So, Janet
Evanovich shifts to Random House's Ballantine
line after failing to
come to terms with St. Martin's. Even though nobody's saying as much,
it seems reasonable to think that Random House agreed to Evanovich's
reported demand for $50 million for her next four books.

How big a gamble is this?

Some thoughts:

— One, the deal is for two Stephanie Plum books (a series many Evanovich
fans think is on the wane) and two for a series that hasn't even
launched yet.

— Two, how much marketing money and promotional muscle will this deal
steal away from other Ballantine authors? (James Patterson's Little,
Brown deal has been shown to do this to other authors in the same fold,
according to a Sunday NYT piece on him earlier this year.)

— Three, Evanovich is 67 years old, and according to her Wikipedia page,
is known for her 50-writing-hours-a-week work ethic. No ageism here,
really, but can she keep up the pace?

— Four, with her money and family-corporate-machine muscle, Evanovich
could have easily self-published her works (and there was some dubiously
sourced speculation that she was looking into it). Would the perceived
loss in NY prestige have been balanced out by the additional money she
could have made by cutting out all the middlemen?

— At what point do superstar-hungry publishers have to say no to their
superstar authors? What determines the tipping point?

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Nothing foolish or arrogant about striving. We all strive. Or rather, maybe the Cornwells and Evanovitches don't really have much to motivate them, but those of us who are not in such dreadful demand that we have to regurgitate the same successful formula over and over again (and I don't think that was Cornwell's problem, though it does apply to the Plum books) can still attempt to do new things even within a series.
And as you say, some series authors get better with time, some come up with stellar books somewhere in the middle, and some hold a steady pace of excellence.
"in such dreadful demand that we have to regurgitate the same successful formula over and over again"

I never understood this. At what point does a writer at the level we're discussing think, "I have 12 million dollars in the bank, and if I want my hero to have a sex change operation the next book, he gets one. The publisher can offer me another contract, or not." As I read and learn more about best-selling (read: well off) authors, it seems they feel like slaves to their success, instead of basking in the power it can bestow on them.

Say what you want about Stephen King, he writes what he wants.
Okay, that may be a question of personality and talent. Or he has gone so far that the publishers don't argue with him. Yes, that would be heaven.
But this very point, Jon, is exactly what excites me about writing a series. Can book twelve be just as interesting as book one even though everyone knows the characters that usually show up in the book.

That's when writing really becomes challenging. No one is going to hit a home run every time the come to the plate. But I wouln't count out Evanovich hitting a least a couple of more in her career. And each time she does, her fan base with be rejuvenated all over again. True for every other who writes a series.
I'm 45.
Split the advance 50/50 and I'll ghost write the next Plum book ;-)


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