Monday, September 28, 2020

Authors' release schedules: making promises or commitments, and keeping them

Man holding head frustrated

Okay, I'm going to admit this right upfront. This is going to be a ranty post with me expressing some frustration, so if you are not up for that, you can read the next post or check out some older posts when I'm not a cranky-pants.

I was chatting with a favorite author recently. She had just wrapped up two much-loved series, one was a very long-running series with twenty books and another a spin-off from a popular series. To say I'm sad about these series ending is putting it mildly, but they did end well, so I'm happy with that. I messaged to ask what was next, and she told me her plans for a new series and also finishing up another series. Then she mentioned that she needed to work out her release schedule for 2021. Yeesh, did you know 2021 is only a few months away?

It got me thinking because this author is fantastic at delivering what she promises. If she says she's working on a particular book, then she'll tease about the book in a little bit, but she sticks to her schedule, and the book will drop on or around when she's promised. She has a release schedule, and she sticks to it. This is great for us readers because it means we know what's coming, and there's the sense of excitement and anticipation of something to look forward to. I know I was particularly excited about the recent new book coming out, even though it was the last book in the series. Definitely bittersweet.

Calendar on wall

Thing is, having a release schedule, and sticking to it is discipline and perseverance. It's a sign of a dedicated author who is serious about their craft and career. I get that life happens and can throw a spanner in the works. Look at this year. It's been crazy. But let me tell you, this author has been homeschooling her kids, her husband is probably working from home (I don't know this part), but she still fits time into her schedule to write and produce books ON SCHEDULE.

I mentioned to her (okay, I went off on a tangent and ranted) that I admired her discipline and how she has a schedule she sticks to and delivers what she promises. I know of authors who don't, which drives me batty (more on that later). But the thing is, she said that setting up a schedule and sticking to it takes effort and work. It took a little while to get used to it and find her flow and process, but the important thing is to sit down and write and write what's planned. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not, but the key is sticking to it. She said "I don't buy the whole muse thing. Sit in a chair and write. Using the muse is an excuse or procrastination, I think. Some books are harder to write, some are easier". Her point is that it's important to just write.

Tennis ball spinning

I know of an author who is all over the shop. She's a prolific writer, but she's one of those people who lives by the philosophy of "I'm going to throw shit at the wall and see what sticks." She's tried many times to stick to a release schedule, but within a month or even a couple of weeks, she derails herself because her "muse" or her "mood" takes her in another direction, so she's always starting new books and series, rebranding old books, and dropping random books with no rhyme or reason. Readers have no idea what to expect from her, and she's now got so many unfinished series floating around that I've given up on even bothering to follow her or read her books. I will not continue to start reading unfinished series after unfinished series with no end in sight. And her recent books are a hot mess of interconnected stories between multiple series that are just too complicated to follow. "If you want to know what happens to A, then you need to read B, and also a bit of C, to find out that D took place, which will be concluded in E." I do not have the patience to put up with that. I may have had a certain loyalty to see that through at one point, but after having my patience toyed with over the past year, I'm done. She claims that she can only write where her muse takes her. I say it's a cop-out. Be an adult, pull up your grown-up pants, and sit yourself down and be disciplined. This is not a "life happens" scenario where something uncontrollable like a terrible accident or an illness of a family member derails things. This is a lack of structure and method. And it's frustrating. Randomly dropping books, even if you're dropping books regularly, does not constitute a plan when you write a couple of books in a series, abandon, it start a new series, then rinse and repeat. And yeah, none of what I'm saying is a secret. Most of this is on the author's social media and even in the author's note of some of her books. Honey, I've got news for you. Throwing shit at the wall doesn't always stick. (In case you were wondering, this is the rant part of this post).

Red cross

I'd like to reiterate that I understand when life happens. I understand about emergencies and accidents and health issues. I've been waiting about six years for a book that an author has promised which I supported via a Kickstarter. Over the years, the book has never eventuated, and I know this author has had some serious health issues. Recently, it looks like she has started refunding supporters because it looks like the book is never going to happen. I get that. I get when health issues can be so debilitating that it gets in the way of work. I've had that happen to me. I got so ill towards the end of a particular project that I had to quit my job, and I didn't work for almost a year to recover my health. That job burnt me out that badly.

I guess the point I wanted to make (and have a rant) is that it's possible to have a schedule and stick to it. It doesn't matter if your schedule is a book a year, two books a year, or a book a month. The point is that as an author, you deliver what you promise to your readers, and if you don't, then there better be a reason why not. You don't need to say much. I don't think readers expect all the details (some may, but that's not me), but even a one-liner explaining things is enough. "I'm sorry, my book is delayed due to the current situation with the pandemic" is enough. I did see an author make a statement on their social media saying that their release schedule will slow down because they are dealing with kids at home from school, homeschooling, and a myriad of other things with the pandemic. I get that. Life happens. But even if it's a delayed plan, some plan is better than no plan or random throwing shit at the wall to see if it sticks.

Alpha Night by Nalini Singh Archangel's Sun by Nalini Singh A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

Readers have certain expectations of authors they follow. I get that some readers can be unreasonable, but mostly, if an author has a plan outlined and sticks to it, rather than announcing something and then changing it mid-stride frequently, most readers tend to be happy because they know what to expect. At the very least, I'd the say reasonable ones would be. I don't mind waiting a year for a book if I know that's what's planned, and the book is on the horizon. I frequently wait a year for a book from my favorite authors but take one of my favorite authors, Nalini Singh, for example. I know that I will always get a Psy-Changeling book early in the year, and then later in the year, a Guild Hunter book. If she has time, then maybe an extra contemporary she's working on or recently, a new thriller. I know I can count on this. My Steve has a favorite author. We know for a fact that for as long as the author continues to write, there will always be a new book sometime in September. Not always the exact same date in September, but during the month. Usually, it's the first half of the month. That's also something we can count on until the publisher decides they no longer want to publish those books. I can't even begin to tell you the number of times I've heard readers complain about some author or other not delivering in a planned release or asking when a book is coming out because there's been radio silence or the author has done a complete one-eighty and started publishing something new without delivering on previous commitments. If you tell your readers that you're planning to release a particular book at a particular time, that's a commitment. If you start a series, it behooves you to eventually finish it instead of starting something else new and shiny that has caught your attention and abandoning a series you've become bored of. And if you abandon a series, there better be a good reason because readers have become invested in those characters and stories. (This was another part of the rant. It seems I feel strongly about this topic. :-p)

Right! That's me and my rant. Now tell me. How do you feel about authors' release schedules? Do you not care because there are so many other authors releasing books all the time that you always have something to read? Or do you like to know when your favorite author has another book planned, and you want to be ready for it to drop and read?

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  1. As a writer, I sympathize with the artist. As a reader, I completely agree with the rant. Lol. I want my books ON TIME.

    1. It's all about setting the right expectations and being consistent.

  2. As a reader, I completely agree. Sometimes I would rather an author refrains from making promises, than seeing the release schedules postponed all the time. I also get authors want to make money and when the profit on a certain series is not what they want, they kinda feel like ditching it. However, you're bound to piss off readers that are fans and committed to said series. Even die hard fans have limits to what they can put up with.

    1. I know some authors who have abandoned series that have not done well and left readers hanging with no closure. It's a hard balance between writing a book that makes money vs completing a series because of reader expectations. It's frustrating when it's a series that you've been following and will never get closure for.