Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office, CA
Weather: Partly sunny with a high of 82º
Today is my last post in this series answering the question: How do I jumpstart my stalled career? On Monday we talked about how to jumpstart the aspiring writer’s stalled dreams. On Tuesday we addressed the published writer whose lackluster sales have stalled her writing career, and yesterday we talked about how to reinvent ourselves when there’s simply no jumpstarting. But today we’ll tackle a different problem. We’ll take a look at the author who took a hiatus from writing and now wants to come back.
There are many reasons to take a break–the need to make a living, time off to raise a family, the frustration of the whole publishing industry, illness, or even the need to live a bit more before trying to write about life. But if you’ve been called to write, chances are that you are not going to be able to leave it forever. At some point the bug’s going to bite again, and you’re going to dream of giving it another go.
As with any field, however, once you leave, it moves on without you. How do you make a re-entry when no one even remembers your name?
Each returning writer comes with a different history. If you had great success and left at a high point, it will be much easier to make a comeback. You’ll come armed with past sales numbers and a good explanation for your hiatus. You’ll need to have a new book that sparkles–a book that shows that the time away only enhanced your writing. You’ll have done your homework to demonstrate that you know today’s market. And before you even start shopping for a new agent or publisher, you’ll have spent time rebuilding your platform and brand. It’s best to have people talking about you long before you start trying to sell yourself and your work.
If you left while your career was still growing, you’re going to have some work to do. Chances are, you’ve lost the readers you once had. If your numbers were in the mid-range but trending up, you’ll need to communicate this. Then, of course, you’ll need to answer the question as to why you stepped away from a growing career. Just like our successful writer, you’ll have to write a book that demonstrates growth. You’ll have to understand the current market, and you’ll have done the work of networking and rejoining the writing community long before you shop your book.
If you experienced disappointing sales, the time away will be a boon to you. It’s unlikely that bookshop owners will remember books that sat too long on their shelves or that they had to pack them up and return them. Editors will have changed, publishing houses will be different. You will also have to have a superb book, but it will be better to consider yourself an almost-newcomer. When pitching your book, an agent would say, “She published a couple of books about ten or twelve years ago, but the time away has given her a whole new insight. . .” And again, you’ll have to set the stage for your return with networking, blogging, a website, writer’s groups involvement and more. You’ll want to have it all together, using all you learned from your earlier experience to re-enter smarter and better prepared.
The dangers of being away for a time will be much like those in any career. If you worked as an engineer before taking off a decade to raise a family, much of your former network would have changed, you’d have to demonstrate proficiency, and you’d have to convince people that if they are willing to invest money and energy into you, you won’t be taking another break.
But making a successful comeback is far from impossible. It’ll be a challenge, but just think of the story you’ll have to tell.
As we’ve talked about career detours this week and as I’ve tried to offer strategies to overcome the obstacles, I hope I’ve encouraged you. There are precious few permanent setbacks. With enough creativity and perseverance, workarounds exist for nearly every challenge you’ll encounter.
Here’s some wise advice from the Bible: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (James 1:2-4, The Message).
Your turn: How has your faith-life been forced into the open by this crazy writing career?