By Erica Vetsch
And doesn’t come…and doesn’t come…and doesn’t come.
I’d heard the stories. Authors whose publishing houses dropped them, authors whose patron saint at the publishing house—their editor—moved on somewhere else, authors whose genre lost popularity and shelf space.
But I never expected it to happen to me. I never expected my publisher to sell off the line I wrote for, for my editor to be laid off, for the publisher to change directions, for the economy to continue to tank, etc.
At the moment, after 13 titles in three years, it’s been two years since my last contract and 15 months since I last released something new. (There have been some re-packages and re-prints, but nothing new.) It seems a lot like when I wrote before I had a contract, not knowing when the break would come, checking my email, waiting for news. Waiting on UnPubbed Island.
It’s been discouraging, to say the least. Not to mention the questions from friends and family about when the next title will come out.
So what is a writer to do? How do you keep on in the face of nothing happening? In the face of all the doubts and fears and discouragement? Here are a few things that I have felt helpful.
1. Keep writing. My husband, who owns a wholesale lumber business, says, “You can’t sell out of an empty truck.” And he’s right. You have to keep the inventory up. This means you have to keep producing words, chapters, stories. This one’s not easy when you’re discouraged, or if, like me, you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder which makes feeling/being creative in the long months of a Minnesota winter difficult. But I’ve come up with some ways to help me, and I hope they’ll help you.
b. Find an accountability partner – someone who will check up on you, encourage you when you’re down. Celebrate when you reach a milestone.
c. Utilize social media to help you, not hinder you. Join the #1k1hr group on Facebook or Twitter. Use NaNoWriMo and Speedbo to keep you motivated. Install a word counter on your blog or website, anything to keep that word count piling up.
2. Stay connected. This is one I didn’t do so well, but I’m coming to see is so important. When that next contract doesn’t come, when you’re becoming embarrassed that you haven’t sold anything new and want to dodge the questions, it’s easy to withdraw. I started blogging less and less frequently, then stopped altogether for about six months. I stopped reading as many blogs. I didn’t post as often to my author page on Facebook. All that did was make me feel more isolated, more disconnected, and definitely lonely. So what can you do?
a. Read and talk about fiction in your genre. Even if you don’t have a new release, other people do. You can talk about their books.
b. Read industry blogs, how-to writing books, friends’ blogs. Stay current on what’s going on in the publishing industry and your writer-friends’ lives. Subscribe to Writer’s Digest or The Writer, join writer’s groups or organizations.
c. Engage with your writing friends. You need them, they care about you, and they can help you stay positive and motivated during the down times. Encourage them, uplift them, ask about their work. Make it a two-way stream of giving and getting.
3. Have a Plan. If you don’t plan what to do with your un-contracted time, you run the risk of wandering aimlessly in the weeds and getting lost. For me having a plan meant close communication with my agent about:
a. What projects on which to work.
b. What proposals to freshen up for another round of submissions.
c. What feedback we were getting on projects and how to incorporate that.
d. New markets and ideas.
e. The notion of hybrid publishing to keep fresh content out there.
f. How my struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder were going.
Writing in the weeds is hard, but if you keep writing, stay connected, and have a plan of action, you can mitigate some of the hardships. Hanging out here at Seekerville is an excellent prescription to the staying connected. I know the ladies here have been lifesavers for me.
In order to facilitate the “Read Fiction” idea, I’m giving away a copy of Sagebrush Knights! US resident only.
Now, back to writing! (After you post a comment telling me your favorite motivational tool for cranking out the word count…not including chocolate. That’s a given!)
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Journey along with the four Gerhard sisters as they head to Wyoming Territory in search of husbands and discover that happy endings are not ready-made. Evelyn arrives in Wyoming with a secret and a grudge, only to find her prospective groom holds a secret, too. Jane vies for the attention of her workaholic husband who is bent on saving his ranch even if it means losing love. Gwendolyn’s would-be husband dies, leaving her to the will of another man. And Emmeline’s knight-in-shining-armor herds sheep instead of cattle. Will love prevail, or will their journeys have not so happy endings?
Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and reading, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical fiction set in the American West. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two terrific teens, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.