I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
The biggest news in our world today is the economy, and many are suffering the effects. Last week we were bombarded with news of difficult realities in the publishing industry. What should our response be? I asked a handful of literary agents the question: What’s the one thing you’d like to tell writers in these difficult economic times? Here are some of their responses; I’ll post more on Thursday.
Wendy Lawton, Books and Such:
We all flinched at the painful reports of layoffs in our industry and at the grim prognostications that followed. No one is buying. The industry is grinding to a halt. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, “Reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated.” Good writers and good publishers are still working together to make great books. In the last sixty days, I sold twelve books, working out the details of two three-book deals Thursday—the day after “Black Wednesday” in publishing. The sky is not falling. We either sit around and wring our hands or we roll up our sleeves. We can’t do both.
Steve Laube, The Steve Laube Agency:
Publishing has always been a business in flux. Like the addictive dieter, publishers get pudgy and then have to cut away the fat. Only to turn around and grow again. If you have been a student of the industry, the patterns have been consistent.
This time around the surrounding economy is driving some of the changes. It is to be expected. But is does not mean the demise of publishing. Hardly. It only means the author must work that much harder to write the best stories or craft the best non-fiction advice. At the same time a wise author will spend the time, money, and resources to build their platform/visibility. If it was easy, they wouldn’t call it work.
Kate Schafer Testerman, KT Literary:
It’s been said before, but the best way to have a long-lasting career in this difficult industry (at any time, not just recently) is to write brilliantly. Even in a difficult economy a book that keeps me up late reading, that I find sneaking into my head, that tells a unique story with an unforgettable voice —I’m still going to go out of my way to find a publisher for that book.
If I can add anything else, always be the best author you can be—and that includes all the work you need to do besides putting words on paper. Promote your book on your blog or website, build a community of readers, help your sales and marketing team come up with ideas of how to promote you and your work, talk to librarians and booksellers, and make friends with other writers for other great ideas!
Beth Jusino, Alive Communications:
It’s not enough to be good. To make it right now, you have to be great. Your nonfiction book idea has to be focused and contemporary and fill a need; your story idea needs to be compelling from the first page. Your writing has to be tight, edited, clean, and undeniably compelling. This is not a season for laziness. This is not the time to “float” an idea before it’s developed, or to try to write something that was popular five years ago. The world has changed dramatically—especially the world of books and reading. This isn’t meant to be a discouragement. Publishers are still acquiring books from established and first-time authors. They’re still looking for The Next Big Thing. They’ve just set the bar higher for all of us.
Greg Johnson, WordServe Literary:
I was talking with an editor from Thomas Nelson the day after the shakeup. We were lamenting the state of book publishing, book sellers…generally where the industry was going. I told her that from our company we were digging deeper to find ways to become better partners with publishers and authors. I think this has always been the case with WordServe authors, but I assured her we were going to explore further the ways we can help in the book selling process; that we weren’t going to be an agency that did the deal and disappeared. She was delighted to hear that. Publishers feel they’re all alone sometimes bearing the brunt of returns, authors who won’t step up to the plate, and agents who complain.
So if there is one thing an author can do (or continue to do), is find ways to truly PARTNER with a publisher to market and PR their books. Our authors are combing the web for blogs and websites who will review their work. They’re talking to magazine editors to get articles printed. And while speaking is slow throughout America , they’re trying to get more gigs. When a publisher sees or hears of an author going above and beyond, they want to continue to work with that author to push the book…even well beyond the four month “front list” window. The more an author sees themselves as a partner, the more books are sold.
Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.
What have you, personally, worried about the most in this difficult economy?
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Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.