Publishing giant Penguin is taking several authors to court to recoup advances on manuscripts that were never delivered. What!? Things are tough enough in publishing these days without authors having to sit down and actually write a book. Does Penguin have any idea of what it takes for the average author to maintain their platform and keep their followers following them? Of course, they don’t. All they care about is editing and publishing manuscripts. Well, just to prove my point I did some quick research. I interviewed ten best-selling New York Times authors to see how they spent their days and why they don’t have the time to just sit around and write.
The following is how a typical best-selling author spends their time in an average* week:
Meals with editor/agent: 20 hours
Meals with family/friends: 7 hours
Social networking: 25 hours.
Social networking coach: 5 hours
Psychotherapist: 6 hours
Voice coach: 6 hours
Hair and makeup: 12 hours
Autograph/penmanship coach: 2 hours
Writing positive blurbs for other authors: 3 hours
Writing negative reviews for other authors: 6 hours
Accountant/financial adviser: 5 hours
Acupuncture: 7 hours
Yoga/Zumba: 8 hours
Readings: 12 hours
Folks, that’s a 114 hour week right there. And that doesn’t include massages or movies. You tell me, when is the poor writer supposed to write? In his sleep? Oh, maybe he should give up on sleeping altogether.
Here’s the thing that a smart publisher like Penguin doesn’t seem to understand: There are too many books out there already. Why are they harassing these poor over-worked authors to write more? People aren’t reading. They’re tweeting about reading.
I talked to one of the author’s who’s being sued by Penguin. (Name withheld because of the pending lawsuit.)
LU: You’re being sued for repayment on an advance of $50,000 on a historical romance novel that you never turned in? How do you plead?
Author: Not guilty. You have to understand my side of things. I got halfway through that novel and I got bored with it. The story wasn’t going anywhere. Why would I hand something like that in? I have my brand to think of.
LU: What did you do with the money?
Author: I spent it of course. If Penguin had any idea of what my monthly nut is they would get off my back.
LU: What will be your response in court?
Author: Oh, I’m suing the bastards. I’m a nervous wreck thanks to Penguin. I couldn’t write now if I wanted to. I can barely get through my weekly bridge game without bursting into tears.
LU: Perhaps you could turn this whole thing into a tell-all?
Author: Not another f****** book. But it is something I might pitch to PBS or HBO as a documentary. I don’t want this to happen to other authors.
Next week: Penguin Squacks Back
*Note this is an approximation. Authors’ time varies greatly. For example, author A spends two hours with her acupuncturist as compared to author B who only requires a 30-minute session.