My oldest is leaving for college.
I have to let the words sink in, because as I look at him, I still remember him as a ‘Terrible Two’, as the kid too fast to be caught when he played flag football in grade school, as the young man who could always make me laugh. Thankfully for this mama’s heart, he isn’t going far. But it will be far enough, and his spot at the dinner table will be empty most nights from now on. I am not certain, however, that I am ready for the change. Are any of us?
A few weeks ago, a friend called to tell me that her publisher, after five books, was dropping her from their print line. She is one of my mentors, a woman whose advice I have come to rely upon, someone whose success I thought unassailable. I was just as shocked as she was to hear the news. She was offered the opportunity to publish her next book as an e-book, but we both wondered if she was ready for the change. Are any of us?
When it took me ten years of hard work (and a lot of rejections) before I received my first contract, I learned the lesson that writing is a difficult, and sometimes unforgiving, vocation. And though I could hardly turn off the voices in my head and lay down the pen, I have to prepare myself for the possibility that my writer’s world might one day veer off in an unexpected direction. Seeing your book in print -- ah, the joy of that! -- is no guarantee of continued success. In fact, as many friends have warned me, the real hard work begins after publication. Steel yourself, Nancy!
However, as I wait for news on my latest project, I have to ask myself if I am prepared should the response not be what I am hoping for. Since I don’t readily crumble, I like to think I am. But just as I am surprised by my unsteady response to my son’s imminent departure (I’m quite certain I will be a blubbering mess at his graduation), I have to wonder if I could handle a disruption to my writing career with as much grace and determination as my friend, who has transformed the proclamation from her publisher into new goals and a fresh commitment to writing.
So, as authors, what can we do to prepare ourselves for setbacks and changes? I am not the ultimate authority, but here are my thoughts…
- Step 1 - take a deep breath and eat lots of chocolate. Okay, that might not work for all of you, but I know it would for me.
- Don’t rest on your laurels. This is the ‘hard work’ everyone warned me about. Be willing to get your name out there by every means possible (this advice coming from someone who hates to tweet). Work on the next book immediately. Continue to learn and hone your craft. Pay attention to the direction the industry is heading and how you might take advantage of that.
- Save everything you have ever written. You might find a fresh source of inspiration, a story that speaks to you now better than it did when you originally had the idea, in the pages of past material. I know I have. For instance, a character that was excised from Josiah’s Treasure will be making an appearance in my current project. I’m pretty happy for him, because he is a lovable scoundrel and I have never written one of those before.
- Be ready to change your pen name, reinvent yourself, try another sub-genre (or entirely NEW genre) if necessary. Flexibility is key, and many folks have had to do some amazing backbends and twists to survive the ups-and-downs.
- Remind yourself that the publishing business is just that -- a business -- and as such, decisions are often made based on the bottom-line and dollars-and-cents. They are not meant to be personal nor an attack on your ability as a writer. With all the changes occurring right now in the industry, brick-and-mortar publishers are scrambling to figure out how to compete in the e-book market. Unfortunately, authors are being caught in the morass. If you find yourself tossed over, pick yourself up, lift your chin and see Step 1.
My best to all of you, all of us. We have chosen a terrifying path, we authors, but one I doubt any of us would step off of.
And if you happen to be at my son’s graduation this June, please have plenty of tissues handy.
Nancy Herriman abandoned a career in Engineering to chase around two small children and take up the pen. She has been writing for longer than she would like to admit. Her work has been a finalist in several Romance Writers of America contests and she won the 2006 RWA Daphne du Maurier award for Best Unpublished Mystery/Romantic Suspense. In 2009, she was an ACFW Genesis finalist. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.
When she is not writing, or gabbing over lattes about writing, she is either watching history shows on cable TV or singing. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and sons, and wishes there were more hours in the day. You can contact Nancy through her website at http://www.nancyherriman.com/.
Leave a comment for Nancy for a chance to win one of two signed copies of her latest release, Josiah's Treasure.
In 1882 San Francisco, Sarah Whittier dreams of opening an art studio run by immigrant women. She plans to use the house left to her by family friend Josiah Cady as collateral for her studio. But will all be lost when the inheritance is challenged by a man claiming to be Josiah’s son and legal heir? His arrival has also resurrected dangerous rumors of gold nuggets hidden in the house. Her future uncertain and her safety threatened, Sarah has nowhere to turn. Unless she can soften a vengeful man’s heart–-and they both learn that love is the only treasure worth having. Read an excerpt from the first chapter here.