I read an article on James Patterson, a bestselling thriller author. He writes formula thrillers based on what elements are marketable to the sector he’s targeting. I’m not saying that to be insulting—that’s what he says about himself, basically. He’s also heavy into the marketing and promotion of his books. I find him curiously admirable and oddly appalling. Mostly, though, admirable, I guess. He decided what he wanted to be -- a bestselling author -- and then he went about doing whatever it took to make that happen, based on his prior marketing expertise. Good for him.
But he’s almost exactly the kind of author I don’t want to be. I don’t know. Tool sang, “I sold out before you ever heard my name/ I sold my soul to make a record.” Maybe if I knew a winning formula, I wouldn’t be ashamed to apply it. Maybe I would be.
I talked to Glen Cook at a convention once, for a half hour or so. He writes science fiction and fantasy – quite a variety of both, in fact – but he’s best known for the Black Company books. There are, I don’t know, seven or eight of them now, maybe more. I read the first five or so, but they got too depressing for me. (And they were not cheerful upbeat stories to start with.) I told him about that, and that he seemed to be getting tired of writing them. He explained that, yes, he was, really. But his publisher would pay him a lot of money for a new Black Company book And not very much at all for a book on some brand-new subject. People loved the Black Company novels. They wanted to read more about them. Did he really want to spend six month or a year working on something new, that maybe only a few people would read, that wouldn’t earn him much money? Just because he thought it was a good idea? Or did he want to give everyone what they were asking him for: another Black Company book?
It seemed terribly unfair.
I have no idea what I’m doing.