Now that I’ve upset and annoyed half the internet by yelling at the non-fiction tweakers, here’s another bit of Kat-wisdom for you writer types: Don’t invest in this gloom and doom shit that’s all over the place lately. Please.
I’m hearing some people say “What’s the point? Maybe I should quit. The economy/biz is such a mess, what chance do I have?” Yeah, yeah, the economy is ugly, the industry is floundering around like a floundering flounder with only one good eye and a broken tail and things look grim, but here are a few things I want you to think about before you throw up your hands and cry “I’m giving up! I’ll never be published/make the cut/get a new contract/stay in the biz!”:
- Fiction reading rose significantly in 2008, especially among the most-coveted 18-24 age bracket (21%!)
- Major chains closed their fourth quarter with more volumes sold than the previous year’s fourth quarter–profits were down due to buyers taking more small, cheap mmpbs and fewer hardcovers, but the important thing is more people bought more books! And bookstores are asking for mmpb and trade paperbacks instead of hardcover (bad news for me, good for you.)
- February is traditionally the worst month of the year for booksales in the US. This one’s not any different.
- Although some small publishers have gone out of business and some big publishers are laying people off, dropping low-return contracts and canceling low-sales series, few imprints are being discarded and printing schedules for 2009-2010 are full. Manuscripts will still be needed to fill those print schedules in 2011 and beyond.
- More agents and publishers are doing their business electronically, thus lowering the costs and time for querying and editorial process for all involved.
What does this mean for you, my aspiring or struggling writer friends? It means you still stand a chance. If you stop writing or submitting or querying now, you will be behind the curve when the pieces start being picked up. You will be worse off than if you keep on doing what you are doing right now. Yes, starting-level advances won’t be as large and a lot of things are uncertain and in flux, but it costs you less to query electronically and it costs you nothing to keep on honing your art and trying. Lost opportunities cost more.
Start looking for things that are free or cheap to do. Like… Flycon, forming a crit group with your online writer crowd, querying agents who accept email queries, sharing a subscription to Publisher’s Weekly, taking piece work to hone your skills while getting paid, bid on an open eLance writing job, post short stories for free to build your audience, challenge another writer to a blogging contest, take a research trip around your town or county for interesting things to use in your next story, create an online photo essay of things you are writing about… whatever you can do that keeps your writer juices flowing and helps you stay in the game. Because one of the keys to success is being prepared to jump up and grab it when it knocks on your door or passes on the virtual street. If you give up, you will not be in the right place at the right time.
I really do believe the book industry will have to make some big, sweeping, scary changes to stay in business in the next couple of years, but while they are doing that, they will still need new books to sell. Don’t hide under a rock because things are a little crazy right now–it’s always crazy in this business. Maybe you can be the next Cory Doctorow or Jonathan Coulton. But not if you don’t stick to this wretched, crazy, wonderful thing called writing.
In the immortal words of Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, “Never give up! Never surrender!”