I am now scheduled for books up to Spring 2008. 6 years ago, I would have thought this was too wonderful to be true. Now,it just seems overwhelming with vague nightmarish qualities. How is this possible?
Besides the actual scheduling and overworking problems that I'll get into at another time, it is the horrible, fearful, overhanging shadow of being overpublished that is haunting me recently. What is this overpublished problem you ask? Well, recently my colleague and friend Tim Basil Ering (who illustrated the Newbury winner "Tale of Desperaux", by the way) related this story to me:
"I told my editor that I was illustrating a book with another publisher," he told me, "and the expressions on his face was like his dog had died."
"Really? Why?" I asked.
"Well, he told me that publishing houses don't like you to published with too many places," Tim said, "he told me, 'Ideally, you should publish with one house. Two houses, is acceptable. But more than that...well, you're a publishing whore."
I have 5 publishing houses.
This is a hard thing to fess up to, but I think I am a publishing whore. I publish with whomever will pay me. I feel bad, a sell-out, less literary and pure. Someone disloyal who has dirtied their art.
But another part of me bristles at it. Hey, I don't get company benefits, a salary, a possiblity of promotion or even a nominal Christmas bonus. I have to pay my own health insurance, look after my own retirement (which I probably never will do anyway) as well as pay the bills. I need to survive, I need to support. It's impossible (at least for me, probably not for JK Rowling) to just stick with one publisher and (at most) one book a year. Why must loyalty be proven with bankruptcy?
But it's these small decisions that haunt me. I worry about their long lasting repercussions. Am I eating today to starve tommorrow? Am I ruining the quality of my work for filthy lucre? I don't think I am, but am I the correct judge? Van Gogh or Disney? Do you really get to make the choice? Or is that choice made by the small decisions on the way?