So are some authors too big to fail? I was thinking about this recently as I was contemplating the total lack of an update on The Winds of Winter. The last book, A Dance with Dragons, came out in 2011, and the HBO series is forging ahead with their own ending as the book series seems to have sputtered. Martin has taken a lot of heat for the delays, and for his work habits (he has said he's a pantser, and writes when the muse comes)- he apparently is not an author who makes himself belt out a certain amount of words per day. Others have come to his defense, with Neil Gaiman famously telling fans that "George is not your bitch"- in other words he doesn't owe us anything.
And I think that's true- if he chooses not to finish his series that's his prerogative. He doesn't have to finish it for us. However, he does have a publishing contract, and therefore a commitment to his publishers. As the years pass I can only imagine the frustration his editors and publishers have with his lack of progress, and blown deadlines. One of his latest updates was that he had a deadline of October last year for the book, and when that was missed he had an end of the year deadline. That was missed too. It's almost a year later and no word on when the book is due.
The other problem is he has no problem updating his Not-a-Blog with his thoughts on other projects and so on. I have no problem with this, the guy has a life after all, but I know for some it just seems like he is coasting and not really working. Which again is his choice. But is he one of the authors that could get away with this, from a publishing standpoint? Other than Rowling and King and a few others, I can think of few authors who have the influence and ability to do their thing the way he does. Does his prominence allow him to get away with stuff most authors couldn't?
I think the answer is clearly yes. Imagine most authors blowing deadlines like this and telling people that the book will be finished when it's finished. I don't know much about publishing contracts (anyone who does, please jump in) but no one is going to cancel The Winds of Winter, since it will sell a bajillion copies whenever it does come out- and I wonder if his editors/ publishers have any leverage at all. He has stated that he thinks the job of an editor is basically to offer good terms and stay out of the way, more or less, again an attitude most authors would not get away with! So if you're Martin's publisher, what do you do?
I guess you just wait, along with the rest of us. So what do you think? Martin has signed contracts to produce books- does he owe it to his publisher to meet those deadlines, or at least produce something in the 5 years since 2011? Do you think he's one of the few that can pull this off? And does this provide a window into his professionalism?