I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine today who has been repeatedly published in the genre of science fiction. I am withholding his name for reasons that I think will be obvious by the end of this post.
For the past few years my friend has been trying to break out of sci-fi and into another genre. He has however been repeatedly hassled by the publisher of his past sci-fi books to present them with a new manuscript. It is important to note that he has no contractual obligation with his current publisher, they just want him to write another book because they see him as an established author who can sell books. However, as he put it to me, he just does not feel that he has anything worth writing about in sci-fi anymore. But he does have ideas for other genres. Unfortunately his current publisher does not publish said genres.
He has been polite in refusing them but confided in me that he was becoming very annoyed with the constant badgering. Apparently this publisher is very light in the funnel. The other day when they called he mentioned my name and gave me a reference because they also publish fantasy and let slip that they are interested in such as well. They told him that they were not interested in developing new talent and, such was his take, that they wanted to stick with past sucessess. Yes, he said, even if what those past successes gave them a subpar story to work with. They said they wanted “anything” from him and commenting that “quality does not matter.”
This makes me sad as an aspiring author. It makes me wonder how many other publishers are acting the same, silly way. I know that I have often felt when reading the umpteenth novel by an author that it feels like the only way this novel got published was because said author had previous works that were good and anything with said author’s name will sell something. I felt that way with both Card’s Lost Gate and Ian Irvine’s Vengeance. Neither were as good as their earlier works. Neither were horrid. Both just fell well below expectations and were quite average books.
My friend really likes my work. He has had nothing but praise for my current main project, Under the Darkened Moon. But for a publisher to think so little of an author that they have had a relationship with for a long time and slough off a recommendation that would help them fill an obviously short stack of projects is boggling. They want books in both sci-fi and fantasy fiction, yet they don’t want to take a look at a manuscript that comes recommended by one of their own authors? And not just a rough manuscript either, but one in its fifth revision with input from an author published multiple times.
Well, that just fries my biscuits. But, such is life as an author. You just have to keep plugging through the insanity of the business.
UPDATE & NOTE: Just for clarification, the publisher I am speaking about here is not one of the BIG ones. But, if I divulged my friend’s name a go0d number of people would recognized it. I don’t wish to cause him undo friction with that publisher just in case he ever decides to publish sci-fi with them again. So, that be the case, I am still not divulging his name. (December 10th, 2012)