Saturday, October 17, 2015

October 17 2015. I often think that it is much harder to come up with the right question than the right answer.




Do you feel any pressure being a NYT Best Selling Author?

Do you feel the pressure that you need to consistently put out work that break into the NYT Best Seller list? Thanks for your time and dig your cover photo!

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Thanks for the question and your kinds words about the photo. Sometimes the camera can be kinder than I deserve.

My respect for Wiselike is increasing. Initially, I was slightly taken aback by the fact that several of the questions came from Anonymous (who is this guy?). The reason for that was then explained to me--but, that apart, I have been impressed by the quality of the questions.

A perceptive question is a wonderful thing--because it gets the blood coursing and truly stimulates the mind.

I felt a lot of pressure after I first became a Best Selling Author--and probably didn't handle it is well as I could. I guess I shouldn't be entirely surprised by this, because no matter how much you have read about the impact of success, the reality is very different--and you get remarkably little guidance.

In movies, the author's agent is not infrequently the author's mentor friend--and I tried for just such a relationship--and I had a very famous and well-regarded agent. However, the reality is that agents tend to be closest to publishers--and an author is, by and large, merely a means to an end. When you are hot, you get great attention. When you are out of favor, you tend to get dropped like a stone. You are told only what fits the various agendas concerned.

Integrity is in short supply in the publishing business. In fact, the classic author joke--an old one, by the way, about publishers--is that the definition of fiction is a publisher's royalty statement.

I don't think I have ever encountered a more slippery, devious, dishonest, and Machiavellian world than that of traditional publishing-- and I am someone with considerable experience of other business, politics, and the Pentagon.

It has to do with the facts that the gap between creative writing and publishing is deep and wide.

The writer would like fame and fortune, but primarily wants to create--and to connect with, and be appreciated by, readers.

The publisher wants to buy cheap and sell dear--and in volume. Despite platitudes to the contrary, most publishers are not into building authors. They are opportunists. As always, there are exceptions--but they are just that.

The situation has been made much worse by the corporatization of publishing. When I was first published, they were 50 major publishers--of the kind who paid advances. Roughly 25 years later, there are five--and publishing staff have been sacked in huge numbers--and significant numbers of mid-list authors have been dropped. A mid-list author is someone who has a good following, and can probably make a living out of writing, but hasn't yet cracked the Best Seller market. Some of the more interesting authors come into this category.

Best Sellers come largely from an investment decision by the publishers concerned--and are not necessarily a consequence of good commercial writing.

It is sobering to contemplate how many thousands of lives were wrecked though corporatization--and how much talent and expertise was lost.

This carnage had already started when I was first published, so I was dealing with a climate of fear--and fearful people rarely behave well. Some did. Most did not.

Spend some time with authors, who have been published by traditional firms, and you will hear horror story after horror story--to a degree that is risible.

Here, I would add that almost all the authors I have known--which is quite a few--have been helpful, many exceptionally so. I can only think of one exception--the late Tom Clancy. As it happens, I was compared favorably in many reviews to him--though haven't enjoyed anything like his commercial success (nonetheless, I have done better than I would ever have thought possible).

I got the brush-off from Tom Clancy.

What saved me was my fan mail. Readers started to write to me by the thousands (even though I hadn't included my website until the paperback edition of my third book), and I was able to distinguish between my publisher's lies and omissions--and what my readers really thought.

I stopped counting at 7,000. I have no idea what the total is now.

After that, much encouraged, I settled into crafting a way of life whereby I could leverage my NYT Best Seller status into accessing a lifestyle which I felt was worthwhile--independent of publishing politics--and not driven primarily by either fame or money. What I was after, and found, was creative and intellectual satisfaction--and fulfillment.

It took time, and I have made mistakes, but I have been highly successful in that regard--and give thanks every day that I gave up conventional business for writing.

I love the process itself. To write is joy.

It is my passion, pleasure, and privilege--and has given me extraordinary access, and all the adventures a man could desire (and I love adventures).

Traditional publishing was ripe for a revolution--and, fortunately, Amazon came along and delivered just that. The downside is that we authors today have to be nearly as much businessman as writers--in that we have to do all sorts of things traditionally done by publishers.

I still think, the end result is going to be better for both writers and readers--and to that end I have stockpiled manuscripts and will be launching my own publishing company next year. I look forward to handling other authors as well. We will decidedly not be a traditional publisher--but I think we need to work out some kind of cooperative basis for handling matters other than the writing itself.

It's exhausting, exciting--and it's fun.

I'll be setting up a blog to describe all this fairly shortly. Meanwhile, I blog at

If I can help, let me know.

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