Last Thursday's New York Times had an article about William Fiennes and his new book, The Music Room. Like last week's article about Neil Sheehan, this piece offers a glimpse into the author's background and methodology, without being a review of him or his work. Barely mentioned at all was Mr. Fiennes' previous work, The Snow Geese, published seven years ago. It makes me wonder how much influence a track record has on a book author's ability to get new contracts. Seven years is a lifetime in the book publishing industry. Does anyone even remember Mr. Fiennes' original book — and, if so, could he have gotten The Music Room published without it?

Once the contract is signed, does the previous book affect sales of the current one? My understanding is that sales of an author's current book are predicted by sales of his previous one. Will distributors and retailers thus look at how successful The Snow Geese was in determining how many copies of The Music Room to order? The books are on such different topics that it seems illogical to compare the two — yet it's exactly that practice that has led many an author (Stephen King) to write under a pseudonym (Richard Bachman) and thus avoid such expectations.

As an aside: did anyone notice that the picture of William Fiennes on page C1 was juxtaposed with a picture of actor Joseph Fiennes? Coincidence?