Career Ups and Downs

Pompeii readersAs part of her Practical Meerkat’s 52 Bits of Useful Info for Young (and Old) Writers, “Laura Anne Gilman offers some savvy perspective on surviving the dry spells. She writes,

“Remember, a few weeks ago, when I said that every career has its ups and downs? That not even bestsellers hit it out of the park every time? Awards don’t always equal sales, sales aren’t always enough, readers’ tastes change, and so do publishers. Careers rise…and they fall.

Sometimes, it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not. You might keep working, but at lower advances to match lower sales. Or you might not be able to sell another book, no matter how good, how smart, how interesting the books are.”

We all need the reminder that publishing is cyclical and that many elements are beyond our control. We needs ways of staying in touch with why we became writers in the first place. We also need survival strategies so we can pay the bills, whether we get unrelated day jobs or not.

Years ago, Marion Zimmer Bradley said something to me in passing, only a few words, but they stuck with me. She said that along with her current commercial novel, she was writing something for her own pleasure. Most of us — well, me, certainly — began writing because we loved it, and we wrote the stories we wanted to read. Our secret delights. One of the pitfalls of professional publishing is that we risk turning off that part of our writing minds. We chase the market instead of delighting our inner readers. And yet those inner readers can be our best allies during hard times. Along with fellow writers who have been there and lived to tell the tale.

E-publishing and self-publishing, are game-changers. Traditional publishing is in flux and we don’t know how it’s all going to fall out. Just as Gilman talks about a dry spell as a creative opportunity, new methods of publishing open doors. That’s one reason that ventures like Book View Cafe, where established pro writers and editors can pool their talents, publishing not only out-of-print treasures but new material, are so exciting.


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