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?
I was nodding while reading this, so true!ReplyDelete
There has been endless debate about GRRM and his work, the man got meme'd for it but he clearly is not the type of guy who will rush the process and so far his process has been proven to be on point. His work is pretty much flawless, the guy has an incredible ability to think ahead and plan like very few, so does he get a pass? Pretty much.
If his work sucked he would never be able to get away with it, people would simply not wait for his books if they were not worth it. He still is under some kind of contract that allows him to not have a deadline, but at the same time I'm not an author and I've seen authors get a lot of bad feedback when they push back publishing dates - for like a few weeks or a couple of months, not years.
I think the show has done a good job at keeping people satisfied, both readers and non readers but now everyone is on the same page so it's getting harder and like you mentioned the show is doing its own thing now and readers are getting a little frustrated.
I agree, with all the subplots and especially the long simmering secrets/ foreshadowing he's so good at- how does he do it? I've re- read a few times and a lot of times I'll be like, how did I not see that the first time around?Delete
He definitely gets some slack and frankly he can get away with it because everyone in the world knows these now. Privately his editors/ publishers probably gnash their teeth but what can they do? :) They have to wait too.
I love the series and have all the published books but I don't want to read them until the TV and book series is finished so I can binge read it! If I had been reading the books as they are published I would be very frustrated at waiting over 5 years for even a hint of the next book coming so I feel for the fans here.(I remember the wait for the last Harry Potter book!) Yes Greg is right about few authors getting such an open publishing contract and the fact that nobody is going to cancel it due to potential book sales but you just wish there was a bit more urgency in getting the product to the fans. I think the other authors you named might get away with such long delays but I don't want it becoming a habit! The Indie authors I read are churning out 3, 4, 5 books a year of top quality which has me well spoiled I guess!ReplyDelete
I understand. If I hadn't read them already I might feel the same. The open ended wait is a tough one. I read the first three back to back then read 4 when it came out, and now it's been over 5 years- I've had to reread a few times to keep em straight because of all the details!Delete
I do kinda wish at this point he would publish what he has or do something, I mean if he's close then fine but if it's going to be another 1-2 years or MORE until Winds then that's asking a lot of his fans and publishers, seems to me. But it'll be when it is. :)
It's amazing how fast some other writers are in comparison. Writers like Seanan McGuire for instance seem to churn em out. And some indie authors too- they still have the hunger. :)
I think it is an awful lot of time to drag books out. However, unfortunately, I think he can get away with it. Face it, he may have no actual motivation to finish the series, especially since he is raking in the dough anyway. And when people will continue to buy new editions of the original books (myself included, thank you very much George!), we continue to support his not incomplete series. It will be sad if he never finishes. I guess I just assume he will one day and no, I doubt anyone will cancel his contract.ReplyDelete
It is. And I think he knows it- imagine the pressure the guy must have. I feel for him in that way- between the wait and the show and all the pressure, it must be tough. And I do think you're on to something, I think his motivation might have slipped a little. I mean he's successful, hasa good life and frankly wants to enjoy it, not chain himself to a keyboard all day lol. I'm assuming anyway. :) I do think he'll finish the next book, the last one who knows, but as much as I hate waiting I'll be in line to get em when they come!Delete
I will say up front that I haven't read these books. My niece has read them all and many bloggers, including you, enjoy them.ReplyDelete
I feel an author has to ask him/herself, are you in it for the money, the fame, the satisfaction of fulfilling a goal, or the pleasure of your target audience? I think it's fine to do it for all of these... But if you neglect the last item on the list then you don't deserve the other perks. If course life can get in the way -- health issues, family emergencies, problems with your publisher... but five years and no book, and no updates? If Martin would come clean and say he is having a problem with his creative mojo, I think his fans would understand, even if disappointed.
Is this next book touted as the very last one in the series, but just the next one? I'm just curious...
Ugh, some autocorrect grammar problems above, but I think you get my drift...Delete
There's the next one and then one after that- so two more. I'm frankly skeptical we'll ever see book 7, and I hate to be mean about it but let's face it, these books take time to put together. And he's rcih now and comfortable- I think when he started this was his magnum opus, his masterpiece- and it got so convoluted and sprawling along the way that it would be tough for anyone, no matter how discioplined, to finish.Delete
I think the other thing is he is very exacting and wants to do the best he can. He doesn't want to take shortcuts and put out an inferior or rushed product- the problem then is that we have to wait lol.
I've never read George RR Martin but Isobelle Carmody is an author who's similar - for one of her series, meant to be a trilogy, I've been waiting 6 years for the next book - others have been waiting 14 years. I really don't think it's acceptable for published authors to do that.ReplyDelete
Wow that's waiting too- sorry to hear that! A wait for a favorite is tough. I know writing is hard but I kind of agree- if the wait gets to be that long it seems like the author would say hey fans, I might not ever get this out, or I'm still working on it but here's the deal, or even maybe publish something if they have part of it done, you know? I don't know...Delete
I don't think it's acceptable but I wonder if some of his anthologies that I've seen out are covering some what for the publishers. They always seem to have at least one story from him. There are probably other authors that are big enough to do the same but they don'tReplyDelete
That could be. I hadn't thought of that but between the anthologies and some of the other stuff, he's still probably making money.Delete
I love Neil Gaiman's comment, lol!ReplyDelete
I do think that the popularity of ASoIaF, especially with the way the TV series has exploded, has given GRRM some clout that other authors don't have. As frustrated as his publisher might get, they can still bank on selling tons of copies of The Winds of Winter when it finally hits shelves. I can't imagine what the waiting for TWoW has been like for readers who picked up AGoT like 20 years ago. That is a loooong time for only 5 books. Here's hoping that maybe next year will be the year for TWoW at last!
I know, right? :)Delete
I definitely agree. He can get away with what few others can. And it is a long time- I read the first three back to back, then book 4 a little later when it came out, then it was from 05 to 2011 for book 5. Now 5 years again. It's getting to be a lifetime thing lol. But at least we have the next season to commiserate on.
Yikes, it does sound like he's abusing his fame as an author. I mean, you said the last book came out in 2011?! But yeah, if they're big enough, I think they can get away with it and people will still read their stuff and therefore publishers will keep them on.ReplyDelete
Yeah Dance with Dragons came out in '11- it's hard to imagine it's been that long! He has us hooked. But after a while I get a little annoyed with the delay- I mean come on, who wants to wait years and years to get a story? That's why I think he should do something, whether it's release a smaller book so fans can get a peek (and give himself some room) or something- I don't know, but it's crazy.Delete
Hi Greg! I'm back in the blogosphere and catching up slowly with all the blog posts that I missed!ReplyDelete
I love this discussion post and I think I have to agree that YES, some authors are definitely too big to fail - and so too are they too big for the same laws that govern the rest of the universe. GRRM being a wonderful example.
While I love his work and I love the world of ASOIAF and I will OBVIOUSLY buy whatever comes out - I don't have to love the fact that I feel that he is abusing his power and privilege as one of those 'can't fail authors'. If he was anyone else I think he would have been dropped - but his success gives him this free pass. But there are other's out there who ALSO have near the same status and yet are not abusing this power.
For example one of my favourite authors SJ Maas has a HUGE following and fanatical fan base and yet she still manages to keep her deadlines of not one, but TWO epic fantasy series - A BOOK OF EACH PER YEAR. That's extremely prolific writing and wonderful dedication to her publishers AND her fans.
I can totally understand having issues with your creative process AND being a perfectionist, but really - will we ever see book 7? Let alone book 6... I'm doubtful. And sad. Mostly sad.
Hey welcome back! And yup, some are to big and got it made lol. And good point- there are some mega successful authors who still work and put out their books. It's not even that he owes us, it's that he has contracts with is publishers!Delete
And yes Maas come to mind- in fact a lot of the YA authors I've seen seem to have that work ethic. They get their books out. It's interesting that Martin released the first three books like two years apart- then the big schism happened. I know it's because he went back and reworked things, blah blah- got all that, but still... these 5+ year delay are kinda crazy. I highly doubt we'll see book 7... but maybe they'll do something else.
http://buff.ly/2ghJZ4u Some news? Or some non news news??? Interesting none the lessDelete
Hi Greg! A very interesting post. I agree with most of what you said.ReplyDelete
I don't think authors owe us anything. Ever. If they want to write 10 books and stop at book 8. Oh well. That's their right. If they have a publishing contract that covers all 10 books, they'll be in breach of their contract, but that is between them and their publishing house and their lawyers will deal with it.
The author doesn't owe me as a reader anything, but I don't owe him either. As a reader it is my right to no longer buy from this author.
I think who suffers most are new authors who aren't well known yet. People stop buying series until they're done and published. A publishing house tends to give a new author a contract for the first book and if that one sells you'll get a contract for more. (Sometimes publishing houses are convinced of your work and will give you a deal for several books from the beginning, but that's a risk for them, obviously.) If no one buys ongoing series because they know they'll always be kept waiting, people no longer will buy the first books and publishing houses will not offer a contract for the 2nd book.
Maybe the future is dropping the entire series at the same time? Just like Netflix drops the entire season at once?
Another problem I noticed with authors too big to fail. People like Anne Rice and Stephen King. They no longer get edited. Their first few books were tight and of a reasonable length. Now they sell like hot cakes, they can get away with telling their editor that they don't agree to the cuts and that they want the books to be published the way they wrote them. I can understand that. I write. And I'd be sad if someone came along and told me I have to cut out bits of it. But... the result are unedited books and the quality suffers.
P.S. I'm pretty sure Martin's publisher will wait until 2070 if necessary, because the book WILL sell. And if they'd drop him there'd be a bunch of other publishing houses lining up to sign him on.Delete
That's a great point, I hadn't thought of that. You're right, that would affect up-and-coming writers disproportionately, if people are waiting to binge (and let's face it, we hear that all the time, that people are waiting for the whole series to come out).Delete
Editing is big too. I know many have said that Martin could use an editor- or a stronger one anyway. His alst two books, while very good, are very meandering and expand the story in a huge way- which no doubt has contributed to the delays! Maybe a stronger willed editor would say "George you gotta bring this to a close, not keep expanding" or something to effect. And I agree- I've written just enough that editing can kind of hurt. :) But... you have to.
And yes they probably urge him along, but he's holding the cards.
I definitely think you're right about Martin, he's too big to fail. The reality is that ASoIaF is an insane cash cow for the publishing company, and the extended wait for the next book might even drive sales up.ReplyDelete
What I find interesting is some of the newer authors who've been building a "too big to fail" reputation. Take Sarah J. Maas for example: obviously, she's an author who can meet deadlines, since she's published liked 8 books since 2011. But even when her critics begin to go wild and her two series start feeling eerily similar, she always shoots to the top of the bestseller list and stays there. So long as she keeps on writing, it seems like SJM is too big to fail in some ways!
It still amazes me how big it is! I remember reading the first three back to back and telling friends. Then the show took off...Delete
You're the second one to mention Sarah Maas too, and I know she gets her books out. Which is awesome! I think she may be in that category too, you're right. :) Maybe instead of making us wait she'll just write series that like you said get very similar... a different kind of problem I guess lol.
Oy, this is such a great post, and such a loaded question for me. Because on one hand, I suppose it is kind of true that he doesn't "owe" us. But on the other... say you go to a doctor for a series of 3 heart surgeries. And then after two he's like "nah, I'm bored, but you signed with me, so no other doctor can finish" (I know that is extreme, and unrealistic, but just using it as an example). See, as a reader, you bought his books with the assumption that he would, you know, finish them. And like, I get that writing is hard, and he may need more time, but frankly, he seems to not give a shit? And that is the part that I think is kind of rude. Like, if he was having some struggles, say so! People would get it. But being dismissive about it makes it seem like you don't appreciate your fans- and let's face it, the fans are the ones who made him rich.ReplyDelete
As for the publisher... yeah, there isn't a damn thing they can do. Because of course they won't cut him loose, they're still making SO. MUCH. MONEY. Even if he never writes another word. So I get it. BUT I also feel like he isn't exactly getting any younger, nor does he look like the pillar of health so... I would probably push him a little harder if I was the pub. But is he too big to fail? Apparently, according to his fans, YEP. We'll see what happens if he NEVER finishes the series, though ;) So thought provoking!
All the business stuff aside... I am one of those readers who feel that no matter how big you are in the scheme of things, if you have loving fans you do owe them some semblance of respect. Maybe respect is too strong a word, but at least appreciation. It would be one thing if he were holing himself up in a cabin with no distractions in a location chosen for inspiration, and then coming up with nothing, but it sounds like he is not even making a solid effort, with his attention scattered all over the place.:PReplyDelete
I haven't read the books, nor watched the TV show... even though I was supposed to read the first book for class last year, and I do own it. I'm holding off on it, though, because I really don't want to be left hanging like all of you guys. I hate waiting! And even waiting one year is really hard sometimes, so I can't even imagine how frustrating it is five years later.ReplyDelete
It does seem like he can get away with it, though. And I bet the TV show has something to do with that.
Did you watch True Blood? I watched the first two seasons, I think, and I had read all the books that had been released before the show started. I felt like the tone of the books changed for those that were written after the TV show started airing, though. It was very different, a lot more sex, for one thing! And it seemed like the books tried to copy the show rather than the other way around. The last few books weren't all that good, and I ended up being very disappointed with the series for that reason :(
I do hope you'll get your next GRRM book soonish, but I guess it's a good idea to not hold your breath!
Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews
I think you're definitely correct that Martin gets way more leeway that almost any other author would. You're right that the publishers are pretty much stuck in this situation. I never really thought about it, but you describe it perfectly.ReplyDelete
Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction
Great question!! I definitely think some creative geniuses get to do what they want regardless of the medium. If the art is just THAT good, we let them get away with whatev. BUT-- I don't think J.K. Rowling could have gotten away with what Martin is doing. The Potter fandom would have probably showed up at her house and held her hostage until she wrote it.ReplyDelete
Ahh yes, this debate. I think you're right in saying that the VAST majority of authors couldn't afford to do something like that. Not writing when you have a contract, leaving a series unfinished, it's just not done. I wonder what other authors feel about Martin - they work their asses off just to get that contract and he's just not writing! And I know people say he's a genius, but honestly, he's not THAT much better than other writers, he just got really, really lucky with the HBO deal, I think. Sorry, I know you love his books.ReplyDelete
By the way - did you see Martin's latest announcement? He said that the last book will NOT be tying up all the loose ends - which is what I worried about when the series and the cast kept expanding. I am more glad than ever that I decided to give up on his books. It's probably a horrible thing to say but I don't like him very much right now.
I think so, once you've gotten to the point that GRRM has gotten to - even if Winds of Winter doesn't sell well (which seems HIGHLY unlikely), the series will continue to be a massive hit.ReplyDelete
While I think it is true that other big (HUGE) name authors get away with everything, I think they shouldn't get away with some. For example, some big name authors like Anne Rice don't get edited anymore and as a result, they weite whatever the H they want with no thoughts to quality. This is my personal opinion, though which is why I don't read her books anymore. I also think that bug name authors shouldn't get away with bad behavior. We do have a few that have them. SMHReplyDelete
As for GRRM and other authors, they don't owe us anything. If they don't finish a series, they are more than welcome NOT to. And we shouldn't care what his contract to his publishers say, the publishers undoubtedly have their own lawyers to look into that. But I will say that it IS frustrating to wait for a long time for a sequel or the next book in the series. But again, we can't hound him and pressure him to complete a subpar novel that others will harshly critique, right?