Wednesday, August 7, 2013

This crazy business, change... and wine

I was talking with my editor yesterday, which is always a treat, because not only does she whip my books into shape, we inevitably get to talking about books in general and the publishing business and all kinds of cool things. 

We started talking about how it seems that right now so many authors are scared.  They’re trying new things, not because they have a passion for writing something different, but because they’re trying to catch the latest bandwagon or because what they’re doing isn’t selling well or because they want to spread their eggs to many baskets, so to speak.  This is not a brand new phenomenon, of course.  Many authors have tried their hand at various genres or made it their business model to write for multiple publishers.  But it seems that it’s much more common now and it’s likely due to the current crazy and quickly shifting business that is publishing right now.  Writers are struggling to hold onto (or establish or reinvent in some cases) their careers and they don’t know how to do it.  So they’re throwing things out there, hoping something will stick.

Well, this conversation got me thinking about how publishing isn’t unique in this and writers aren’t alone in facing a shifting climate that can affect their careers. 

I’m in healthcare.  I own my own business.  There are healthcare policy changes guaranteed every year, if not more often (and they almost never mean *more* money coming in).  My mom is in education.  Again, there are cuts and changes every year.  In this area anyway, there are more teachers than positions.  My husband’s family farms.  Not only are there policy changes affecting prices, but there are market and economic shifts that affect what and how much people are buying, there are big businesses coming in and buying up family farms and there’s *weather* affecting the health of their product.  How would you like it if your writing career depended on the fricking weather?! :)

The point is, this industry is not unique in the fact that it changes and that a dozen outside influences— that you can’t control— affect what happens, and that there are often people making decisions who don’t really know what they’re doing :)

I think, though, that many of the same solutions from other businesses also apply-- 

If you’re in it for the right reasons, the changes and ups and downs won’t get to you as much.

You have to work at it, regularly, diligently, faithfully… getting better all the time, finding the people who need and want what you have to offer, and being confident that you can deliver the product to them over and over.  That’s what helps you ride the waves of change and stay afloat.  There’s something to be said for being steady in the midst of change. 

Be open to, and creative in finding, new ways of delivering the product and connecting with consumers.

You have to be knowledgeable so you can lobby for the things you need from the right people.

You have to advocate not just for yourself, but for your industry as a whole.

You have to surround yourself with like-minded people… there is strength in numbers and wonderful support to be had from people who know where you’re coming from.

I get the anxiety about change.  I understand the unrest when you don’t know what next year will bring and the frustration when things aren’t going as you want or expect.  Of course, I get that. Everyone does.  That’s the point.  You’re among friends.  Not just in the publishing business but in… well… everywhere. 

We talk about this crazy business as if it was the only crazy business.  It’s not.  And it’s not going to get any less crazy.  So… don’t let it make YOU crazy.  Stay the course.  Choose things you’re passionate about, not because of the money but because you love the work.  And when things get scary and frustrating we should all agree to drink our wine together rather than alone in the corner. 
And there are *lots* of people we can invite to the party.

Here, I'll pour...


PG Forte said...

I love this post--and NOT just because of the invitation to drink wine. ;)

We're not in the only crazy business out there--this is very true. But that doesn't stop us from occasionally (for which read, pretty much All The Time)reacting badly or rashly to anxiety and change. And I do think we might actually have an edge there--the curse of creativity!

But this is all GREAT advice and THIS: "Choose things you’re passionate about, not because of the money but because you love the work." is gold. Anyone who's reading this post and not printing those words out and taping them to their monitor better be working on a tablet, that's all I can say.

And if that's the case, scan 'em to a jpg and use it as your desktop.

Kinsey Holley said...

See, this is one of the reasons I'm glad I started writing after the advent of e-publishing, and why I'm no longer focused on breaking into print as I was when I started.

In the old days - i.e., 6 years ago or so - agents and publishers and editors told writers NOT to bounce between genres, because you had to build your brand. And that made sense, because it could take a year to bring a book to publication and another 6 months before you had an idea of how it was selling.

But with e becoming bigger every year, authors aren't constrained like that anymore. You can write across any genres you like. (This is another area in which I admire the hell out of Lynn Viehl - way back before e, she looked around and said "Why the fuck can't I write in as many genres as I want?" So she did vampires, and space science fiction, and other stuff.)

Change is scary, but it brings new opportunities. Creative destruction and all that. Doesn't mean it's not scary as shit.

cf all the recent articles about the End of Big Law As We Know It. Well, Big Law is the only law I know and I don't want it to end.

So I'm gong to pretend that it won't.

Skylar Kade said...

Erin, I so needed to hear this right now. Sometimes it's hard to remember what I love about writing, and that's when I need a good metaphorical slap of reality.

Things *are* changing, and it's scary, yes, but so exciting too. I'll take that wine and sit back to enjoy the ride!

Sydney Somers said...

Awesome post! And I agree with PG on printing out that one quote and reminding ourselves of it often. The rise in self-publishing has changed the dynamic a lot and there are days when thinking about all the options and possibilities and what if's make a girl want to chug the entire bottle of wine. :)

Kate Davies said...

Thanks for writing what I needed to read this week, dear! *prints out quote, holds out glass for more wine*