Not too long ago popular authors could get away with banging out a new book each year like clockwork. And being a recluse — holed up alone in a mountain cabin or seaside bungalow to write the great American novel — only added intrigue to a writer’s brand. But in this day of e-readers, Facebook, and Twitter, that backward thinking just won’t cut it anymore with the book-consuming community and with profit-hungry publishers.
The prevalence of e-readers is behind the shift. Thanks to the savvy marketing efforts of Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Sony, hoards of consumers now possess e-readers and regularly consume electronic books and other forms of entertainment. Purchasing an author’s work is easy. This places authors in the hot seat to satisfy the voracious appetites of consumers.
To make matters worse for writers already time-crunched to overproduce and keep the assembly line humming, they are expected to be increasingly accessible. Fans expect to read new blog posts, Tweets, and Facebook updates as authors promote themselves and their work — and develop relationships with their audiences. (Is anyone conjuring up images of Kathy Bates or James Caan in Misery?)
Faced with stiffer competition from media that more easily delivers round-the-clock entertainment, publishers and booksellers are demanding more of their authors. According to a recent New York Times article from Julie Bosman, the industry is working hard to compete with other forms of entertainment, such as TV shows and on-demand movies.
Liate Stehlik, publisher of the William Morrow, Avon, and Voyager imprints of HarperCollins, shares her thoughts with Bosman. “Particularly now with social media, authors are constantly in contact with their fans in a way that they never were before,” she said. “Now it seems to make more sense to have your author out in the media consciousness as much as you can.”
To entice book-hungry consumers, publishers sometimes release 99-cent short stories about two months before hardcovers are expected to hit stores shelves and e-tailers. Book publishers, like St. Martin’s Press, are using this tactic to log higher pre-order sales. St. Martin’s Press, which counts ubiquitous Jackie Collins among its stable of talent, uses this strategy to pique interest in the author’s existing works to spur e-reader sales as consumers play catch-up ahead of the hardcover’s release.
The Little Engine That Could, aka James Patterson, is providing his loyal followers with a veritable buffet of books. While he had the assistance of co-writers for some of his 12 published titles last year, Patterson’s on the line to publish 13 books this year. That’s a hard act to follow.