction publishing though it is desired, and even if it was, the author still could never, ever guarantee you that you’ll get the full story. It is not possible. So it is unrealistic and unfair to claim that the author owes something no author can ever provide any reader with.
“And most of what I’m saying is that you (generic you, not you specifically) can’t honestly hold the simultaneous positions that the author, having done his best and successfully generated that loyalty, has not even the most tenuous duty to try to satisfy the demand he created, and that the customers, being denied that satisfaction, are, what was the term? Oh, yes, “spectacularly douche-y” — if they then decide to withhold their support and their money until the end of the series.”
Luckily, I don’t hold that dual view at all. People who decide that they’re not going to buy the series, not keep buying the series or will wait until the series is all finished before attempting to buy it are fine with me. That’s their choice and I don’t think it’s douchebaggy at all. But if you make the other choice — you risk buying and reading the series with no guarantee — which cannot be provided to you — that it will be finished or that you will like it if it is, that’s the risk you took and it has nothing to do with the author. No one forced you to do it. You are not obligated to buy and the author is not obligated to guarantee you anything. Because demand and desire are not rights. And you cannot force a “duty” on an author that it is impossible for any author to promise to be able to do. You are only a customer for the book(s) you purchase. You are not a customer for the series. You are not obligated to buy another book ever from that author.
So what John was talking about was not people who decided not to buy the series or to wait. He was talking about the ones who went after Martin or who had long rants on the Web that Martin is a lazy ass who wrote hardly anything in six (ten) years (which John showed you was not true,) who broke a promise (which was never actually made,) who works for them and so should do what they say (which is impossible,) and who owes them a guarantee that the series will be finished (which is impossible.)
You know the simplest way I can think of to prove that customer loyalty matters in writing far more than you think it does? Pick up a book by any author with more than two even modestly successful books, and look at the spine. The name of the author is going to be featured at least as prominently as the book title, the better for catching a reader’s eye as they’re browsing the shelves. Often, the more successful the author, the better placement the name is given: looking across the room right this moment I see several author names (Tanya Huff, K.J. Parker, Mercedes Lackey, Madeleine L’Engle, Raymond E. Feist, Glen Cook, Robert A. Heinlein, Spider Robinson) so well-displayed that I can’t read the books’ titles at all. The shelf appeal of these books is pure name recognition, which, shockingly enough, matters much less to a new reader than it does to a repeat buyer. (Also, I keep hearing this insidious rumour that book advances are affected by previous book sales, but I can’t imagine why that would be, if someone, somewhere, were not counting on a fair number of the folks who liked the previous book buying the subsequent one…)
Cairsten @192: but the first aim of any writer is creating demand, generating interest, to keep the reader reading (and hopefully buying.)
I think that’s the first aim of the publisher (and by extension the editor), not the writer. While the writer may indeed share those aims, to a good writer they are, at best, secondary. His or her first aim is to create the most artistically satisfying novel (s)he possibly can. A writer who puts those other things (creating demand, etc.) above art, is in my mind, something of a hack writer. And I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting that GRRM is a hack, since anyone who thought that he was would not likely care so passionately about when and/or whether he finishes the series.
Cairnstein@#196: You’ve made a rather weak argument to rebut an argument I can’t see anyone was making. There are authors out there who will move stock on their name alone? Well, duh — I don’t think my Nan was the only woman of a certain age who had a standing order for the new Georgette Heyer, and for whom no Christmas was complete without the latest Agatha Christie.
And, OMFG, publishers are going to design covers they think will catch people’s attention. And not always successfully, need I add. Our host has written more than two books, and I’m not kissing ass to suggest they’re not exactly weighing down a remainder table near you. Must say I can’t notice the titles on my copies being near-invisible under their author’s name.
@hugh57: Writing isn’t successful if no-one’s interested enough to read it. I know people are resistant to thinking of creative processes in mercenary terms like “generating demand” as if the writer should be above such tainted thoughts, but even the child sitting down with other children and going “I know a story!” is trying to generate interest and demand. The payoff is pure attention, not money, at that age, but the principle is the same. The whole point of strong first lines and showing instead of telling and all those other writerly ideals is to keep the reader engrossed until the writer has told all the story — interest, and demand. You know you’re a good storyteller when the people who hear your stories want more. What is that but repeat business? Far from being a hack for thinking about it, a writer is probably a poorer writer in more than one sense if s/he doesn’t think about it.
@Craig Ranapia: Actually, Kat Goodwin stated that “It’s completely different from game software companies, customer loyalty is not the golden grail of fiction publishing though it is desired” — as you can see, I disagree strongly. A writer who truly wouldn’t care if all or most of their readers should decide to never read another story by them once they’ve read the first story (that is, a writer who doesn’t care about repeat business and would be perfectly happy with one-time sales and no customer loyalty) is an animal I’ve yet to encounter. To have people love what you write and look forward to grabbing what you write next, book by book by book, is the aspiration. That’s the underlying reason behind the marketing decisions.
Cairsten @199: I wasn’t saying that a writer should never think about such things, just that they shouldn’t be his primary aim. That’s what editors and publishers are for.
Cairsten #196: So you feel that Martin should lie and make an impossible promise of a guarantee in order to trick his readers into buying his books? This has well been proven not to work. And if he doesn’t, you think he won’t sell? Dragons is currently the bestselling book of 2011 so far.
First off, fiction readers are marketing resistant. That doesn’t mean that readers don’t respond at all to marketing; it just means that they tend to respond more often to word of mouth recs from folks they know or trust than from an ad. (This is why you don’t see a lot of book ads and celebrity endorsements — no one cares what novels Justin Bieber reads.) The author’s name in large print is, because of this, to draw in new readers, not old ones who will go find books they want, and it’s used for bestsellers and big names, the bigger the seller, the bigger the font. That’s because new readers will recognize the author name because it is a bestseller right there in big font and be more willing to try a bestseller (the word of mouth rec coming from the list itself) than a less well known series.
Second, name recognition isn’t the same thing as author loyalty. Fiction readers have very little loyalty to authors; their loyalty is for the works of the author, and if they don’t like what an author is doing in new projects or books in a series, they are perfectly capable of dropping it. As Scalzi can tell you, there are fans of his who are only interested in the OMW series and won’t read anything else he writes, and other fans who won’t read the OMW series. R.A. Salvatore sells quite a few of his Demon Awakes series, but he sells three times that on his Drizzit books, and so forth. So an author is never guaranteed that a reader will buy more than one book, even in a serial series, and the only way the author has to perhaps get series loyalty, build an audience and get good word of mouth is by writing a work to the best he’s able to do at the time. Which, since it’s a creative work, even if you’re prolific, is not as easy as just popping it out like a blog post and frequently involves weird things like frantically writing on napkins while driving your car or throwing out 300 pages of ms. because it isn’t working.
And even then, even if the author is trying to make it work, the author still cannot guarantee that the story will be finished and that he won’t be hit by a bus tomorrow or get dumped by his publisher or have his life go to hell. The author cannot promise something that is impossible to promise. And authors are very much aware that readers may walk away if stuff happens and there is a big gap in publication. But they also know that they may win some of those readers back and get new ones through word of mouth because they managed to eventually write a book those readers liked. And there’s no way to predict what will happen either way — because there isn’t author loyalty and because the only books you can purchase are finished ones and because authors are not, even at their most practical, text excruding machines. So yeah, authors concentrate on the story, not readers, when they’re writing the story, and then when the story is finished and being published in some manner, they focus on getting the word out and trying to get people to remember their names. But again, that’s not a duty; it’s a hope. And the reader may or may not have a desire for a prospective work, but that’s a desire, not a right. So Martin has no guarantee of reader loyalty or even reader purchases, but can attempt to write, and readers have no guarantee of more books but may buy books anyway. You have no promise, when you buy a book, that the author will not be eaten by Cthulhu the next day. But the good news is, no reader is ever as compulsive about a work as the author of the work is. So even if everyone ran away and refused to buy any more Song of Ice and Fire books, Martin would still try to complete the story.
As for publishers estimating how much the author is likely to earn in royalties on a book in order to come up with an advance against royalties for the licensing rights agreement, yes, they do deal with past sales of the author, if the author has any. But they also deal with the book itself and whether they think it will get more sales or less because of the story. And in both aspects, what they are really doing is gambling, and they are frequently wrong and the author may earn less than the advance or considerably more. J.K. Rowling’s British publisher paid her a 2,500 pound advance. So publishers certainly would also like author loyalty from readers, but they also know there are no guarantees. And they are used to authors not managing to deliver ms. when originally expected and at times their own scheduling issues can result in further publication delays. Martin’s publisher worked with him throughout the time and were well aware what he was doing.
What Kat Goodwin said. And…
I bought Dance with Dragons. I haven’t read it yet. I have bought the newest Scalzi book. I haven’t read it yet. I’ve got the newest Jim Butcher book on order. Will I read it right away? Probably not. My To Be Read pile is enormous.
But when I do? I will, most likely, enjoy the hell out of these books. I’ve enjoyed their others, so there’s a good track record there. And I want the authors to have my support by buying the hardbacks/newest releases. I want them to know that someone is interested and/or invested in their books and characters. And I get emotionally invested with who they write about.
And this is just three authors off the top of my head. They make this stuff up, they work hard for it and I am just flat out amazed and impressed they even want to share their playground with us. I’ll wait. Because I know they are working hard.
Do they owe me? Not a damned thing. And I would be sad if they never wrote another book, but I sure wouldn’t harass, threaten, or attack them for not thinking of ME, by God. I’d just thank them for the opportunity to have shared what they’ve written.
My momma taught me better than to act like that to another human being.
What irritates me about the situation is that ASOIAF started as a trilogy, and the first books were published two years apart. Now its a 7 book series, and books 4 and 5 took 11 years to publish. I have no idea it will take the next two books to arrive, or if they will be the last two books. I don’t blame GRRM for doing other things, but I do worry that he’s lost control of this project and will never (even if he lives another 50 years) get it finished. How much GRRM is writing is not the problem. _How much remains to be written_ is the problem.
Is that unsocialized fanboy entitlement?
(More expansively: I think it’s fine to be exasperated at the expansion and its pace. But it’s also not anything in your control, and that’s just something to accept.)
I guess if you haven’t gotten this by now, it’s hardly worth repeating but here goes. You can be “exasperated” all you want, but I’m pretty sure that if Martin could have got Dragons done and dusted in six months, he would have.
And for all anyone knows (including Martin himself) he might have The Winds of Winter ready to go to press this time next year. Or he could have a massive heart attack or stroke and die tomorrow. As John says: It’s really out of our control, so there’s not a lot of point to getting bent about it.
Who’s getting bent?
It’s disappointing, because I read through the first three, enjoyed them, and thought “I would like to read the rest of this story”. In the 5 year gap that followed, I didn’t think about the series much. I book book 4, and put it on the shelf unread. I bought book 5, and I’d put the series so far out of my mind that I’d forgotten it was now going to be 7 books, so I started re-reading. I still haven’t read books 4 or 5 yet, but will in the next couple of months.
What have I not ‘got’?
I haven’t sent hate mail to the author, started petitions to boycott Wild Cards because its a waste of his time, or burnt the figure-making factory to the ground. I suspect I’ve spent less time discussing this online than you.
But I reserve the right, when this subject comes up, to think and say,”it’s a bit shit the way the end of this series keeps receding into the distant future. GRRM has always struck me as a good storyteller, but he seems to have lost control of his plot”.
I’m a speedreader, who’s had a book a day habit since the 60’s. I get by and keep my stress low with a couple of mantras. “Writers are replaceable” and “Mulder was right. Trust No One.” Lets pick a writer at semi random. David Weber. His biggest thing is his Honor Harrington series, 21 books, averaging fairly big and thick. When the newest one came out I went back and read all the old ones first, because lately Mr. Weber has been guilty of a minor sin I call “Hydra-plotting”. Several story lines, each going in it’s own direction, sometimes the same scenes are repeated in several books, each time from another character’s viewpoint. That took me three days, which is why I think of writers as being replaceable. They have to be. Even the best of them write very few books, and you use them up fairly quickly. If you can’t find someone else to read, you’re out of luck. The writers whose books I enjoy, who have proven themselves by providing a reasonably steady output, get a quick wish winging their way at the end of their newest book. “I liked that one. See you next year” and I won’t think much about them any more until I either reread something old or see there’s a new one, in stock and ready to buy. That new book might very well be my book today. But then it’s “See you next year” again. I read from hundreds, maybe thousands, of writers. If your book isn’t there, I’m not interested in you. I want a book I can read today, and tomorrow I will want another, and the next day, and so on. So from my point of view, if the writers want money from me, I want a book. Today. and then it will be “See you”. If you can put them out fast enough to make a living, I’m happy for you. If not, I may not notice you’re missing at all for a while, or care when I do. And if it’s a long time between books in a series, I will drop you, because you can’t hold my interest over a long period of time. Ms Moon, who I saw make a comment up thread, wrote “Paks” books early on, and after twenty years came back and starting writing more. I don’t care, because I don’t feel like waiting twenty years for a series to continue. I dropped her. And many others, alas, along the way. Including GRRM, long ago. I wish the man well in all ways, but I don’t want his stuff anymore. Just my two cents worth. (Grin)