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Battle Woodstock
I received an e-mail pointing out that my listing on Fictionwise now includes a pre-order for the electronic version of Goblin War, at 10% off. I was told I should blog this, and who am I to argue? :-)

So, Black Wednesday, eh? Publishing has not been having a good time of it lately. Publishers are cutting back, editors are losing their jobs, acquisitions are on hold, bookstore chains are on the verge of collapse....

A lot of writers are suggesting the best thing we can all do to support the publishing business is to buy books. I'm all for that, and I'd love it if this somehow spurred everyone to run out and buy more books. Especially if they're mine, but I'm not picky. Buying books is good for all of us.

But what about the fear? What about the fact that this is apparently a horrible time to be a new writer trying to break in, as the publishers aren't buying as many books? Or the fear that if you release a book right now, your sales numbers will be lousy and you'll crash & burn? Or if you were hoping to sell books 4 and 5 in your princess series, but if you also wanted to try for a higher advance, now is probably not the greatest time to go forward with that pitch?

There's some scary stuff going on, and it will have an impact. How much of an impact? I couldn't say. Maybe the sky really is falling. Maybe publishing is just evolving, and the next iteration will have gills and feathers and rainbow-colored scales. But no matter how things change, books and stories aren't going away any time soon.

A major bookstore chain might go under, taking a significant chunk of my sales in the process. The slow economy will have an impact on my next book, which just happens to be launching my new series. Who knows what that will do to the success of the princess books in the long run. I also feel for my full-time writer friends, who are going to be hit even harder by this. I'm sad to think it will be longer before I can consider quitting my own day job and joining them as a full-timer.

In the face of all this, here's what I intend to do:

1. Keep writing
2. Keep submitting

Because everything else is out of my hands.

Look, I spent 10 years writing and submitting and collecting far more rejections than sales before finally "breaking in". These past few years have been great, and I love the fact that I've been able to sell almost everything I've written recently. It's an awesome feeling. But there are no guarantees. I didn't start writing fiction in order to gain a stable, secure income stream. Don't get me wrong, I love the income, but that wasn't the purpose. I started because I love it, and I'm not about to stop writing because we've hit a rough patch.

The writers will keep writing. Because that's what we do.

Have a great weekend, y'all!



Reading
Way of the Wolf, by E. E. Knight
Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy
  Writing
Red Hood's Revenge


 

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( 47 comments — Leave a comment )
michaeldthomas
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:40 pm (UTC)
Smart words.

I believe that things will even out in a year. At the end of the day, paperbacks are still a very inexpensive form of entertainment. They will survive.

As an aspiring fiction writer, I have the luxury of chilling and working on my craft during this crisis. I do worry, though, about all of my mid-list friends who are already walking that tightrope. I'll just have to give the gift of books to all of my friends and family members this year. :)
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)
Talking to authors who have been publishing books far longer than I have, most of them talk about having good years and bad. As far as I can tell, it's just the nature of the business.
suricattus
Dec. 6th, 2008 01:25 pm (UTC)
As far as I can tell, it's just the nature of the business.

Yah. When asked for advice, the second thing I tell newbies is about writers being small companies and having to worry about long-term operating capital to survive, and all too often I get an "I'm creative, I can't be a company!" response. Dude, yes you are, and yes you can. If you want to survive the bad years, anyway...
brainstormfront
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:40 pm (UTC)
Good advice. Now to go and keep writing myself. ;)

Steven
who's going to get buried in this white stuff (as he'll be on the ground with back spasms) if he doesn't get his snow blower fixed ASAP
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)
::Snow blower envy::

Also, envy for a driveway that's not busted up so badly that a snow blower would just laugh and go back into the garage to have a beer.
aulus_poliutos
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC)
Hehe, that at least gives me an excuse for not having finished one of my too many NiPs yet. I'll wait until the economy gets better again ere I submit something. ;)
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
I'm a little skeptical at how much of a buying freeze there really is, to be honest. I was reading a post by Dave Wolverton, who pointed out that sure, publishers can and do stop buying books sometimes. It happens more often than we think, actually. But if they stop long-term, they go out of business.

We'll see. I'm curious to see what else happens as things move forward into 2009...
aulus_poliutos
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
Lol, the market is not seriously a reason that I'm slow in finishing things - I'm a slow writer and edit while I go to begin with, and I can't stop that damn multitasking. I write because I like doing it; getting published would be a bonus, but I'll survive if it never happens.
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)
"I write because I like doing it"

And I think that's the key.

As for the speed, there's quick writers and slow writers. I'll never be a Jay Lake. But you do what works for you.
coppervale
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
That's the thing: they're still going to buy good books, and books they believe will sell. Same as always - same criteria. They may be more cautious, but they will still want to egag in their primary business - and they need to plan for the future, too.

I think we'll all get through it.
reudaly
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
I did my own "Buy BOOKS!" pitch yesterday on my website. But I completely agree with you. Books are here to stay -- no matter what the incarnation (though they'll have to come up with a good way to autograph electronic books...)

Am I bit worried? Sure. It's a rough time all around. Am I quitting? Heck no. Do I hope other writers freak out and stop sending their manuscripts in? Kinda -- because that's less competition for me.

That and I'm just darned stubborn. It wasn't an easy industry to begin with. So it's tougher now. So's life. I'm not going to stop looking for a job just because unemployment's way up, and I'm not going to stop submitting manuscripts to publishers.
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
"That and I'm just darned stubborn."

Honestly, I think that's the most important trait when it comes to making it as a writer.
reudaly
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:02 pm (UTC)
I'm a natural red head born in Missouri (the Show Me State). "Stubborn" is my predominant gene grouping. It's in my blood.

That and I believe in the "wear 'em down" (or shotgun) approach... hit the markets with everything I've -- they'll either buy a story for its merits or just to shut me up. But either way, they bought my story. 8-)
j_cheney
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
1. Keep writing
2. Keep submitting


Yep, this doesn't look like a good time for me to be hunting for representation, but there isn't anything else I can do.
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
Heck, given the response times with some places, this whole recession thing might have blown over by the time they actually get around to responding to your submission :-P
j_cheney
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
Preaching to the choir, brother....
janni
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
As far as I can tell, ever since I started writing (in the early 90s, just after the "boom" of the 80s), I've been hearing about how it's worse now than it ever was. If there ever were easy times to be publishing, they were a long time ago.

So like you say. We keep writing. It's not like this is the first time we've heard that this is the worst time.
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
I want to go back to those mythical days when writing wasn't work, and you just sat back while words drifted lazily from your mind to the page, while editors massaged your shoulders and peeled your grapes and threw lots of money at you...
janni
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:12 pm (UTC)
And the best part was, in those days, your writing didn't even have to be any good. :-)
jaylake
Dec. 5th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
Preach it, brother Jim. That being said, I'm just as glad I'm in the middle of a contract right now rather than seeking a new one.
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
"That being said, I'm just as glad I'm in the middle of a contract right now rather than seeking a new one."

Contract security is a very good thing :-)

I'm on my last contracted book, and I'm going to have to talk to them about buying a few more in order to figure out how I want to end this one. We'll see what happens...
asakiyume
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC)
I can't wait to see Publishing 3.0, with the scales and feathers. It's going to be awesome. Probably something like this:

jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:20 pm (UTC)
::Blinks:: I can't believe you just turned around and found that picture.

I *should* believe it. This is the Internet, after all.

Well done! Publishing 3.0, here we come!
asakiyume
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)
:D

When I read your description, I thought right away of this picture book--I just had to remember the title (Fish is Fish)

Edited at 2008-12-05 08:25 pm (UTC)
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:27 pm (UTC)
Leo Lionni? I thought I recognized the style. We don't have that one, but we have a few of his other books.
asakiyume
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
Yes!

I like his illustrations--especially for "Frederick"

I once saw an exhibition of his drawings--all sketches of stones! You'd think it wouldn't have been very interesting, but actually it was beautiful.
stargatedragon
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC)
really, when you think about it - you just can't NOT write if it's in your blood.

whether it sells today, next week, next year or in a decade is out of your control to a degree - but if you don't write it in the first place it's not going to be anywhere, now... is it?

*wanders off to write*

:D
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
Pretty much, yep :-) And there's something to be said for having a small backlog of fiction ready to go. I've had several anthology sales where an editor needed something last-minute, and I had a story that only needed another round of revisions to work.
guinwhyte
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
Another thing to keep in mind is context. If it were just the publishing industry that was in trouble, I'd be more likely to think it's headed for necessary tweaks -- reinventing itself/evolving. With almost every industry having problems right now (and the reports that half a million jobs were cut last month), though, I think publishers are just trying to ride out the tough times (through job cuts and consolidation) like everyone else -- although it will probably result in evolution as well. (Not that it's any more comforting to think "the economy is foundering" rather than "the publishing industry is foundering," but it's not *just* publishing.)
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 08:44 pm (UTC)
I've heard people saying fiction is recession-proof. I don't know ... some numbers support that, others don't, and I suspect it's too early to really say one way or another. But even if it's not, you're right -- that just means we're in the same boat as everyone else.

Clearly this calls for a Congrssional Bailout for SF/F writers!
guinwhyte
Dec. 5th, 2008 09:05 pm (UTC)
Clearly this calls for a Congressional Bailout for SF/F writers!

Considering how little I trust some of the people they're bailing out, I'd rather Congress handed over money to SF/F writers -- they'd use the money more responsibly. :P

I think it depends on the levels of fear and the depth of the recession as to whether *anything* is really recession-proof. And times may be changing, in that once-recession-proof items (like fiction) aren't so much anymore. The credit crunch on top of the recession is making it just that much tougher all around.
cathschaffstump
Dec. 5th, 2008 09:15 pm (UTC)
I feel very much the same, and said so yesterday in my own journal.

Because I'm so not commercial. Not yet, anyway. It sounds much cooler to be in it for the story telling. And then, once you write a story, you gotta do something with it. So, yeah, I'm with you.

And even if you didn't do something with it, writing is better than other avocations. Say, stained glass. My husband did stained glass, and eventually our windows had filled up, and we'd given away a piece to everyone we knew.

I am very interested to see if publishing takes on some new shape, indeed.

Catherine
jimhines
Dec. 5th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
I think I missed that entry. I've gotten to the point where I'm pretty much skimming or skipping anything that starts to talk about bad publishing news. Having now read it more closely -- yep. Storytelling ain't going anywhere...

I've been curious to try stained glass, but it's never been a high enough priority for me to get to it. Our neighbor growing up did some beautiful pieces, though. I'm a sucker for an art form that combines light and vivid colors so well.
stillnotbored
Dec. 5th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
I have a brand new, shiny agent who is gearing up to send one of my books out to editors. I should be utterly terrified according to everything I've read.

And I'm not. I'm still rather giddy about the whole agent thing and that having one means I at least have a chance to see my books in print.

I keep thinking about how hard I've worked and all I went through to get this far. I'm not going to let something like a recession scare me. I refuse to let chicken little rain pieces of the sky on my parade.

I buy books as presents every Christmas. I bought more today and one for myself as a matter of fact. A bunch of people are getting bookstore gift cards as well. Books are the best presents.
jimhines
Dec. 6th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
Did you catch Jennifer Jackson's post today? (arcaedia on LJ.) She provides a nice little reality check on some of the terror, I think.

It's not my place to tell folks how to feel, but I think you've got every right to be both proud and excited. Recession? Pah. You're kicking ass and taking names.
barbarienne
Dec. 5th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
The insanity in the publishing business is just a fractal iteration of what's going on in the economy in general.

The housing bubble that started the whole chain reaction was the result of too many people living beyond their means, assuming that somehow, magically, they would be able to afford a house that cost ten times their annual salary. It was like a giant Ponzi scheme, and like all such schemes, eventually the pyramid has to stop expanding, and then it crumbles.

So the current economic awfulness is really just a reality check. Like a drug crash, it has to go way to the other side before it rebounds to some semblance of normalcy. But I have faith it will do so eventually.

The publishing industry has been doing the same for the past fifteen or twenty years. Large publishers bought up small publishers, which gains some savings with volume discounts, but really adds to overhead and creates hiding spaces for dead wood in the workforce.

Add on a culture of wastrel spending--a million dollars for a first novel! WTF!--fueled by human nature and what people can get away with when the company is so large it's hard to check the books, and you have many, many examples of enormous baths taken on books in the past two decades.

The publishing industry is coming into what everyone else is feeling: the party is over. The question now is, will the folks at the top realize the problem? Will they stop gambling huge sums on books they have no idea will sell?

"Winning an auction just means you were willing to risk more money on that book than any of your competition."

The editors need to think about that statement more. More money is made off a strong backlist from an author who was bought cheap and built up, than from an author who was offered astronomical sums to steal them away from another publisher.

You don't have to move a lot of books to make money. What you have to do is correctly gauge how many copies you can sell of a particular book in a certain time frame, and then budget accordingly.

More books than ever sell each year--yes, even this year. The problem is that too many are money-losing dogs. I'm the first to say that you never can tell, and it's always a gamble. But sometimes it's really obvious to everyone but the editor that a book is never going to make a profit. This is where the reins have to grab and hold.

The collapse of a few larger publishers will be surmountable in the long run. They'll return to manageable size, where people are disinclined to offer inflated advances. Small publishers will take up the slack, and slowly grow into medium-sized publishers. They'll need to be ready to deal with alternate forms of distribution and technology (re: the growing ebook market), but that's not insurmountable.

The industry is simultaneously changing and going through a rebalancing. People will not stop reading, neither novels nor long works of nonfiction. The only question is whether publishers will figure out how to work the new marketplace profitably.
jimhines
Dec. 6th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)
Hmph. Where were those wastrel editors and their million-dollar checks when *I* sold my first novel? :-P

A lot of good thoughts here, thank you. I'll be curious to watch and see which publishers do the best job of adapting and come out on top.

"More money is made off a strong backlist from an author who was bought cheap and built up..."

I'm going to be thinking about that one for a while, as it feels a lot closer to the strategy DAW seems to have taken with me. (Not that I'm cheap, but ... well, okay, I am.) I've got to believe that being where I'm at, with the books starting to earn out and bring in some royalties, is a win for everyone involved.
barbarienne
Dec. 6th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
My first employer in the industry (before they were bought by my second employer) had this strategy, and made money hand over fist. Mostly they concentrated on the Other Two Genres (romance and crime fic), but then had some turnover of SF editors and started working that vein successfully, too.

The million-dollar checks go to mainstream/literary writers, mostly, and it's a giant symptom of principles before practicality. Some editors forget that publishing is a business. It's okay to publish some books that will lose money but they're good books and will bring prestige to the imprint; however, that does you no good if you bankrupt your company.
rugor
Dec. 5th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
Right now I'm working on short fiction.

I have novels to work on, but I want some shorts out of the gate first. In the meantime it's a long slog and this is just a bump in the road. If the novel is good enough, it will sell eventually.
jimhines
Dec. 6th, 2008 01:58 am (UTC)
All of the long-term successful authors I've talked to have made it clear there will be many bumps along the way. It helps to hear that perspective, and to know that one year might be painful, but that you survive and keep writing and things do get better again.
crazywritergirl
Dec. 6th, 2008 01:40 am (UTC)
I signed with the agent of my dreams this summer. I just handed in my last small press book under contract. So here I am, all jazzed and ready to sell books to the Big Apple. Then along comes our current economic Dunkirk.

Bah! So I stepped back and examined the situation. We may still sell that YA proposal to someone. If not, such is life. Now, I decided, is the time to play. If I was under contract I would not have the liberty to putz around with anything that catches my fancy. I would not be mussing with two different story ideas at once. I would be working on the one that was due.

Eventually publishing will regain its feet. At that time I hope to have a nice little stockpile of novels ready for their inspection (probably like every other working author.) Then I'll make that sale. There is a time for everything. Right now just isn't it for some of us.
jimhines
Dec. 6th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
Did you catch Jennifer Jackson's post today? (arcaedia on LJ.) Nice take from the agent's PoV, and more encouraging than some of the reporting.

Either way, you're in a pretty strong position, being agented and ready to go. Tomorrow if not today, like you said.
crazywritergirl
Dec. 6th, 2008 02:01 am (UTC)
Thanks for the link. She hit it dead on. There's been ugly times in publishing before. Our situation is that we're sharing with the rest of the world.

Actually this is a perfect place for me to be. I'm not sweating about the next book making the numbers, I'm not worried that my editor will up stakes and head for the hills. I'm dandy. And I try to remind myself of that every day so I don't get the "OMG, I don't have a contract!" thing going.

Hey, you not only got 4-1/2 Star review at RT Bookreviews, but it was a TOP PICK! (Got the magazine today. Unfortunately the website didn't tell me that). You dog! Well done! Thank goodness you and Mr. Coe are not going to be in the running for next month. My latest is due for review. Now I might have a chance. Here's hoping....

jimhines
Dec. 6th, 2008 02:11 am (UTC)
Thanks! Not only that, but apparently Goblin War is in the running for the Romantic Times Readers' Choice award in the fantasy category. Which boggles me a bit, to tell the truth. But I'm not complaining :-)
crazywritergirl
Dec. 6th, 2008 02:14 am (UTC)
All right! That's awesome. Goblins rule!
rhondaparrish
Dec. 6th, 2008 07:16 am (UTC)
I don't think the sky is falling, but I think it may be a rough ride for a while. My plan is the same as yours -- though I expect this to make it more difficult for me to get an agent and get my fantasy books out there in reader's hands, all I can do is keep trying. So I'm still querying, I'm still writing and I'm still hoping.

Here's to it working out well for all of us sooner rather than later.
laughingfalcon
Dec. 9th, 2008 06:29 am (UTC)
Survival of the Social
With things being difficult I think one of the best things authors can do is band together for short story anthologies. You can pull on each others fame and get more people to try your books by offering a sampler.

People are working a lot right now and "don't have time to read" well, they can when it's short stories. And people feel with a mix of authors they are getting a lot of value for their dollar since they are bound to like something in the mix. As long as they like the over-all theme. At least that is what I think. May not be true across the board.

And Goblin War is the book in the running for Romantic Times Readers' Choice Award? I could understand Goblin Quest...oh must be the god and goddess love story. The true path of love never did run smooth. And really, some readers would like something other than "Spring Sky was drawn to the rich and handsome Lord Daunterly who gave her money but no passion until at the stroke of midnight a strange masked man visited her room, blah, blah, blah."
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