Another Five Things You Thought You Knew About Authors

Another 5 things you thought you knew about Authors . . .

1: Writing a book is easy.

Of course it is. Basically, all authors lie for a living. They just make stuff up and write it down. And, even better than that, they’re brimming with ideas, so all they have to do is jot a few words on a piece of paper (or type them in to the computer if that’s their thing), then send it off to their publisher and wait for the cash to roll in.

Except that’s a load of balls. It’s not easy. It takes a long time and a lot of concentration to write a novel, and often the author thinks of almost nothing else. Ever. Which means everyone around them thinks they’re an absent minded fool. And even once the book is written, it has to go through a lengthy process of editing (and more editing), line-editing, copy-editing and proof-reading before it ever sees the light of day.  Okay, it’s not brain surgery, but it is harder than popping out to the corner shop for a pint of milk.

shouting at it doesn’t help. I’ve tried.

2: Published authors spend their day watching TV

Writing is a kind of part time job. Actually even ‘part time’ is a bit of an exaggeration. I mean, really, it’s just a case of mooching about for a bit in a silky dressing gown, waving your hands about, watching day time TV and occasionally making a few notes. And everyone knows that if writers aren’t watching TV, they’re getting drunk. Or taking mind-altering drugs. Well, Hunter S Thompson did it, right? It’s what authors do – after all, it’s just making stuff up, and people do that all the time.

Err, no. Books don’t write themselves. The only way those words get on that piece of paper, is if the writer knuckles down and gets on with it. They have to be disciplined in their craft and that can’t happen if they’re watching Jeremy Kyle or Loose Women. Or if they’re drunk. Which brings me nicely to the next point . . .

irrisistible to writers

3: Authors wait for inspiration.

Ah yes, the muse. Or Muses as it should be.

no, not them . . .

I’m talking mythological muses, of course, not the popular beat combo from Devon. There are nine of these ladies on hand to inspire literature, science and the arts. They are the source of true knowledge and come only to those who wait. People now think of the muse as an ethereal thing rather than nine foxy ladies, but the end result is the same. When they visit, they bring that glorious moment of epiphany when the heavens open and the light shines in and the moment strikes to write with perfection. All authors experience this. And to invite the muse in, authors must lounge about, drink and wait for her to come.

Which is bollocks, of course. If authors sat around waiting for the light to shine in, they’d be waiting about forever. No. Writing means . . . writing. It doesn’t mean sitting about waiting for inspiration. It means putting words down and then changing them and changing them and changing them until they’re right. You know the thing about genius being one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration? Well, that pretty much sums it up – without the genius part. And without the one percent part. Most books are probably 99.9% perspiration and 0.1% inspiration.

. . . THEM!

4: If an author’s editor likes it, it gets published.

This one is a personal favourite. I, and many other authors like me, have all probably suffered from this lapse in coherent thought. The idea that one person’s opinion might really matter. The notion that if an editor likes an author’s work, then the wheels are set in motion and when they have finished turning, a finished book pops out of the other end and finds its way onto a bookshelf in . . . well, it would have to be Waterstones these days.

But no! Back in the day, when publishers worked in smoky offices and shouted at each other like JJ Jameson in the Spiderman comics, that might have been the case, but now we live in the age of the committee. So if an editor likes a book, they have to get everyone else to like it so that when they sit around the table, a consensus can be reached. And the book must be judged not only on whether it’s any good but also on a lot of other ‘-abilities’ including marketability and sellability and, well you get the picture. A book is no longer a book. It’s not art. It’s a product. Like cakes or shoes. Except not as tasty. And you can’t wear them.

where dreams are made

5: Selling film rights is the key to success

Ah, the zenith of an author’s career. Nirvana. The film. Because that’s where the money is. And when an author decides to have a film based on their book, they just give Hollywood a call and let them know. All authors have a direct line to Hollywood, much line Commissioner Gordon has a direct line to Batman in the cheesey ’60s show, and they have a quick chat with the film man to sort out a few details. And when the film man he say ‘yes’ Like the man from Del Monte does), it’s time choose astar, pick a director and sit back to watch the $$$ come rollin’ in.

Except (you guessed it, right?) It’s not like that at all. It’s about selling rights. You see, what happens is that whoever retains the rights (author or publisher) has to tout the book about and persuade someone to buy an ‘option’. When a studio (or Leonardo DiCaprio) options a book, they sign an agreement with the author/publisher that details exclusive rights regarding the novel. And that’s basically it. It doesn’t mean a film will appear in the next year. It doesn’t mean a film will ever appear. In fact it just means someone has the right to make a film. Nothing more. The ‘option’ usually has a time limit, maybe a few years, so if the film is never made, the rights become available again for someone else to buy and not make a film. Oh, and the payment involved is usually quite small. And . . . who am I kidding, wouldn’t it be amazing to ‘option’ your book to a Hollywood studio?

Of course it’s what authors want.

The bragging rights alone would be priceless.

hooray for Hollywood!

That’s all.


4 thoughts on “Another Five Things You Thought You Knew About Authors

  1. Oh, I’d love to have those sorts of bragging rights… but I guess I’ll have to settle for shouting at the laptop screen and avoiding Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women (actually, I’d do that anyway – they all terrify me!). Great post, Dan!

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