Sicha: In the publishing industry, people tend to talk more about book proposals than books.
Le Guin: Now, you see, here’s where I’m really different from almost all the professional writers I know: I never sell a proposal. I’ve never done it. I’ve forbidden my agents to do it. I write on spec and I turn in a finished manuscript. Once or twice, when Virginia Kidd was my agent, she made a three-book deal, and so she had me committed to writing a book I hadn’t written yet. I was absolutely miserable. I could barely forgive her. Somehow I managed to do it, but I just said,Choire SichaVirginia, never sell anything again that I haven’t written or you haven’t seen.She understood. People look at me with round eyes when I tell them that that’s how I work. They go,How did you ever get going?Then I have to confess: I wrote seriously for ten years before I sold anything.
Interesting interview with SF author Ursula K. Le Guin, sharing her opinions about art and what motivates her to keep writing in the eighth decade of life. The quote above illustrates my own misgivings about long-term book deals, such as John Scalzi managed to close this summer, and highlights how difficult it is to become a good writer and published author.