In yesterday’s posting, Cindy at A Writer’s Diary sounded a little down about this article in the Telegraph (UK) describing how, in essence, publishers are going for the quick fix I mentioned a few days ago, staying with proven megabestsellers and looking for brand new authors, while dropping the hatchet on midlist authors.
One of the sources quoted said that the age of the literary apprenticeship was over – that this move means that authors are no longer nurtured until they write their breakout novel.
That’s one thing I disagree with. That era has been over for quite a while. Were that system still in place, I’d be a name SF writer for Del Rey right now. Unfortunately, I was told by them that “our titles sell themselves” and when my books didn’t do as well as they wanted in the face of virtually no promotion outside of author’s copies to some SF trades, I was dropped. Their official excuse for this can be found on an SF newsgroup:
“…his sales were disappointing, and the sad truth is that once an author’s sales begin to go down, it’s almost impossible to turn them around again unless the author comes up with a total blockbuster. So we haven’t been able to buy more books from him.”
I’d just like to interject here that I wasn’t really given the chance to write a blockbuster. I was asked for an outline for one – a trilogy unrelated to Angel’s Luck, which was big and ambitious and gave the editors what they were looking for – but I think that was an empty gesture on Del Rey’s part. I think my fate was sealed before I was even asked for the outline.
I also met a similar fate at Bantam. I had a marketing plan for the first Pembroke Hall book that was ignored with the words, “we know how to sell our books.” When Ferman’s Devils tanked, they couldn’t get their hands on my plan fast enough. But the opportunity was gone by then. In fact, Bantam took Ferman’s Devils out of print the same month that they published Boddekker’s Demons.
Now I routinely find references to me asking where I am now, if I have left writing, etc. A couple of them even speculate that my publishers mishandled me.
I dare say that Cindy, who has yet to be published, has a better chance than I do of being published right now (a fact that I hope she’ll put to good use). So why am I still whacking away at it, even though the cards are stacked against me?
Because I believe I can do it.
First of all, I believe that God has given me an extraordinary talent. And if he can raise the dead, then a dead career should be nothing for him.
Second, I believe that over the years, I have become a better writer than a lot of people who are getting into print right now. And if they’re getting into print, then I can do this and become a bestseller as a result.
Third, I refuse to let the misfortunes of my SF writing carry over into what I’m doing now. I’ve heard that I will be told, “We don’t think that your SF readers will carry over into mainstream fiction.” Well, those who are still out there will, I have no doubt of that. Besides, most of the readers I had accumulated while at Del Rey were effectively knocked out of the picture during the Bantam experiment, so I’m just as unknown as a new author. And hey, if I have to, I’ll put And/News out under a pseudonym to enhance that fact.
Yeah, it’s the old “I’m the exception to this rule” routine. Only I know that I’m the exception.
I didn’t come all this way just to quit.
Now I don’t know why any of us starts writing. I’m still making a study of that. But I do know that those of us who stick it out to publication, who go on to overcome the baggage that their early careers heaped upon them, do it because they believe in themselves and their talent and are able to translate that into a drive to make things happen.
So believe. Believe in your talent and your ability to take words and weave magic with them.
Yes, that Telegraph article paints a gloomy picture of the publishing industry. But it has been gloomy for years. And during those years, I still managed to get seven books out there with my name on them – and didn’t have to pay someone to do it. That article might be true, but on the other hand the industry has been teetering on the brink, predicting catastrophe for decades and decades.
Hey, maybe it’s just propaganda put out by editors to ease the number of manuscripts currently arriving at their desks.
Well, we won’t buy into that, will we? Because we’re true believers.