Quote of the Century

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While pondering the idea of series and multiple-book contracts, I always feel a sense of unease about the pressure created by having to deliver under deadline. And I think about how foolish it is to force a writer to produce, all in the name of “striking while the iron is hot,” “feeding the next book to a hungry audience,” or so “your name will not be forgotten before the next hot author comes along.” Why would a publisher want to set up circumstances that will likely produce a lessor quality product than the book that created the fervor?

And then I came across this quote by Orson Scott Card and it nailed what I was trying to put into words in my head: “All the readers see – or need to see – is the finished product, and the gestation time and the writing time are as unimportant as knowing how many days the actors rehearsed before putting on a play. Either the play is good, or it’s not. No excuses, no apologies, no explanations. Ditto with books.”

The reader doesn’t need to know how many revisions a writer made or how many compromises were reluctantly agreed upon with her editor. The reader doesn’t need to know how many days a writer wrote while she were sick and wasn’t feeling excited about the story, but wrote anyway. Or that she had surgery, or a family trauma, or her period. The reader only wants to read a good book because that’s what marketing promised them, that’s what they are anticipating after reading the writer’s prior book and loving it, and that’s what they expect when they pay $20-plus dollars for a book.

There’s probably some marketing study that shows the diminishing rate of earnings the longer the time between books. But 10 years from now, no one will care how fast the second book came out. All they will care about is whether the book is good or not.

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