Lately I've been hearing about far too many seasoned writers who have been dropped by their publishers. Best-selling series, 25 books with the same house, beloved by tens of thousands of fans: none of it counts in the age of computer modeling and the almighty bottom line. It is a lot like a loyal and productive worker being laid off one year shy of the gold watch and the pension. But it occurs to me that it's also a lot like a late-life divorce. You've been doing your job, doing it well, and all of a sudden, not only is it over, but you're dating again. In the writer's case, the "dates" are agents and editors rather than divorced and widowed singles. It must be weird in very much the same way. "How do I do this? I haven't had to market myself for 20 years. The rules have changed. I feel like a teenager, and it sucks."
As a newbie just past the long haul to a contract, I hate to hear these stories. They tell me I'll never be safe. Will my first mystery sell well enough in hardcover to go to paperback? Will my publisher want the next in the series? Will the people who bought the first one fork out for a second hardcover? Will my number of readers grow? I'm planning to give it my best shot. And if it doesn't work--at one book, at three, anywhere down the line--I hope I'll have the grace to say, as more than one writer friend currently in limbo has, "I had a good run."