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."

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Scary, but great topic Elizabeth. As a newbie and not a published novelist as YET...although published in magazines and a anthology-- this topic really scares me while breaking into the publishing world and its politics.

I'm at the beginning (and scary) stage of learning all I can about getting the right agent, and the how-to-do-it with professionality. Heck, finding one interested in my work and who believes in my talent is a cross-your-fingers job. (and I believe I'm talented) That is the hardest step in the whole writing process. I'm terrified of an agent knowing that I am green. I'd run if I were an agent.

Now that you've introduced the newest dilemma of publishers divorcing seasoned writers, I'm scared of a future divorce once I am published. I, like most beginners, always thought once you've proved yourself with sells and fan base, you're in like flint. And once upon a time, I believe that was true. If your work sells then the agent and publisher continue to ride the ticket.

I've read about authors joining in on the e-publishing and other medias available, and do see that we have to take responsibility for our futures with all options available. But this surely isn't what I had in mind for my future. I do believe that e-publishing will take more years than some of us will ever see, to present itself in any reliable venue. Maybe the next generation of writers will benefit. As it was already mentioned, the younger generation is into the computer scene, more than our generation is into the hardcopy and paperback era.

I'm terrified to learn that publishers drop their proven authors and now wonder where that leaves a newbie unknown first-timer, in the grand scale of things. What do the publishers want if not their proven seasoned authors? Why bother with a new unknown? It seems to me that they would be starting from scratch by divorcing the proven author. P.S. I like the positive attitude most everyone has concerning this transition-- that's encouraging for me.
What publishers want is that their authors should sell in certain numbers. If the sales don't reach those numbers, the author will be dropped. Period. This is something a new author needs to know up front in order to have realistic expectations of where his/her career is going, but neither agents nor editors like to tell exactly what these numbers are. And the numbers do change depending on the genre in which one writes, and on the particular publisher, with some having higher expectations than others, and in general things are tighter now than they were ten years ago. Expectations may also change depending on how promising the new author is perceived to be by a powerful editor within the publishing house, since a powerful editor can get some leeway to allow the author's readership to build. A new author should ask how many copies of the book will be published, keep up with sales numbers, and have a frank conversation with the agent about what the numbers mean.

In this new situation of POD and small presses, the new paradigm seems to be for the author to keep track of sales and to solicit reviews (and keep copies of the reviews) him/herself, and then to use this data to encourage agent interest. If you are going to get very far -- unless, like Mr Mize you enjoy doing it yourself, which is a great advantage for him -- you will need an agent sooner rather than later.

Hey. I don't know if it's because I'm a Capricorn (I hate that old pigeonhole thing, BUT), I know myself and I know that I -- 1.) am a workaholic, and 2.) will never feel safe. It seems every time I try to do the thing
that will make me feel more secure, I get further away. I think authors even become gun-shy by nature of the business. For example, I had two best-selling party/games books. The first one, Great Games for Great Parties was published by a medium NY house with not much of a royalty, but it stayed on the shelf for twelve years and must have paid me $25,000 in royalty. Now I say to myself, get a dozen of those going and you've got something to live on. But, you know what?

The publishing business turns a corner, becomes very corporate and you're lucky if your shelf-life for a title is six months! Hence, new plan. (One thing though, I got the "rights" to these two books back as quickly as possible and they are sitting on the desk of another publisher—keep those fingers crossed, hm-m?)

I think in order to stay in business, you have to learn to shuck and jive (geez, where did that come from?)
Well, I mean, just do it all, keep doing what you think works, and then change that up to in the hopes that it will catch on and something else will transpire. It's a re-invention game publishing is, for sure.


Andrea Campbell


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