Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, shares her thoughts on the pitfalls of making publication choices.
I meet many aspiring writers who have their career arc planned out. They have it broken down into steps similar to outlining a novel. 1) Write a book; 2) Get an agent; 3) Get a multi-book contract with a big house; 4) Go on a book tour; 5) Get offered a film contract; 6) Become famous; 7) Repeat steps 1, 4 and 5.
Most published authors have more realistic expectations. They settle for a contract with a smaller press, hustle to do their own marketing and work furiously to finish another book. Their career is secure.
The book biz is full of promises and pitfalls. I have a friend who had two publishers die and one throw in the towel (and destroyed all the book stock). My first book was picked up by a major publishing house only to change editors and my book got tossed. I managed to land the agent of a best selling author until my writing teacher hounded her to the point she wouldn’t work with me anymore.
Talk to any author who has been around the block and you will hear horror stories. Books that never made it to conferences. Royalties going unpaid. I remember in the early 90’s when large houses eliminated many mystery lines. Lots of mid-list authors found themselves with contracts not worth the paper they were written on.
Worst story ever: I was in the audience listening to an author urge us to forget small publishing and hold out for a large publishing house. While he was pushing his agenda, his publishing house announced it was folding. Ouch!
The trick to surviving anything in life is flexibility. Never assume the status quo will be the same tomorrow. Recognize that there are too many variables out of our control that nevertheless impacts our plans. Roll with the punches, make lemonade out of lemons, insert any platitude you like.
Here’s a game plan I recommend. First, make a list of all possible options. Agent, large house, small house, self-publishing. Research and list those that seem attainable. It’s natural to hold on to that first novel and stress out trying to find the best move to make. I’ve watched writers spin their wheels over a decade through indecision. My motto is “You can’t promote something that doesn’t exist.” The goal is to get your writing out there so you have a career to work with.
They say the best time to job hunt is when you have a job. I recommend writers who have a contract and are working well with their publishing house still take the time to come up with a Plan B. You may never need it, just like you may never need a life jacket when you go on a cruise, but it’s nice to know it’s there. Continue to network, keep up with changes in the industry. Do it while there is no pressure. That way if any scenarios I’ve listed above happen to you, you’re ready.
What you don’t want to do is lock yourself into the notion of what works today will work tomorrow. The economy changes, reading tastes change, department heads change, publishing houses change direction. You’re writing vampires and suddenly zombies are all the rage.
Adapting to change is the art of survival. Failure is a choice. Don’t make it yours.