Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Author's Job

I was watching Jennifer Byrne Presents: Bestsellers & Blockbusters on Channel 2 last night. I'm not a regular viewer of the First Tuesday Book Club and hadn't even noticed this special was to be on but I didn't turn off as quickly as I usually do after QI. I was very glad I didn't too because Jennifer Byrne's guests were best selling genre authors, Lee Child, Bryce Courtney, Di Morrissey and Matthew Reilly.

In a wide ranging discussion they talked about much more than the process of writing. Very interesting to me was that they pointed out that, although they are very productive and successful commercially, because they are genre writers there is a tendency to look down on them as if they aren't real writers. They made the point that just because they write a thriller it doesn't mean they haven't had to put in the work. Di Morrissey took particular offence at reviewers and critics who claim she 'churns' books out to a formula. For a start, she said, there really is no formula. Genre writers have to spend time and effort on the quality of their writing, polishing it in the same way as any other writer. She is right of course. There are only a few plots in the world and they are used over and over again by all writers. What is important is what those writers bring to a simple plot line, the detail and variation that makes it different and catches the imagination of the reader.

They also had much to say about promotion and marketing and other aspects of book selling. The publishing business has changed dramatically from the days (if in fact they ever existed) when you handed over your carefully typewritten manuscript, caught the eye of an editor, who loving worked through every detail before it reached the shelves in a blaze of publicity so it sold in vast numbers. Authors these days have much more responsibility for promotion of their work and it is just as important as the carefully crafted story. Although I sort of knew this it was really brought home to me by the guests at Swancon this year and here it is being hammered home again.

You can view a video of the show here. I highly recommend it.

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