Pacing yourself

Literary agent Steven Axelrod knows the pressures of authorship and the romance marketplace intimately. With publishers expecting more content faster from their writers in an increasingly competitive and constantly transforming industry, new authors face tough challenges.


What are the pressures of a first contract?

It’s like getting a promotion way over your level of experience. You know, you show a lot of promise and, you know, now all of a sudden—but you’ve not repeated the trick serially, and now all of a sudden you have a deadline, you have financial penalties if you don’t, and the pressure can be very considerable. And it’s a very, very isolated job. Writing is incredibly isolated. You know, people come here, they get all dressed up, they put on sort of their game face, but their real work is done, you know, in a room in front of a monitor. That’s, you know, really what they know. It can be very tough on people.

What is the pace for writers today?

There is a lot of pressure, yeah. I think that, you know, as the market has changed, one of the things that the market likes is, you know, a really fast cycle from book to book and it rewards that. So, the publishers are putting pressure simply because the market is putting pressure on them. They’re putting pressure on the authors to produce, you know, faster and faster and faster. One author, Jayne Ann Krentz, you know, could happily write six, you know, Silhouettes in a year. Those are shorter books, 50,000-60,000 words, but they all had, you know, individual plots and individual characters and had complexity to them. You know, a lot of people were writing, four big books per year or two big books a year. Now, they’re trying to, you know, sort of do more, but it’s also very tough if you want to have a life. If it’s going to be a career, you know, and if the publishers aren’t as happy as they could be about it, you know, you need to have a life and, you know, we don’t need you crashing and burning.

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