Author Dynasties

I don’t particularly like Sue Grafton’s books, but I do admire her — she left her legacy as is, her series unfinished, and would not allow anyone to step up after her death and keep her characters alive.

Too many authors didn’t make that decision before they died, so their heirs made it afterward. For example, some classics are being brought back to life when authors today write unsanctioned sequels to beloved favorites, such as those who pretend to channel Jane Austen or Daphne Du Maurier. 

One of the few times posthumous writing was warranted was when Robert Jordan died before he could finish his modern classic, the fourteen volume Wheel of Time series. Another writer was hired to work with Jordan’s wife and Jordan’s copious notes to finish the series. Can you imagine going through decades with all those thousands of characters and millions of words only to be left hanging on the wheel without a resolution? So yes, it had to be finished. But once it was, it was done. There will be no more Robert Jordan books.

But some stories and authors’ names that do not need to be kept alive are still going for no other reason than to milk the money machine. 

Some fellow is now writing Michael Crichton’s books. And another fellow is keeping Robert Parker’s Spenser alive. Who needs these books? They are not the author’s words, not the author’s vision — just some pale vision of the vision.

A new thing now is for the literary name is passed to the next generation. Michael Palmer’s son is now writing Michael Palmer books. Lee Child’s son will be taking over is father’s series.

And what the heck is going on with James Patterson? The way he’s spawning co-authors, his name will be one of the last words uttered when the earth falls into the sun.

This is what happens when an author’s name becomes a brand. I never used to pay attention to authors’ names except as a way of finding more books to read, and neither did anyone else, at least not to the extent that holds true today. The title was the main thing; the author’s name almost an afterthought. But branding and modern publishing changed all that. Now it’s the author who’s paramount, and no one cares what drivel is passed along to the reading public under the famous brand. (I got caught with a Michael Palmer book written by his son because the famous name was in huge letters, the title in a smaller type, and the writer’s name all but swallowed up in the graphic on the very bottom. So not nice!)

It used to be as one author’s star waned, another’s would rise, but what’s happened to all those non-rising stars? What will happen to readers when the brands finally are laid to rest? Not that it matters. There are plenty of books for me to read, and when there aren’t any more books that I like, I’ll write more of my own.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

 

A Writer’s Life (Guest Blog by Bestselling Author Michael Palmer)

I asked bestselling author Michael Palmer if he’d like to be a guest on my blog, and he graciously consented. (You can see an expurgated version of our email conversation here.) Need I say how thrilled I am? Most thrilling of all, instead of sending me an article he’d posted elsewhere, he wrote this piece especially for the readers of Bertram’s Blog. Please join me in welcoming Michael Palmer to the blogosphere.

I want to thank pat for inviting me to be a guest blogger……I will be writing the way I write e-mails and get out of creator’s block-relaxed with no consistent punctuation, no caps unless I feel like it…..what pops into my head is what you get

I tried blogging once-three times, actually, on amazon when I was pushing the first patient…..it felt like I was better off working on my book…..it’s a little like the hallowed book tour…..i could never figure those out……so much money, so little exposure (in some cities I have been to, the books weren’t in any stores)……it used to be you could combine a signing with a day of media work, but the papers aren’t all that interested any more (even in a fine fellow like me, with 13 NY times best sellers and a job taking care of doctors with drug and alcohol problems)……there are very few talk radio shows (I used to bop into a studio and talk with the host for an hour, even two-that was my favorite)…..the TV shows like good morning Cleveland are mostly gone……so on recent tours, I hit a town, stay in the best hotels, and spend the whole day before an evening signing racing (with an escort) from store to store, pounding flesh like a desperate politician and doing everything short of standing in front of a barnes & noble yelling “puleeeeeese buy my book!!!!”)……then, comes the signing-15 – 115 depending on how aggressive the events people are (often “kids” on their first job)….. now don’t get me wrong…..i’m incredibly grateful for what my publishers and the industry and the booksellers and the readers have given me……I live in the big house on the hill and love it up here (there, I said it and I’m glad) but I am also a realist……book tours are done many times because the publishers are afraid to tell their big ticket authors that there isn’t going to be one…..

It is always a painful moment for me when a new author excitedly says to me that they have their first book coming out and “what can I do to get people to buy it??……first I tell them to sit down, that they’re not going to enjoy what I have to say……then I tell them: THE ONLY THING YOU CAN REALLY DO THAT WILL HELP SELL YOUR BOOK IS TO WRITE ANOTHER BOOK……authors do from time to time catch lightning in a bottle—but mostly it’s a matter of improving your skill, learning from your mistakes, and producing……

For my February release, the second opinion, I will not be going away from home…..a signing in Nashua, new Hampshire (I’ll be there on 2/20/09) or at the boston public library (3/3/09 – reception and talk open to the public) is really no different than a sweep through Denver (pray it doesn’t snow) or Nashville or Miami……there are so many cities……publishers budget funds for each book, and when those are gone, no more publicity…..would I rather have a two week tour away from my kid and word processor and favorite pillow, or a full page ad in the times??…..you can answer that one……often it’s either or, though not necessarily on the same scale……

So, I’m a writer, and I’m best off writing and “performing” locally……if I were more disciplined and less exhausted all the time, I suppose I could blog……but I would never be as good at it as JA Konrath or my friend Tess Gerritsen, who are both consistent and incredibly entertaining……

Writing books isn’t just about writing books…..the demands on our time are incredible even without book tours…..i have already apologized to pat a number of times for not getting this piece in to her…..in addition, I have just finished a piece for the hundred greatest thrillers of all time, and am on a rewrite of a serial thriller I’m doing a chapter in for charity with one more due in january…..then there’s the six advanced reading copies on my floor awaiting readings, talks scheduled at the local middle school (I never say no to schools) and also the senior citizens center (I don’t say no to seniors either) and more blurbs, with anywhere from 3-8 ARCs coming in each month (I’m a wicked slow reader)……finally, there’s my kid, and my increasing need for exercise, and a hobby or two, and the holidays, and oh, yes, the pressure and deadlines inherent in my new 4-books in 4-years contract……(write fast and steadily or prepare not to be paid…..

So look for me right here at my desk, and not on the road…..

I love traveling and meeting people and staying at **** hotels (the norm on tour), and eating at the restaurant of my choice, and cleaning out room service, and being treated as something of a celebrity……but, as it has been said many times in one form or another….WRITERS DON’T LIKE WRITING BOOKS, THEY LIKE HAVING WRITTEN THEM…..

Back to work

Have a great day…..

michael

Pat and Mike (Couldn’t Resist the Title)

I have had an incredibly exciting week. First, I got the proofs for my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire, but that wasn’t the most exciting thing that happened.

More exciting was finding out I’m a blurb on the cover of Suzanne Francis’s book, Heart of Hythea. Seeing my name on the back cover of a book really made me feel like an author.

Even more exciting was having Michael Palmer accept an invitation to be a guest on my blog. Yep, that’s right — the Michael Palmer, author of thirteen bestselling novels, is going to be on my blog tomorrow. Oddly enough for these cyber times, he’s never guested a blog before, so this is an historic occasion. Most exciting of all, he wrote the article just for me, rather than sending me one he’d already written.

I hope I’m not going against email ethics by making our conversation public, but our little discussion was interesting (to me anyway) and I wanted to share it.

My Sort-of Interview with Michael Palmer

Be sure to stop by tomorrow to check out Michael’s blog post.

My Sort-of Interview with Author Michael Palmer

(Email conversation between Pat Bertram and Michael Palmer)

Bertram: Mr. Palmer: Would you like to be a guest on my blog? Forgive me if I’m being presumptuous, but you are on Facebook and have joined my Suspense/Thriller Writers group for some reason.

Michael Palmer: hi, pat……thanks for the invite……i am a cyber neophyte and was probably signed up by my publicist……

i would be happy to do your blog……i have the paperback of the first patient coming out 1/2/09 and the hardcover of the second opinion coming out 2/19/09…..would you rather work closer to those?

whatever you say……

Bertram: If I have my choice, I’d rather do it as soon as possible to make sure it gets done. I can always post an update at the beginning of January to remind people your books are coming out; that way you get a two-fer.

Sorry about the “Mr.” I know you’re a Dr. — I’ve read most of your books.

Michael Palmer: yeah, it’s doctor, and don’t you forget it!……actually, after all these years i still get terrified by two words: doctor……and dad……

such responsibility……

i’ll be back monday from playing in the north american bridge championships (more responsibility)……we can do your blog after that……

Bertram: Sounds great! I’m looking forward to it.

(A week later)
Bertram: Are you still interested in guest blogging? (Sorry to add to your responsibilities!) How did your bridge championship go?

Michael Palmer: hi…..i played decently, but in such tournaments, mistakes are magnified, and i made too many of those……

tell me how long a blog you want and i’ll see what i can do…..except for a brief, terrible blog attempt on amazon i’ve never written one…..

Bertram: Michael, In all these years that you’ve been a writer, you’ve never written an article? Wow. Of course, a writer who spends too much time writing articles has little time to write the important things, like a bestselling novel. There is no length requirement, but it should be at least 300 words so it has some meat to it.

Michael Palmer: hi….the blog is first on my list after finishing chapter 3—later this afternoon

Michael Palmer: here it is….call me if you need anything

How cool is that? I will be posting Michael Palmer’s article on Monday, December 15th, so be sure to stop by and say hi.