In Which I Compare Publishing to an Inept Bakery

I have something I want to say to publishers, and I’ve wanted to say it for a long time.

(Editors: I love what you do. This isn’t directed your way.)

Please, please, please give the authors enough time to write their books properly.

My fear is that I sound naïve saying this. I’m sure there are reasons for the publishing schedule. I mean, it makes sense, even to my math-challenged mind, that the more you produce the more profit you make. I get that. It’s a business. And readers, at least according to Goodreads reviews on unpublished sequels, sometimes proclaim their outrage that they have to wait a whole year (gasp! whine!) for the next installment of their favorite series. And I get that too. BUT.

Writing books is also an art and a craft. There’s a tension here with the business side of publishing, because it’s not like books are produced on an assembly line. There is no way to regulate the creation of books. Each author’s process and timetable to write a book is different, and even the same author might have a different process from one book to the next. And whereas they might have needed only a year between all the rest of their books, there may come that one pain in the butt manuscript that needs six more months to mature.

And this is the tension: consistent production or consistent product?

I’d say consistent product. Why do I say this? Why am I even thinking about this?

I read a book recently from one of my favorite authors, whom I don’t want to name because even the thought of being disloyal to one of her books fills me with shame (I am nothing if not loyal).

And while it was good, I thought—KNEW—that it could have been so much better than it was. I estimated that she needed another six months with that sucker to bring it up to the same level of artistry as its predecessor. But deadlines, man. They got to her. It was still a good book, even a great one, but the structure and plot at times seemed wild and unfocused.

It’s a bit like cooking when you think about it.

When I came home from Italy with pages and pages of recipes (except for not really. Italians don’t use recipes. What I brought home were scribblings and ingredient lists), I went on a cooking spree for my family. One night I made a red sauce with sausages and my older sister,who is an excellent cook,  was hungry, so she kept telling me to put a lid on my sauce so it would cook faster. I refused, despite the fact that she’s a better cook than me, because those dear Italians who taught me to cook showed me how important the details are. I had to leave the lid off and cook it on the lowest heat, which gave the sauce time to reduce and slow cook to perfection. And even though it took longer, everyone in my family agreed that the result was worth the wait (it soooo is. That sauce is NOM NOM NOM).

And while I’m thinking about it: more food analogies! Sometimes publishing schedules remind me of an inept bakery that bakes cookies, cakes, pies, breads, etc., all in the same oven, at the same temperature, and for the same amount of time, all while expecting that the cookies, cakes, pies, breads, etc., will turn out as they should. Except—they won’t. Each item has specific baking requirement for it to turn out. If I bake a batch of cookies in the same oven as a loaf of bread, either the cookies will burn or the bread will be doughy.

And maybe I’m in a minority of readers who would rather wait longer to have a better product, but somehow I doubt that’s the case. I bet a lot of readers would agree with me. Do you?


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