Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Standing on your own two feet

Regardless of what people think the life of an author is like, the truth is that it’s a lot of work, much of it not much fun. The reality of the current marketplace is that most of the grunt work is done by the author, not by the publisher, the media or publicists — unless said author hires the publicist him/herself.

Has it always been like this? I really don’t know, but I would expect things were more dependent on other people rather than the author.

But we now live in an age of “downsizing”, “rationalization”, “outsourcing”, all nicely manufactured terms for corporations telling us we must “do more with less” (except for the people at the top). Sure, we can complain, gnash our teeth, protest, but the truth is, there’s very little that can be done about it.

Publishers have long known that writers are desperate to see their books in print – even high-profile authors when it comes down to it. There is far more truth in in the words “Publish or Perish” than most would believe. Desperate people can be talked into a lot of things simply because they’re desperate. Some (certainly not all) publishers will take advantage of this. It’s not because they’re inherently nasty people working for nasty corporations. Most often, they’re moved by simple economics: there’s less money to go around and the money that’s available must be put to work in the places where it will have maximum return.

Being at the bottom of the food change in publishing (as they always have been), writers who then become authors upon publication of their deathless prose (my designation of the difference between these two jobs), will take on a lot of the promotional work simply because they want to get ahead. They will pay for publicists, arrange their own book events, send out press releases, design publicity materials. When the publisher is also doing some of this work, too, you can get a lot of bang for your buck, but far too often, authors are out on their own.

For me, sure, I don’t like having to do it, truth be told. I have obligations beyond my writing that must be attended to – like making enough money so I and my family can survive, and there are only so many hours in the day. But I also love writing. I want to share my work with as wide an audience as I can reach. If I get really lucky, I might even make enough money so that my writing habit would actually generate enough income to support us – and allow me to write full-time. There are very few authors who don’t wish for this, though only a lucky few achieve this lofty goal. Those are usually the ones who embrace the paradigm of the author being prepared to do anything and work hard at it in order to maximize their chances for grabbing the brass ring.

Make no mistake: success in publishing has as much to do with luck as skill. You have to be in the right place at the right time. However, if you don’t maximize your chances, you’ll likely remain on the fringes. Let me put it this way: you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

So the next time you ask yourself, “Why, oh why, am I having to do all this?” answer yourself this way. Look in the mirror and say, “You brought this situation on yourself. You wanted to be published, you want to be successful at it. So dig in and get to work!” For me, being in control of these sorts of things means that I don’t have to rely on other people to do it. Sure, that would be nice and all, but how much of the needed work would get done promptly, and more importantly, correctly?

Faced with that reality, I’ll do it myself, thank you!


Eileen Goudge said...

So true, Rick! The writing game is far different than when I was first published, in the 1980's. Back then it was bound marketing reports and in-house teams working on your behalf. Now I feel lucky to partner with a publisher who works to market and promote. The more you learn and do, the better off you'll be.

Mario Acevedo said...

Nicely said, Rick.