One might think from this blog’s title that I am adverse to change. In general, I am not. Change can be good. Medical advances are a good thing, for one. So is a change of scenery (believe me).
But I wish to address the changes that have been going on for quite a while in the publishing industry. I’m not talking about all the self-publishing opportunities that allow everyone and his brother to put a book up for sale, sometimes with disastrous results and other times with an astonishing new work being released into the world. Nor am I talking about the trend for many publishers to release books in print-on-demand only. I think I’ve addressed the downfall of that practice for the author in another blog. The change I wish to point out is that in which publishers have decided the best practice is to release as many books by a known author as can be crammed into a single year. Once, publishers allowed an author the time to write their best work possible. Recently, it’s become a matter of requiring authors to write the best work possible in the time allowed.
And it shows.
We, as authors, have a procedure we follow, emotionally, mentally, physically. Sometimes the germ of an idea is just that, and possibly never meant to come to fruition. Now, however, an author must grasp that germ and force a book from it in order to meet the required quota.
And it shows.
I recently started to read a book by an author I’ve enjoyed in the past. I am on chapter six and ready to quit. Actually quit, not go back, not find out what happens next or at the end, nor what occurs with the many semi-secondary characters that have been introduced in the most minute detail, right down to the color shirt, the brand of sneakers, the trouser or dress style, the hairdo (dating myself here), the shape of their eyeglasses, the things they like to eat, page after page. All these things are introduced not as part of the action, moving the story forward, but in what I can only term as list fashion. He was wearing this, and this, and this. She was wearing this, and this, and this. Oh, and that guy over there? He was wearing this and this and this and was about this tall, but we will never hear about him again. Description, I must say, without point, especially since, for me, those characters are forgotten as the page is turned.
Why would an author whose stories I’d previously thought riveting, whose style was quick and to the point, enhancing the thriller, suddenly inject so much unnecessary information into each and every page? Since I am only on chapter six, perhaps I’m not being fair. I might skip ahead in the book to see if I’m right—certainly not to find out what happens in this story because frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.
As to why an author would do this: word count. In the unfortunate scenario requiring authors to hasten their work along, expand that useless germ that should have been cast aside or at the very least been allowed to fully form before being shaped into the contractual hasty book, authors find themselves not meeting the required word count. Thus, the book is padded.
And it shows.
The publisher pushes the book out the door in this condition and into the hands of the likely to be disappointed masses. Likely, I say, because I may be wrong and will therefore refrain from speaking in absolutes. But I am right for me, and as I paid good money for the book in question, I will permit myself to feel what I feel. In deference to the author, however, I will not divulge the name, for the very reason that my opinion may not ring true among the remaining readership. I may even go so far as to say I will probably check out the next book to come down the assembly line in the hope this was only an off day for the author. Off day is an exaggeration, but not by much. There are only so many days in the year and if you’re required to put out six or seven books in that timeframe, well…