Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

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!”:

  1. Fiction reading rose significantly in 2008, especially among the most-coveted 18-24 age bracket (21%!)
  2. 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.)
  3. February is traditionally the worst month of the year for booksales in the US. This one’s not any different.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!”

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About Kat Richardson

Writer, editor, eccentric pain in the tail, bestselling author of the Greywalker novels.
This entry was posted in book business, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

  1. J.D. Rhoades says:

    Kat, darling, have I mentioned lately how much I adore you? Thank you for this. I needed it today.

  2. Aw, it’s only the truth. You’re not the only one and it makes me boil to hear/see good writers saying they want to throw in the towel. Don’t we have enough stupid in our lives without letting the good writers slip away?

    Stick with me, baby! I love you too.

  3. Adele says:

    You guys keep writing i’ll keep buying, it’s the main drain on my disposable income and well worth it!

  4. See, this is what we live for. Thanks Adele.

  5. JD Rhoades says:

    Hope you don’t mind..I linked to this post.

  6. Fran says:

    And as long as you keep writing, dearest Kat, we’ll keep selling!

  7. Russel says:

    Kat

    Blessed relief to hear someone being positive and constructive – – why am I not surprised its you?

    Oh, I was nearly killed by a vehement fan of yours the other day who came in to the shop where I work close to the point of desperation after finding a binding error in your book. She was desperate to know what happened next and if we hadn’t had it in stock I think she might have strangled me. When people are that passionate about what they’re reading, I think it shows that we have readers out there who do care about what they’re reading.

    Anyway, keep up the attitude – the whole industry needs to have more positivity to get through all this stuff just now. We cannot just give up.

    Russel
    (that wee drunk Scotsman you keep seeing at Bouchercons)

  8. ysabet says:

    This is a thoughtful post, and a good balance to the darker news from elsewhere. I have a post slated for publication later this week, in “Hypatia’s Hoard of Reviews,” that will point back to it for discussion.

  9. Dusty: Mind? Hell I’m downright ecstatic! Thank you!

    Fran: Aww… thanks and I hope you feel better soon–I hope I didn’t give you that…

    Russel: Not just any wee drunk Scotsman, one of my favorite wee drunk Scotsmen. Sorry about the fan–that stupid error has caused no end of problems. Most of that printing has it and I have had to field that question myself a LOT. Not to worry, though, the mmpb is coming out in July and it should be fixed.

    Ysabet: Thank you! I hope it generates much good and useful discussion. We need to stay positive or we’ll all end up like Dorothy Parker.

  10. By way of Dusty’s estimable blog.

    Great stuff. As a few of you know, I froze up after my first book and couldn’t write fiction for almost two years. The book I’m working on now has taken the better part of 4 years to get to the end of the second act and every night after work I write another couple hundred words.

    Never give in, indeed.

  11. Dana King says:

    Kat,
    I was directed here from Dusty Rhodes’ blog, and good advice it was. This is a great post.

    After the late-2008 handwringing in blogs and web sites everywhere, it’s nice to see 09 has brought out some more even handed opinions. As Delbert McClinton says, don’t nothing last forever, whether it’s good or bad. When things are bad, it’s time to look how to catch the uptick. When things are good, be alert for warning signs.

  12. Hey David, nice to see you and hear you’re back in the game!

    Dana: Thank you. That’s exactly the POV I want more people to have. We’re not dead yet and throwing in the towel is not going to help us stay in form. It’s hard not to be scared when you see a lot of closures and cut-backs and contract cuts–I’m scared too–but it shouldn’t paralyze us. If book contracts are like gazelles then the herds have just gotten thinner and it’s the faster, smarter lions who will catch them.

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