After writing a post earlier this week about authors who release tons of books each year in the m/m romance genre, I spotted something interesting in a few places that gets into something I didn’t mention in that previous post. So I figured I’d follow up for those who might not be familiar with this sort of thing in publishing. I would imagine most readers aren’t. It’s not something you see publishers or authors advertise in the NYT. Yet at the same time it’s not something new.
In this article it talks about why bestselling novelists have co-authors. Basically what this means is that a bestselling novelist that’s creating his/her own brand (brand being the key word) at a relentless pace hires other authors to do the actual writing while he/she delegates the concepts and ideas…without actually writing the books. It’s a very interesting way for authors to produce more than a dozen books a year. And I would imagine these authors do some of the writing because they do all the edits…but don’t quote me on that. I’m just guessing this because I have never met an author who is happy with another author’s work no matter how good the other author might be. And when your name is going on a book…or anything…you want to make sure it’s going to represent you well.
Best-selling author Wilbur Smith signed a six-book deal with publisher HarperCollins last week for a reported £15m. But it was also revealed that some of the books are to be written with the help of “carefully selected co-authors”, so how common is it for writers to hire them?
That’s an interesting question to which I don’t think anyone knows the answer. In the same article it talks about authors James Patterson and Tom Clancy doing the same thing.
US thriller and crime writers James Patterson and Tom Clancy are two of the best-known authors who regularly hire co-authors.
Patterson’s use of them has helped him become exceptionally prolific, publishing 14 new titles in 2011-2012 alone. He typically sends 70-90 chapter summaries of around four lines long to his co-writers, who then send back drafts for him to edit.
It has also reaped huge financial rewards – the 65-year-old was the highest-earning author of the past year according to Forbes magazine, earning an estimated $94m (£58.6m).
It doesn’t just reap rewards for the authors. It reaps rewards for the publishers and the agents as well, which is something you won’t hear about on any publishing blogs. In the same respect, readers who love to read these authors get all the books they want. I’ve often said one of my favorite novelists, Anne Tyler, only releases a new novel every two years. It’s always worth the wait, I don’t think Tyler would ever hire a co-author, and yet I often wish she wrote faster.
In another article that’s linked to the article I just talked about, they go into more detail about James Patterson. And this dates back to 2007…again, not something new.
Patterson is effectively a brand manager, presiding over a production line of commercial blockbusters written with other authors. He maps out the fast-paced storylines, full of plot twists, and then ensures delivery of the staccato sentences and two-page chapters that have become his trademark style.
As Time magazine wrote last year: “Patterson is the world’s greatest bestseller factory, and depending on how you look at it, he’s either a damn good writer or the Beast of the coming literary Apocalypse.”
In all fairness, Patterson then goes on to explain how hard he works. I believe him. Frankly, I wouldn’t trust anything Time Magazine has to say because I think they are the “beast” of the coming journalism Apocalypse…but that’s another post, and Time Magazine is now about ten pages thick since that article was written. I’ve also heard…and don’t quote me on this either because it is hearsay…that a lot of magazine writers hire co-writers to do a lot of their articles and they keep this very quiet.
For those who are frowning right now, this really isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’ve posted before about how the Nancy Drew books were authored by more than one writer sharing one pen name…some of which were written by a man. They inspired a generation of young women. When something sells, any good business person wants to keep it selling, at any cost, not matter what. And I know from experience it’s not simple to put out more than eight novels a year alone, trust me.
In the post I wrote earlier this week about a naive blogger complaining that authors who put out too many books each year aren’t focused on quality books I tried to explain quality has nothing to do with quantity. I think this post right now shows that most readers would tend to agree with me. There’s no one complaining about quality with James Patterson’s books last I heard. Or any of the other authors I didn’t mention in this post who do the same thing. One issue I always have with the Internet is too many people with limited experience are talking about too many things they know too little about.
In any event, this question below is the most interesting to me, as a reader and an author:
So how much of a book is actually written by the author and how much is by the co-author?
“Publishers don’t like to reveal that kind of information,” Stone says.
Davis agrees there is sensitivity surrounding what is known and what is spoken about co-authors, but adds hiring one is a personal decision for writers. For some, the last thing they would do is hand over the writing to someone else.
I don’t even like to collaborate at this point in my life unless it’s for some type of anthology and the stories/novellas are separate. And I’ve never hired anyone to write for me; I work alone, as they say. However, I do think novels can be co-authored if done right. And all this leads me back to my original post about authors turning out too many books each year. Every author works at a different pace and some even hire co-authors. As you can see, there is not only a market for this, but the quality seems to be there as well. If that weren’t the case I’m sure Patterson and other bestselling authors wouldn’t have been selling as many books.
Not to mention the opportunities this is giving other authors who are co-writing the books. I know some would complain these co-authors aren’t getting full credit for it. But they are getting paid well to work in an industry that’s notorious for not paying well, for tons of rejection, and for limited odds of success on the most basic level in the smallest genre. I’m talking about professional career writers who love to write and get paid, not stars or divas who think they know it all. And I would probably stop everything and jump at a chance to co-author a Patterson novel.
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