That's my fourth manuscript for delivery this year. I've got one more due, and if I am extremely, extremely talented and give up sleep and Christmas, I'll turn a sixth one in right at the very end of this year or very early next year.
This ties in nicely to matociquala's recent post regarding literary agent raleva31's post about writing in more than one genre, in which Charles Stross also discusses how he got in over his head. Ebear and Charlie, whom I regard sort of as my very specific contemporaries in this whole publishing gig*, are both also neck-deep in novels, and anyone with a modicum of sense would take none of us as reasonable role models on how to approach publishing. Their comments and posts cover what's happened to them; I'm going to, right now, take a look at what's happened to me.
Just slightly less than 3 years ago I got an offer for URBAN SHAMAN and two sequels. I was, at the time, about halfway done with the second book, THUNDERBIRD FALLS, and had two other books, HEART OF STONE (urban fantasy, first of a planned trilogy) and RIGHT ANGLES TO FAERYLAND (young adult fantasy, stand-alone but with others planned in the setting), finished and waiting to have something done with them. I also had two soft SF things with 50K written on each of them, and a couple other proposal-length things. I told arcaedia about them, and while we were discussing my career I outlined my plan to conquer the universe. It went something like, "In the long term I'd like to get into writing straight mysteries too, and be doing three or four books a year under however many names are necessary to make that work."
Jenn said, "Uh-huh."
I mean, she didn't really. She was much, much politer than that. But in essense, uh-huh. All first-time authors say that sort of thing. Everybody has big plans to conquer the universe. Just wait for reality to hit, kid..
About five months later I emailed my editor a paragraph-long idea for a Bombshell series, got a, "Let's see a proposal," on it, and sold THE CARDINAL RULE and THE FIREBIRD DECEPTION on spec. I'd never sold anything on spec. That was exciting, in a nail-biting way, and it did something I honestly didn't expect: I went from being a 1 title a year writer to a 3 title a year writer without leaving the umbrella company I was writing for in the first place. This was, frankly, way the holy living hell faster than I expected to accomplish the "writing three or four books a year" thing. (Fortunately, for some value of fortunately, I also got laid off that month, so I suddenly had the time to write that much.)
This was enough to keep me busy. This was enough to keep most people busy. But I still had HEART OF STONE lying around, and after arcaedia made me do a rewrite on it (and then another), we sent it to Luna, because my contract specified that anything appropriate to the Luna line went there first. Now, Luna'd *turned down* HoS before I sold them SHAMAN, so I figured they'd turn it down again. So, in fact, did Jenn, especially after the feedback we'd gotten from the editors--basically, they loved the idea, couldn't quite figure out what to do with it.
So, feeling pretty safe in my expectation that Luna was not going to buy that series, I pitched it to Betsy Mitchell at Del Rey when the opportunity arose. She wanted to see it.
Two days later Luna offered on it.
Jenn said, "What do I tell Betsy?"
I, ever so brightly, said, "Ask her if she'd like to see something else!" and we sent her one of the 50K sf proposals.
She bought it.
Let us now step back and regard what I had gotten myself into.
The Walker Papers (3 books, 2 of which had been turned in)
The Strongbox Chronicles (2 books, both of which had been delivered)
The Old Races (3 books, all due before the first one is published)
The Queen's Bastard books (which needs a series title; 2 books, 50K of one of which was written)
So I had 6 books due over about 30 months, really. Not so bad.
Then Bombshell bought not only the 3rd Strongbox Chronicle, but the *entire* next trilogy. _Four_ books.
10 books. 30 months. OMFG.
Ok, ok, let's not panic. It's not as bad as it looks: HEART OF STONE needed revising, but not *writing*. COYOTE DREAMS was 2/3rds done at that point. I turned both of those in in the first quarter of 2006, leaving me with 8 books in 27 months. QUEEN'S BASTARD is a third written, so that's a hell of a head start.
This is more or less the point at which I throw up my hands and can say nothing except, "I swear to God I know it looks (and is) insane, but I wouldn't have gotten myself into it if I couldn't do it," because trying to convince anyone that I'm not insane is, well, insane. Jenn said a lot of soothing things like, "Just because they're throwing themselves at you doesn't mean you have to say yes to it all," and, "Are you *sure* you can do this?", as well as used words like, "Unprecedented," and, "This doesn't happen." (I had _one_ book on the shelves when this all went down.)
I do not actually recommend this course of action. I write fast and I had a fair bit piled up, or I would never have done it to myself. But I have .certainly. accomplished what I set out to, if in a considerably different manner than I expected. I'm going to have 3 C.E. Murphy books coming out a year for the next couple years, which is really, really not what I imagined. I figured there'd be one C.E. Murphy book, one or two Cate Dermodys, maybe a Catie Murphy (which is what I intend to write YA under), not _three_ under C.E. and a couple under Dermody. Buh. But one of the truly astonishing things was that we discussed the Del Rey books coming out under a slightly different name, maybe Catherine E. Murphy, and Betsy decided to go with C.E. because she was buying the brand.
Now, don't get me wrong: my whole *reason* for writing under multiple names was the branding thing. But having one book out and having somebody decide that yeah, that's enough to establish the brand and make the name worth keeping, is ... holy moly. And I'm happy about that, because part of what this mad rush in these first few years is about is the shelf space. I'm *delighted* things are going out under the Murphy name, and I'm trusting my publishers recognize how to deal with branding and that the urban fantasy bent of 2/3rds of what'll be under that name and the soft SF for the other third isn't going to be a problem. (It's certainly working for Charlie and eBear so far.)
So, yeah. There I am. That's how I ended up where I am. It is an actively different manner of getting here than either eBear or Charlie took, and there's unquestionably lunacy involved in it all, but to summarize, yes, you should probably be *extremely* confident of your ability to write at least two books a year before you start trying to jump genres. And even if you are confident, be careful. :)
(Actually, the part I think is probably *insane* is that I'm writing and soon to submit a *comic book* as my *hobby*. I need *help*, don't I?)
*I have no idea how eBear and Charlie might feel about this. We all three of us write very very differently, and Charlie's a couple years ahead of my curve in publishing novels (he's a short story genius and has been publishing *those* for ages), and eBear's about a year ahead of me in the timeline. But that's not very much time, in the publishing industry, and we are all three working our way through avalanches of books, so I feel a sort of cameraderie there. :)
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