Friday, March 09, 2007

"Publishers should never encourage authors to meet"

Yesterday Macmillan CEO Richard Charkin wrote, "Publishers should never encourage their authors to meet each other. It can only end in unionisation, jealousy, and collegiate authorial carping."

Nowadays, thanks to the Net, it's difficult for publishers to stop authors from getting to know each other. I can't see any harm in it.

As I may have mentioned before, for almost twenty years, after writing a letter to my then Mills & Boon colleague, Charlotte Lamb, I had an extremely rewarding pen-friendship with her. We met in London on a few occasions, but mostly we exchanged weekly faxes about the books we were reading. I wasn't in the least jealous of her greater fame and fortune. She was far more prolific than I so deserved to earn more, although most M&B authors were earning substantial incomes in the Seventies and Eighties. Sadly that is not the case today, and even super-prolific romancers earn peanuts compared with the soaring income which sent Charlotte Lamb into tax exile on the Isle of Man.

Today I have enjoyable private email exchanges with a few other authors and also with a number of readers scattered around the globe. But, more than six years after her untimely death at 62, I still miss Charlotte Lamb's faxes of which I have a large collection stored in grocery cartons in my workroom in Spain.

They are riveting reading because she was a woman of strong opinions, some of which would have caused an uproar had they been expressed on the forums where today's much more mealy-mouthed romantic novelists discuss their genre.

Although she wrote many of her novels on a computer, Charlotte never shared my passion for the Net or switched from faxes to emails.

The photo of Charlotte on holiday in France is from a blog designed by one of her three daughters, Jane Holland.

There you will read – "This blog is in memory of my mother, Sheila Holland, better known to millions of fans worldwide as Charlotte Lamb, author of more than 150 romances and thrillers. Since her tragic death in October 2000, I have been collecting editions of her novels; no mean feat when you consider her almost inhuman prolificacy as a writer. In the late 70s, for instance, she wrote a 55,000 word novel, 'The Long Surrender', over the space of a single weekend, a novel which not only became a bestseller but was a ground-breaking work in the world of romance. Between 1979 and 1980 alone, Charlotte Lamb published over 21 novels. She also wrote thrillers, romances and historical novels under these pen-names: Victoria Woolf, Laura Hardy, Sheila Lancaster, Sheila Holland and Sheila Coates. This site is dedicated to bringing some of Lamb's earliest titles back to her fans and celebrating her greatest - and ongoing - triumphs as a novelist. Do please leave a comment if you have a question or something to share about Charlotte Lamb."

A very different breed

There is no doubt that the majority of today's women authors of popular fiction are a very different breed from their predecessors of 30/40/50 years ago.

What I find particularly strange about today's published writers is their apparent keenness to recruit new writers. Of course in many cases, the real motive for giving "workshops" etc. is actually to gain publicity for their own books. But when it is obvious that the whole field of women's fiction is grossly overcrowded, you would think they would try to find other methods of promoting themselves.

Re Richard Charkin's comment that authors getting together "can only end in unionisation", Charlotte Lamb did found AMBA, the Association of Mills & Boon Authors. But although members meet in London twice a year, the association has not fulfilled the founder's hopes for it. M&B's parent company, Harlequin, "currently publishes over 1,300 authors from around the world." Romance Writers of America has 9,500 members. Understandably, the UK authors' first concern is to please their publisher, not to raise contentious issues.

Tomorrow I hope to write about an outstanding non-fiction book recommended by Adrian Weston in a comment some time ago.


At 09 March, 2007, Anonymous jan roberts said...

welcome back, anne!

At 11 March, 2007, Blogger Freudian Slip said...

Yes, it's great to see you back :)

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