“It Reads Better Than It Lives”

I had to look up that quote to see which Bond heroine said it, in which book. It was Tiffany Case, in Diamonds are Forever, and I don’t think that line made it into the movie. Which is a pity, because it’s stayed with me for decades as one of the most sensible comments on “adventure” I’ve ever heard. I put my heroes through things that no sane person would want to do in real life…and for me, personal transitions fall into the same category.

In all my books, my protagonists change and grow—and I’m pretty shameless about taking an authorial wrecking ball to their safe and happy lives. But when the recession hit publishing, and mid-list authors (which I am) suddenly found themselves on the outs, I was forced to try to transition my career from perfectly contented, conventionally published author to scrambling, scrappy, panicked, more-or-less indie author. I say more or less indie, because Courtney Literary will be bringing out my next three books and doing all the technical stuff for me…but for the most part, they’ll fail or fly on my own efforts—not just my efforts as a writer, but at publicity. And like many writers, I suck at doing my own publicity.

I think I need to take a lesson from my own heroes. I was going to say that when it came time for them to transform their situations, they got down to business and did it without whining or panicking…but that’s not true. In fact, they have legitimate reasons to complain or whine or panic and they wouldn’t be human if they didn’t. (Fisk does all three, in a nicely humorous way if I say so myself.) But once their normal emotional reactions are over, they buckle down and get on with the job of transforming their personal situations—and are themselves transformed in the doing, despite any negative emotions along the way.

So I’m going to allow myself a little whimpering here and there, but I’m also going to buckle down and do my best to make this career transformation work. I still have no idea whether I’m going to succeed (which is why it’s so flipping scary!) but if I don’t, it won’t be because I didn’t fight for it. However, speaking as someone in the midst of the struggle, I gotta say, it really does read better than it lives.

Anybody else out there making a recession-based career transition? How did it go?

Hilari Bell writes SF and fantsy for kids and teens–and her protagonists are much braver than she is!

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8 thoughts on ““It Reads Better Than It Lives”

  1. What annoys me is that my first contract came during the recession and people did the old, “Well for my first contract, I got _______.” Of course their contract was way before the recession. So things are different, but I keep writing and keep signing contracts because it’s what I love.

  2. Yes, well, it is different. I actually signed with an uber big agent two weeks before the recession and I could feel my prospects sinking along with the stock market. And sink they did. I did get over it and have totally readjusted my way of looking at publishing. It was tough, at first–but, now, published by a small press I like the partnership we have. It is a little more do it yourself, but with that comes the excitement or working in a start-up. And there is far more acceptance from readers.

  3. I have to agree that I prefer second-hand adventure myself, but life insists on putting us through it anyway. So all you can do is go through with it.

  4. We’re all so mean to our characters–guess it’s inevitable that they’ll try to get back at us someday. I’m so impressed that you’re hitting all this so courageously–publicity’s hard enough with a big publisher. (If you’re mid-list,anyway.)

    By the way, if you want that line on-screen there’s also Henry II in The Lion in Winter: “My life, when it is written, will read better than it lived.”

  5. You know, speaking as an indie author, I think you’ll do fine. I really do. You’ve got an awesome backlist; you’ll now have the freedom to play with price and offer a lead-in price for the first of your three books; and you have a built-in readership that loves you. Marketing isn’t as bad as it sounds–you’ve got an active facebook page, make sure you have a mailing list for new releases, and book your blog tours for each cover reveal, trailer reveal, digital release and print release (phew!). And remember that going indie often takes a little while to hit success (though I suspect that you won’t have any trouble there at all). Good luck!

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