Jun 9, 2009

Do or Do Not: There Is No Try.

Ewan over at http://www.swbooks.co.uk/ is reporting the following about the Dec 2009 Star Wars novel Blood Oath.
"It appears that Elaine Cunningham's much anticipated Legacy of the Force sequel, Blood Oath, has either been postponed again (it was originally scheduled for release in April this year but had to be put back to December because LucasBooks had not received Elaine's manuscript in time), or even cancelled. This is because RandomHouse.com has removed their listing and Amazon.com have stopped taking Pre-Orders for this paperback. The last time Blood Oath 'disappeared' from RandomHouse.com was when it's release was re-scheduled from April 2009 to December 2009. However since RandomHouse.com's listings can only list scheduled releases for the next six months, it is possible (and more likely than cancellation) that Blood Oath's release has been put back beyond RandomHouse.com's listing capabilities, i.e. it has been re-scheduled for release beyond December 2009 for reasons, as yet, unknown."
This is disappointing and also somewhat unexpected. The information deluge incarnate in the internet often results in projects being announced, discussed, and available for pre-order months, if not years before they hit the shelves. Given that, this isn’t the first, second, or hundredth time an announced book has gotten delayed (care to comment GRRM?). But it’s not just the fact that the book was delayed that has me scratching my head.

It’s the fact it was a Star Wars book.

Now I’m a Star Wars junkie but I’m not going to pretend SW books are higher literature. They are tie-in novels for a franchise. A popular franchise. A profitable franchise. A very profitable franchise. A Star Wars tie-in novel isn’t just a book, it’s an opportunity. Ask Mike Stackpole, Timothy Zahn, Karen Traviss, or Matthew Stover. These are four authors who write phenomenal stuff. These are also four authors I probably wouldn’t have heard of or tried if not for their Star Wars novels. These are also 4 authors who can now put “New York Bestselling Author” on their books any time they want. I don’t know their financials (or they hope I don't) but I’m guessing they also get at least 10x the sales for their Star Wars novels then they do for their other books (if they are even still in print). They also probably get a monthly residual check from Star Wars that their other books don't provide. Don’t let the literary elite trick you, writing a “hack” tie-in novel can be a great career move, both in terms of financial support and name recognition.

I’ve read a lot of Star Wars novels. Some are extremely good (see authors mentioned above). Some are agonizingly bad. Most, however, are mediocre. I don’t think it’s exceedingly difficult for a previously published writer (requirement for Lucasbooks) to put together a story that meets their standards. Don’t kill Luke, Han, or Leia and you’re halfway there. I find it hard to imagine that Ms. Cunningham (or any other contracted author) can't put together an acceptable novel within the agreed upon time. There's just too much incentive on the table.

Maybe the folks over at Lucasbooks feel like their publishing schedule is too strong for the weakened economy to fully support. Maybe George Lucas swung his incontestable lightsaber of final edit. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances I’m not privy too. But if you get the opportunity to write a tie-in novel for Star Wars (or Halo, Warcraft, or any of the New York Times worthy franchises), I suggest you take it. Then aside from other work to which you are contractually obligated, make it your No. 1 priority. Write it to the best of your ability. Don’t phone it in, the effort you put in this juncture could have implications throughout your career. And for the love of Yoda, turn it in on time!

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