Being friends with a published author has its advantages and disadvantages. Being able to read and offer feedback on new work is a really great experience, but knowing that a series you've been enjoying for three books may not see the light at the end of the tunnel really puts a damper on things. That's when you have to think about your priorities, and your friendship, and what you're really willing to do to see something get published.
Readers are driving the market right now, as it seems they always have. I spent several years working in a bookstore, and never truly appreciated how those books came to be there. Every month we would get catalogues in the mail, with page after page of books by authors I'd never heard of. I would thumb through them, ask if I could get an ARC if they were offered, maybe see what might be ordered. Sometimes the manager would have circled a book or marked the page, so I would know to expect it. Sometimes there would be something interesting that was crossed off, or that seemed to have been overlooked. Often my suggestions were not heeded.
The reason is that I am in the minority. I accept it, I've accepted it my whole life. Fantasy and sci-fi are not the most popular genres, and they don't produce the bestselling novels that seem to be constantly on the shelves. James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks - all of them command an audience's attention, whether good or bad (mostly bad - but that's just my opinion). They somehow earn their spots at the top by writing the same book, over and over again. There's no imagination, there's no spark, there's no (and I hate to say this when talking about fantasy, but) magic to them. There's nothing in them that makes me think, "Wow, this could never happen in real life but I love it!" It is so much easier for them to get published simply because they have the readership, whereas fantasy and science fiction generally don't. Aside from tried-and-true geniuses like Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett (who, despite his decline in popularity and recognition still manages to end up on the bestseller list for at least one week when a new book comes out - AND he gets published in hardcover), Neil Gaiman, and yes, even J.K. Rowling, very rarely are new authors published, and even more rarely are new fantasy and science fiction available in hard cover. The sales aren't there. That is sad.
What makes this all the more personal is that I know a fantasy writer. I consider her, Katharine Kerr, a friend. I invited her to my wedding, even though I knew she probably couldn't come, just because I wanted her to know that I appreciate and care about her. She has let me read advance copies of some of the Nola O'Grady books, which has been an indescribably happy experience for me. I wish I could never see the end of it.
But with the first two books not selling as well as the publishers had hoped, and with the massive amounts of piracy of the existing books, Kit is facing what many other series writers face: the end of the series before it's finished. But maybe we, as readers, can help. Maybe we can help all of our favorite authors. It all starts with, well, buying the book. Show the publishers you want this material. Show the authors you want them to keep writing. Don't just download it from some poorly-copied website, buy the actual book. Secondly, if your favorite writers' books are in danger of not being published, write to the publisher. Tell them how much you enjoy the series and want to continue to see it published. Tell them you want to make sure the authors you love are compensated for their hard work, and that the readers get to continue to enjoy the hard work of the writers they love.
I would like to ask all of you Kit fans out there to please write to DAW and tell them how much you are enjoying the Nola O'Grady series, and would like to see it completed. You can contact them by e-mail, or by snail mail. I sent an e-mail off this afternoon, but I might try to send a paper letter soon too. Every little bit helps.
And I urge each and every one of you, if you find that your favorite authors are in danger of not having their hard and wonderful work published, write to their publishers. Show your appreciation. And most importantly, buy the books.