Galbraith or Rowling?


Whether you believe that this week’s revelation that Galbraith’s novel was actually written by J K Rowling is a publishing scam or an accident, it underlines how difficult and slow it is to launch a writer.

Personally, I believe David Shelley that it wasn’t a callous marketing exercise, but I know the pressures on publishers to make money on authors quickly.  I can imagine a publisher losing their nerve and resorting to stunts, if sales aren’t fast enough, and you know a simple act on your part could change that overnight.

The problem is that producers and publishers – or the people who own and fund them – want faster results than the business will usually deliver.  I’m told a fast movie takes 7 years.  A fast sale will take maybe 6 weeks to make, if you exclude the time it takes to have everything in place to do a fast sale: your relationship with the writer, your relationship with the buyer, and the writer’s development time on the idea.  I’ve done a film deal in a week, but usually a fast negotiation takes three.

For a writer to develop their craft, probably allow 10 years starting when they begin to be interesting, around the age of 40.

For a brand to be successful, a generation?  Two?

Granted, there are notable exceptions, but it’s much more common for ‘overnight successes’ to have taken decades.

So to dump a writer if they’re not bringing in money quickly enough is like putting a few coins in a piggy bank, then smashing it, spending the cash and starting again.  The whole business – writers, agents, publishers, producers, and investors – have to choose to produce good work, and patiently keep putting the coins in that bank.