In this month's Riding The Writing Roller Coaster column, Barbara Wallace discusses the inevitability of change and what we can do to cope.
“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time” ~ David Bowie
We have a saying here in New England. If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes. It’ll change. Sounds like the publishing world, doesn’t it? In fact, change might be the one constant our industry has. Marketing trends, publishing trends, buying trends – you name it. Heck, just look at the industry changes that have taken place since I started writing this column last January.
For some, the ever shifting publishing landscape means an opportunity for growth; for others it’s a career-ending mudslide. How do we know what side we’ll end up on? We don’t know, for sure. That’s the problems with continually shifting landscape – you can’t with 100% certainty predict the end results.
That’s not to say we’re at the mercy fate. On the contrary, a smart writer prepares for change the best she can. Going back to my New England weather scenario: Just because we don’t know how much snow this winter is going to bring doesn’t mean my husband isn’t going to make sure the snow blower is in good working order.
How does a writer prep for change? Here are five tips. And by the way- these tips apply whether you are published or still working on your first novel. It’s never too early in your career to be prepared.
- Diversify. The days when an author wrote for one publisher for her entire life no longer exist. For one thing, you can’t predict that publisher will stick around. As the saying goes, “don’t keep your eggs in one basket.” Always keep an eye out for new opportunities, be it another publisher, going indie, etc.
- Have a back up plan. Okay, so there are only so many hours in the day, and you don’t have time to balance multiple projects right now. That doesn’t mean you should pull an ostrich and pretend change won’t happen. Give some thought to what you’ll do if your current career path dries up.
- Don’t fear reinvention. So your career path does dry up. The genre you’re writing loses popularity, or your royalty checks aren’t earning you a liveable wage anymore. Become someone else! (This is where developing a contingency plan helps.) There are many authors out there who have had second and even third reincarnations. They’ve created new names and tackled new projects. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. What matters is that they weren’t afraid to try.
- Don’t burn bridges. I cringe every time I hear an author dissing her old publisher or agent in public. For all its shifts, the publishing world is still small. People talk. And the truth is, you may need those contacts from your previous career path someday.
- Maybe it’s you. Not all change comes from the outside. Sometimes you’re the one that changes. Okay, not sometimes. We all change. We grow older, and we grow creatively. Those stories you were writing last year might not challenge you anymore. This is why it is so important to ask yourself periodically what you need to do in order to stay happy as a writer. (Coincidentally, we’ll be talking about planning next month and will touch on this very subject.)
The bottom line here is yes, change is inevitable. But change doesn’t have to be scary. It can be a great adventure. Kind of like New England weather.
What advice to you have to surviving change? Don't be shy! Let us know in the comments below.
Barbara Wallace is published with both Harlequin and Entangled Publishing. Her latest book The Unexpected Honeymoon, was an October release with Harlequin's Romance line.
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