Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Don’t Believe Everything You Hear
Part 1 of 3
Unless you live in a cave you have been bombarded with negative, anxiety-producing information of late. In less than one hour of listening to news today, I heard that Baby Boomers find themselves unable to retire because they saved no money, instead counting on their now-nonexistent home equity. The same news story said that if those penniless Boomers continue to hang onto their jobs, there will be no room for young people in the economy. The college education those GenXers got? Not worth the price paid. I also heard that 4 out of 10 people have more in credit card debt than they have in savings. And guess what? Cell phone companies will be charging more and giving less. Oh, yes, gas prices will soon be above four dollars a gallon.
Those are just the stories I remember. The economic sky is falling.
And how about publishing? Not a day goes by without a discussion of the demise of publishing as we know it. eReaders are making traditional publishing obsolete. Agents are going the way of dinosaurs. Authors are getting lower and lower advances. Publishers aren’t promoting the books they contract anymore. If an author’s sales figures aren’t up to par, he’ll never get another contract. Kids aren’t reading anymore. No one’s willing to pay for a book these days. Information should be free. Brick and mortar stores are a thing of the past. I could go on and on, but I’ll let you fill in the rest. It would seem the publishing sky is falling as well.
What I want to tell you is this: Don’t believe everything you hear.
I won’t even take time to unwind the economic bad news I led with. Yes, there’s truth in each story, but it’s skewed toward the negative because it makes a far more compelling story. It’s interesting to note how little attention comparatively was given to the Dow hitting an all-time high of 13,000. It’s the same with publishing. Bad news rules.
My colleagues all across the industry have noted a sense of near-panic from their authors. We know what authors are talking about in their circles– what they’re reading in blog posts. Their questions reveal the anxiety. When will I get my next sale? Is anyone still buying? If my numbers aren’t good, will I ever have another chance? Do publishers even care about publishing good books? Is anyone interested in promoting a new author, or are they just fighting for the same handful of A-list authors? Is traditional publishing dead? The zeitgeist fairly sizzles with negativity.
Don’t believe everything you hear.
Yes, you could make a case for each one of those worries, but here are some facts that fly in the face of this generalized author anxiety.
- Publishers are still buying. In 2011 I came close to doubling my sales goal. Doubling! We moaned about sales the year long (just because that’s what we all tend to do), but when all was tallied, it was humbling. I’m only one agent and I do have fabulous clients, but I’m guessing my story is repeated by many others.
- Just last week I received a very nice three-book offer from one of the finest publishers in our industry for books written in a genre long thought to be dormant, written by an author who had cringe-worthy past sales numbers. Bold move by a gutsy publisher. Just watch.
- I had another project go to auction last year with five publishers bidding vigorously. What happened with the author’s previous book? Minuscule sales to a niche audience.
- We keep hearing that publishers won’t even consider a nonfiction author without a platform. What about Ann Voskamp’s wondrous book One Thousand Gifts? Zondervan contracted this book from an unknown farmer’s wife, mother to six kids. Zero platform. Today? There’s no telling how long this book will top the bestseller lists.
- Traditional publishing is nowhere near dead. Print books still make up nearly 80% of all books sold. Most of the publishers with whom we do business are good stewards, maintaining a healthy business even in challenging times. It reminds me of Mark Twain. When he came across his own premature obituary he is quoted as saying, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
The greatest danger is self-fulfilling prophecy. If we keep saying something long enough, we begin to believe it. As my sweet mother used to say, “Snap out of it!”
- Focus on the work. You are a writer–an artist. Worry steals all creativity.
- Stop listening to the dementors. (Remember these creatures from Harry Potter?) Dementors feed on positive emotions, sucking the very joy out of their victims. If you are hanging with naysayers, walk away. Just say no.
- It’s too easy to become suspicious of those in the industry–publishers, agents, editors. The trouble is, you’ll end up finding exactly what you are seeking. If you look for good and honorable, you’ll find good and honorable. If you seek to demonize, you’ll find plenty of examples. Pollyanna? Maybe, but it’s no less true.
- We need to stop obsessing over the unknown. We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.
Chime in. What worries you? What disturbing things have you heard? Let’s tackle them together and see if we can find some balance.
Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner)
Wendy, you’re so right. In the last few days I’ve seen two top bloggers review the book, Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think. It has an amazing viewpoint – that we are in the midst of tremendous change, so it feels like turmoil. It feels scary and bad. But when we take a step back from it to try and see the bigger picture, things are actually better than they’ve ever been. This is true in both the world, and the world of books, as I pointed out in my post 6 Reasons for Writers to Be Optimistic.
Rachelle, I’ve been reading reviews of this book too. It sounds fascinating. It got me to thinking how many new technology tools have come about in my lifetime. The microwave, CD’s, DVD’s, the Internet!!, cell phones, cordless phones, iPods, Smart phones, laptops, reliable at-home hair coloring kits (sorry, this is a big advance for me!).
We’re so used to constant advances, sometimes we forget how utterly amazing they really are!
I like to hear good news and positive remarks from positive people. Indeed, the “energy vampires” are abundant. From my viewpoint of selling books at Barnes & Noble in metro ATL, I noticed that readers are looking for great reads from fresh authors, and there are many wonderful authors “in the wings.” I know because there are half a dozen in my Cocoa Beach Writers Group. Thanks for being a positive voice.
Rachelle, you hit the nail on the head. “It feels like turmoil.” We need to be suspicious enough of feelings that we dig down to facts.
Personally, I think kids are reading more than ever. My kids’ friends constantly share books with them, and they all devour series. It warms this little writer’s heart!
With all the bad news circling around us, ultimately, we have no control over a huge portion of it. I do the best I can in my personal and professional life, and trust God will lead me to the right path. Sometimes that path slaps me with disappointment! But it doesn’t mean the path itself is bad.
That probably makes no sense. Sorry! I’m off for another jolt of caffeine. Thanks for this uplifting post!
I agree, JIll. Kids are reading. And many of the kids I know are less engaged online than their parents.
Thanks for this encouraging post. You’re right that we’re bombarded with such negativity every day, it’s hard to keep going sometimes. Good to know that the business is thriving.
Thanks for reminding me of the dementors and for the pep talk! All the negativity does start to weigh me down after bit even though I know there’s usually more information I’m not getting. *Pinching cheeks and grabbing boot straps*
Katy Huth Jones
Thanks so much for this post! Your words are a breath of fresh air to overpower the stale rumors that drag us all down–but only if we let them.
Fabulous reminders, Wendy!
Thank you. This is just what I needed to read today!!
I think the trick is to step back and see the bigger picture. It’s like 2008 in the stock market. My husband and I talked about getting our investments out, but I pulled a chart showing the market’s performance over time and guess what? It consistently trends up. Oh sure, there are down segments, but we have yet to fail to recover.
People tell stories. They have since the beginning of time. While the methods may change, the stories will continue. And I’ve got stories to tell!
Exactly, Sarah! The people who create content– who tell the stories– will never be out of a job.
Wendy, I think this just might be the best blog post I’ve read in a VERY long while. Amen and AMEN! There’s nothing like turning to my favorite two words when negativity threatens: “But God…”
And, Kathleen, you yourself know how good things can be. The trouble is, those who are not struggling feel shy about refuting the doom and gloom because it somehow feels like bragging.
Love that last line. We do know Who holds the future, and I’m counting on Him, not the markets, publishers, etc. Though I hope my efforts will end in publishing contracts, I am certain He’ll use them. He already has. Lots of wonderful conversations with those who’ve read my WIPs about characters who reveal bits of me to them. My sister and I have learned lots about each other through these “people.”
I also believe the industry is changing, not disappearing. We just need to move with it. Hard to do right now, when it just keeps shifting, but we need to keep our eyes open and watch. Thanks for the encouragement.
Right! We need to be flexible. And not be afraid that we can’t make the changes needed. We can. So many are worried about being too technologically challenged to meet the future but by the time the future is here there will be plenty of easy solutions and companies ready to usher the artists into the new paradigms.
Excellent post. I feel the same way when I check the news. Is there anything good out there?
I agree printed books will never go away. I don’t know what the percentages will be, but I remember being in Corporate America 15 years ago and all the talk about paperless offices. I’m still waiting for that. 🙂
Kids are definitely reading. When I visit my daughters’ schools around lunchtime I see books and e-readers all over the place.
It remains an exciting time to be an author. My one concern is something I voiced during Rachelle’s posts last week–free e-books. Now, it’s likely that a lot of the stuff out there isn’t up to par, but I’ve also been able to pick up books by Beverly Lewis, Kathi Macias, Lauraine Snelling, and Loree Lough for free.
How can novice writers compete when there are plenty of free books out there? What will convince the cash-strapped reader that a debut or relatively new author is worth spending money on? Sometimes I feel like I’m tossing darts at a moving target the size of my pupil.
Thanks for some good news for a change.
Ha! Paperless offices, indeed. Good point.
I’ve been concerned about free books for quite some time but in talking with so many publishers I’ve become convinced that free books are a powerful tool for promotion as long as they are offed for a limited time. I’ve seen the numbers and it is impressive. Those stats show that the people who take the free book go on to buy several from the author.
Novice authors will compete with the strength of their content. Word of mouth is still king.
DeAnna Julie Dodson
Even in the toughest situations, God continues to amaze me with what He’s doing.
It’s good to see a positive spin on things. And these days are nothing if not amazing in every sense of the word.
Wendy, I’m so glad to have you there to guide me through things in the publishing world. 😀
Hey, Miss DeAnna, I don’t want to give anything away too soon but if I asked, “Can I get a witness?” you’d raise your hand, right?
DeAnna Julie Dodson
My hands are already raised, and I’m dancing in the aisle! 😀
Janet Ann Collins
Thanks, Wendy. This post is something we all need to read. Maybe you should re-post it several times a year to remind us that all is not lost. No matter how bad things seem, God is still in control.
Thanks for this post, Wendy. It’s just what I needed. You’re absolutely right–we all need to stop wringing our hands and get back to work. Whenever I get discouraged, I try to remind myself, “It’s in God’s hands–not mine.” And thank goodness for that!
A positive post when I need it most! (Was not trying to go Suessical, just a happy accident.) Thanks Wendy!
If we look at all that is changing around us none of us will want to continue. It’s very frightening. It’s good to remain informed but we can’t despair. If God truly puts a book in our hearts to write, He will see that it makes it to publication.
Yay! I love positive people!
What a wonderfully uplifting post today, Wendy!
Oh, and I’ve been called “Pollyanna” all my life. Just smile and nod–there are far worse things we could be called.
Toasting you now with my afternoon cup of coffee as I get back to work… <>
I know. We just need to roll up our sleeves and keep at it. I often think about the industrial revolution that gave birth to the Gilded Age. Many of the American millionaires were made during that chaotic time of change. Change=fruit basket turnover=new opportunities.
Wonderful positive post today! Thanks for the encouragement Wendy.
My Sweet Husband and I had an engaging discussion this morning….after watching the news… revolving around the topic of “what happened to believing in the idea that whatever happens, with the help of God, we can find a solution?”
We’ve had our share of impossible situations…and yet, we’ve remained optimistic. (Not that we haven’t had tears and fears to overcome). We know we can count on the Lord to show us a way, and He has been faithful.
We humans have an incredible spirit, allowing us, once motivated, to wrench hopelessness from the grip of fear and emerge triumphant. (You know the stories… they make great movies! LOL)
Happy Day to all…
Linda J. White
Thank you so much for this wonderful post, Wendy! As a newspaper editorial writer, I affirm your lead–the news on all fronts seems so negative. But the Kingdom has always and will always continue just as God has planned.
Thank God for some positive news! Thank you, Wendy, for this post. Regardless of the headlines, God is still on the throne, and if He puts a story in my heart, I know there’s a reason, and I have to trust him with it and not worry about the results. Oh, and let’s not forget the perfect post-dementor cure… CHOCOLATE!
Thanks for the jolt back to God’s reality, Wendy.
Last year we were in the market for a new car to replace my wife’s 16 year old one. As we checked Comsumer’s Digest we discovered that my vehicle is considered, by them, to be one of the worst ones on the road; and we’ve had very little trouble with it. My wife commented that they must not have taken the God factor into account. I explained that that is something that’s a bit hard for the ‘real world’ to nail down. I’m so gled He’s always in control!
I’m not worried about the future of my writing. God gave me the stewardship of these stories. It’s up to me to get them out there, the details are up to Him.
What a great article, Wendy. Thank you!
Wendy, I love a positive attitude and yours made my day. An Ark of positive outlook can outlast the waves of pessimism any day. Thanks again for posting!
Patricia Yager Delagrange
Thank you so much for this post, Wendy. I just received my first rejection for the sixty pages I sent to an agent and I was very depressed, feeling like I’m climbing up a wall with grease-soaked soles, that I will never find a place for my books because agents aren’t taking on new authors any longer. I had become a naysayer. After reading your post, I’m feeling better about the industry and will keep on plugging away with my query letters until I get what I want because it still is possible.
Patricia, agents are always looking for new voices. All that rejection meant was not this book for this particular agent at this particular time. It could have nothing to do with the writing or the book itself. It might even mean that something came up in the agent’s life to make him know he has to cut back.
Wendy, you don’t need another comment here, but I just had to say that this is the best post I’ve read in months. Thank you for being a calm voice of reason.
Another inspiring, heartening post, Wendy. Thank you. It’s an energizing time. What came right after “and darkness was on the face of the deep” in the book of Genesis? CREATION!
Ooo, Cynthia, what an interesting chronology. “What came right after ‘and darkness was on the face of the deep’ in the book of Genesis? CREATION!” I think every writer (and agent) needs to have that framed and hanging on the wall near our computers.
Thank you for that insight.
Wendy, this post is so very encouraging. “Stop listening to the dementors.” I love it. Thanks for the pep rally!