Publishing has changed. It has changed drastically since I started this journey about 18 years ago, and here's a bit of advice from a gal who has published nearly 60 books: A meteor didn't take the dinosaurs. The inability to adapt did.
If you don't believe me visit the Museum of Natural History in NYC.
Let me give you a brief Ruthy history: I wrote for eight years before getting a contract with Love Inspired. I was approached by Theresa Park (Nicholas Sparks' agent) in year five but she didn't want to talk further if I didn't pull my work from Harlequin/Love Inspired. Ouch! I made mistakes... and stayed writing through them. The publishing climate changed. I stayed writing. Christian publishing houses began to close. I kept writing. I examined markets, tried to mentally predict what would happen next (hahahahaha! Good luck with that, LOL!). I saw that romance was going to a much higher degree of sensuality than I was comfortable with and with that I left RWA (Romance Writers of America). I kept writing. Entering contests. Going to conferences and meeting people when financially possible, and I learned to watch quietly because what gets put on the Internet stays forever on the Internet... Oops! Publishing contracts from Love Inspired kicked off my career: in 2009 they offered three separate contracts and a new page was turned.
I love working with Love Inspired. I love that women with short purse strings can afford these books, and that they're available in Walmarts and pharmacies and grocery stores... where women tend to shop, right? No brainer. But I also like writing bigger, broader books.
I kept writing.
I had 14 novels complete when I was contracted. My first post-contract agent didn't see them making it anywhere... they didn't fit.
I kept writing.
My next agent echoed those words. They weren't typical Christian fiction, they didn't fit in the box, and because I was so good at category, maybe that's where God intended me to be.
I figured God wanted me to do exactly what I was doing... honing my craft, and working on my mission to give women the strength and grace and tenacity to see how faith builds us up in times of trouble... and I knew those stories might not fit the prescribed CBA "box"... but I knew they were good.
I went indie with those books, hit Amazon bestselling charts and began my hybrid career, not as an "in your face" move because I respect these women. They were right. PUBLISHING RARELY BENDS TO MAKE ROOM FOR NEW STUFF. That's their prerogative, right? Ours is to make our own choices to build our careers. Who knew???
And you know what? Rather than fuss and whine (which I've watched happen countless times) about what publishing wants, or the (gasp!) ignominy of writing to market... (shocked face and gasps again!) a strong writer examines the business side of the market, their time, their choices, their goals, and goes from there because, my friends, in case you've forgotten or never knew this, writing is a business.
It is not a hobby if you want it to pay the bills.
You do not have limitless choices when you are under contract.
They are paying you to produce a product, the product they bought... the product they're standing behind, the product they plan to market, the product they hope to sell to a targeted audience/readership just like Fruity Pebbles are normally targeted toward really smart kids because they're delicious!!!! AND.... Kashi Go flakes are marketed toward adults who don't run off an extra 500 calories while sitting at a desk.
As an author, you don't just write the book unless you're going indie.
You may be asked to re-write the book.
You will have revisions. Some of them may not sit right. When this happens, you do the revisions because they bought the book... you're the author, but it is now their book.
You will have edits. Multiple edits. And you don't necessarily get to ignore them although there is some compromise available, especially once you have a track record. But establishing that track record, building a readership, now that's up to you.
Back to choices, because no matter how many fingers get pointed at the tyranny of publishers, here are the facts: This isn't about them. It comes down to you.
1. You may have to jump through hoops. In day jobs we call that "having a boss".
2. You will have to compromise.
3. You will have to take advice and adjust your time frames, schedules, focus and deliver the goods in a timely fashion.
4. You may have to write to market. That means that you may be asked to write books that sell to a prescribed audience/readership. Before you think of this as an insult, consider this: the publisher is paying. That gives them a really firm leg to stand on. If you don't want to write to market, that's okay, too! But it's not an insult to be asked to produce a book that fits a niche. I do both. Category romance and cozy mysteries are great examples of writing to market... and paying the bills! I love being a small business woman who has built a career that pays the bills... But as mentioned above, writing other stories takes a different path.
5. Don't shrink back from proving yourself. Women have been doing that forever. Now is no different. When my indie books took off, I was offered contracts for bigger books from publishers. Yay! But my work and effort came first, and it's often like that. This is not offensive. It's how things go sometimes. The old adage rings true: The harder you work, the luckier you get.
6. Publishing isn't easy and you will make hard choices. One publisher asked one final question before deciding on a contract: Will I still write for Love Inspired? I said yes... and they did not offer the contract. It is a personal decision how much power you're willing to concede and I assess each offer, contract on its own merit and my faith.
7. Your covers aren't always your dream covers... but when readers fall in love with your work, you'll realize that readers don't care as much about covers as they do about authors who touch their hearts.
8. You will have to relinquish a measure of control. Not everyone can do this. Think it over carefully.
9. You will have to deliver manuscripts on a deadline, edits on a deadline, background and art work on a deadline... and take advice from editors, copy editors, sales teams and marketers and follow the rules.
10. Working with other authors isn't always easy. Word to the wise: We are a diverse group, even when we are considered a "stable" of writers. Like horses, we are of many colors and temperaments. We have different talents and goals, but you would be wise not to burn the bridges because it may be a big industry but it is a Very Small Pond. Be nice. Play nice. Or mind your tongue. What you put in print on social media gets seen by many.... take it from one who made some early mistakes and think, think, think before splashing your current angst all over Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.
I've been honored to help and mentor and advise a lot of aspiring and now published writers... We've been doing Seekerville for fifteen years, so I've watched promising authors crash and burn numerous times because the work and expectation involved isn't a piece of cake.
I hope that's not you.
But then-- dear author-- that's entirely up to you.
Indie publishing has opened so many doors and options that didn't exist as a viable option even ten years ago.
To quote Nora Roberts on writers and success: Successful authors aren't always the most talented. They're the ones who didn't quit.
And that bit of truth holds true today, too.
And a double giveaway of this new mystery today!!!!! "A Fallen Petal", book 2 of "Savannah Secrets" from Guideposts Publishing!
When an acclaimed author announces his next book will be a deep dive into the predecessors of Savannah’s oldest citizen, 104-year-old Harlowe Green becomes very nervous. Harlowe fears that a long-buried family secret might not just tarnish his reputation, but it might also expose his family as criminals. Years ago—almost a century now—he went on a trip north with his parents and little brother, Lawrence. Only three of them returned home, and everyone around Harlowe refused to acknowledge that Lawrence had ever existed. Concerned that time is running out to understand what happened, Harlowe implores Meredith and Julia—fresh off their first case—to help him find the truth. But will their discoveries bring him peace or confirm his worst fears and destroy his family’s good name?