Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Many of us think the toughest part of developing a writing career is finding a publisher. Nope. In actuality, most careers have a slump or two built into them. These often occur just when you think you’ve built up some momentum, such as when you’ve written and had published about six books.
Overcoming your writer slump.
Everyone’s situation is unique, of course, but take a peek at some of the advice I’ve given.
If you’ve had a string of mediocre sales for your books, you might need to spring free from the type of writing you’ve done and try something different. Give yourself a chance to break out of your writer slump with a fresh start.
One of my clients, Jane Orcutt (who died a number of years ago at a young age of cancer), was one of the finest writers I could hope to represent. She had created a number of historicals that took place in the western United States, each of which received strong reviews but puny sales.
Then Jane hit upon a masterful idea. She wrote a sassy Regency. Full of cheeky wit and a spunky but deliciously impractical heroine, All the Tea in China was a delightful reading experience. And it sold at a lively clip. It would have broken Jane out of the doldrums. Unfortunately, before it released, Jane died, and she never saw the wonderful response readers had to her novel.
Rather than writing another novel, maybe you need to try your hand at a memoir. Memoirs require a strong sense of story and use novel techniques; so in that sense they’re a great fit for a fiction writer. You do, of course, need a topic worthy of being a memoir.
Rather than writing another nonfiction book that lines up beautifully on the bookshelf with all the other nonfiction books you’ve written, you need to dip into a different topic you feel passionate about.
Or find someone with a strong platform, great message, but no writing ability. A collaboration on a topic you care about might suit the needs of both you and the wannabe author.
Find a new publishing venue.
I’m all for an author finding a publishing home and staying put for as long as possible. But I’ve observed over the years that sometimes a ho-hum attitude develops in the publisher-author relationship. Shaking things up might be called for at this point. A new publisher, with a fresh take on how to position you in the market, might be just what the doctor ordered. (I am compelled to add that you must have a zinger of an idea to make this transition because, after all, you are trying to get out of a slump, which means you have low sales you’re dragging around behind you.)
Know when to stay the course.
Sometimes an author needs to patiently work at producing fine projects that are a perfect match for what he’s passionate about. It takes a much larger volume of work to develop momentum than the casual observer realizes. New York Times best-selling author Debbie Macomber says she was an overnight success after 20 years.
Use a pen name.
Your name becomes equated to your sales history after you’ve written a handful (or more) of books. If your sales record isn’t stellar, retailers, librarians, publishing personnel, and others in the industry develop an attitude that your next work will perform just as poorly as your previous work.
Sometimes the way to slip past this midcourse writer’s slump is to use a pen name. It’s a way of beginning again. While abandoning all the work you’ve put into your career is a painful choice, at times it’s the right choice. You get a do-over. Making sure your next manuscript is five-star helps–or writing in a new category.
Strategize with your agent.
In car advertisements that depict trained drivers whipping cars in and out of traffic or over cliffs, the viewer is advised not to try the driving maneuvers at home. Writers, don’t try these tactics without the aid of an agent. Each has inherent risks, and you need to understand what those are and how to attempt each with as much finesse as can be mustered.
What slumps have you faced in your writing? How did you overcome them?
Mid-career #writing re-starts. Click to tweet.
What to do if your #writing career slumps. Click to tweet.