Be Prepared

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

I’ve been pondering the stock market volatility in the past week. One day it looked as if the world was on the verge of the financial collapse being warned of by many prognosticators, and then the next day brought such a rebound no one could have hoped for nor explain, proving our finite human ability to know all the answers. I couldn’t help but notice the parallels writers face in the publishing life. In both realms it pays to be prepared.

Investors who learn to diversify their investments and monitor world market trends and their daily gains and losses will be in the best position to survive drastic downturns. It’s the best we humans can do. Likewise, unpublished and published authors are wise to learn and adopt similar strategies to weather the cycles in the publishing market. Recent hints of increased fiction sales over last year at this time are hopeful signs. Now is not too early to begin.

Here are a few areas authors can invest in to keep your career moving forward.

Be flexible.

Some debut or triage authors have their sights set only on getting a trade book contract. If you are one of these, consider what would have happened to investors who were interested only in Enron or Eastern Airlines stock. It will correct your perspective.

Case in point. A client has written several historical romance novels. While she waits for publishers to begin acquiring that trade-length genre again, she has not been idle. She eagerly worked on proposals for novella collections and submitted an entry to a publisher’s category romance contest. Her willingness to be flexible has resulted in three contracts. Her name in the bylines will give her author recognition and new readers to her growing tribe.

The strategy involved in being flexible is to submit only to opportunities that are within your chosen trade book genre and that also have the potential for good sales, which you will have to disclose in future book proposals.

Research additional writing opportunities such as submitting articles to publications that are suitable for your genre. Choose online or print publications that have the greatest readership. Also, offer to swap guest post opportunities with other authors who write in your genre.

Whatever you write, make it your best work.

When the market is lackluster, it might be tempting to quickly pump out articles or auditions for category fiction or blog posts. Remember that each submission will be viewed as a sample of your best work. Take time to be sure it is. Enough said.

Keep building.

Lately, I’ve spoken to talented writers who are inclined to set their career aside, so discouraged are they about their hopes of a trade-length contract. If you are likewise tempted, you’re forgetting about what can be done during a waiting season to stay active and be prepared. For example, in some ways the current stagnation in publishing opportunities for fiction is an asset, because it gives authors time (1) to focus on business side of your career by building a stronger platform, dominated by readers, and (2) to continue learning and practicing craft skills in your flexible writing and in your trade-length manuscript.

No one can know the future, but if you keep building your career in these ways, you’ll be as ready as you can be when a door of opportunity swings open.

How would you rate your willingness to engage in alternate writing opportunities while you wait for a traditional publishing contract? Which alternate publishing options have you participated in? Are there other writing options you have used to get published recently?

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