MAYDAY! Over the years I’ve found a bit of zen in the madness. (A bit. Okay. Let’s be real. Beer helps the zen.)
Unless you’re JK, Jodi Picoult, Suzanne Collins or one of the very few (ones you can count on fingers and toes) authors that pump out commercial success after commercial success, your road may look a lot like mine, just replace one of my obstacles with your own. These are EXCLUSIVELY PUBLISHING/BUSINESS SIDE obstacles I’ve faced over the course of five novels as well as other possible mishaps that have happened to authors I know and love. I’m not even going to start with other commitments and the hullabaloo of life.
Publishing and Business Mayday!
- Editors move on to different houses, get different jobs. It’s so important to realize how important your editor is. Not only does she make sure you have completed arcs and characters that feel real, she is the front line cheerleader for your work. Editors scream titles and jacket blurbs in the subways in New York. (Well, okay, perhaps not…) They make sure everyone’s talking about your book around the office, in the streets, Times Square … everywhere! They go to conferences and talk, talk, talk … And if your editor leaves, that talk doesn’t necessarily stop, but it slows down, and somebody else has to take up the megaphone for a project she hasn’t worked on. This is HARD.
- Imprints get bought out or pushed out. Publishers leave. (Yep. They do.) Not all projects that were slotted for that imprint will get picked up by the imprints that absorb them. Some do. Some don’t. This is hard.
- Sales don’t hit what people hoped (people being the publishing house). This is the rule, I’d say, rather than the exception. It’s really a rot when expectations are really high, and then it’s just plain sucky to hear “sales are soft.” HOW CAN A SALE BE SOFT? I CAN’T TOUCH A SALE! CAN I HAVE HARD SALES?
Note: Have you seen the “hard” aspect of all these hiccups thus far?
- Books don’t go to paperback (which is bad, bad, bad).Sucky sucky sucky. Hard. No. Soft. teehee. Hardbacks are double or more than a paperback. If the hardback doesn’t do well, then the book stays on the shelves in its stiff little spine until … until people get tired of looking at it. There’s a graveyard for books, I hear.
- Doors that were once open have closed (not been locked, but definitely closed). Yep. The enthusiasm for your last project has waned three months after it hits the shelves. This … is hard.
- A finished, accepted, paid-for, edited novel gets shelved. Indefinitely. This is murder and disappointment and … _ _ _ _ … You get it.
I’ve realized, though, through all of these moments, my job has been the same: write the best bloody book I can, get that book to my agent, revise, make it better and too irresistible to not sell. I always, always discuss everything with my agent. I don’t write a paragraph until I send him an idea. He has to be able to sell something. He knows the market better than I do. So my job is to communicate with him then work my tail off to create something HE CAN SELL regardless of previous mishaps. This doesn’t, by any means, mean I’m compromising my “art” or writing. The ideas are mine. He helps me take an idea and hone in on a way of presenting it, making it better. Then I write. At the end of the day, good writing trumps all!
That’s it. We’re writers. Everything may blow up around us, but our job, first and foremost, is to write the best story we have in us. And honestly, keep perspective. I always muse about the obstacles others’ face. Like that guy who cut off his arm to get out of a crevasse. I mean, that’s hardcore. Ewww, ewww, ewwwwwww.
All I have to do is put words on a page. No Leatherman needed. Sure. It’s hard. Who said it’d be easy. But it’s what I love. So when it all goes to pot (it will … it always does), just sit down and write.