Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Last week I addressed several ways to potentially jumpstart your stalled writing career. Sometimes, however, a jumpstart simply will not turn the engine over and get things moving. What’s a writer to do?
Let me give you a few strategies to keep you writing while you build name recognition.
- We will often suggest to a stalled stand-alone novelist that she write category romances for a time. The best-known publishers of romance have a business model that works. While other houses are pulling back, many of the category romance publishers are vigorously growing their lines. They know how to reach the readers and they know how to deliver the story the reader wants. What does this do for the author? It builds the author’s name and grows her following. A little caveat here: I’ve seen writers turn up their noses at romance, mocking the genre. If that’s you, you need not apply. The truth is, it’s not easy to get into these houses, the writing and storytelling have to be excellent and appropriate to the genre. The editing is tough, but if you make it, the opportunities can be steadier than with most publishers. Interestingly, authors who have “come up through the ranks” of romance writing are often some of the most professional writers. If you take a look at the bestseller lists you’ll find many of those authors learned the craft by writing category romance. It’s one way to reinvent yourself.
- Again for the novelist, you can audition for continuity series or spots in novella collections. Your agent hears about these opportunities. If they interest you, be sure to tell your agent. (Continuity series—these are the series that are written with several authors taking different books in a collection just like the old Nancy Drew series. It means tag teaming the plot and paying attention to all that is happening to continuing characters.)
- Another strategy is to work as a hired pen for a time– especially in nonfiction. You can ghostwrite, collaborate, or even write marketing copy. Publishers are always looking for skilled writers who can come alongside someone, whether a celebrity or not, and help them tell their compelling story. What’s in it for the author? First of all, it’s a paying job. Plus it’s a great opportunity to network. You’ll get to know fascinating people and, if you do a good job, you’ll be a hero at the publishing house. It can help you continue to write while you build your base.
- Or, if you want a second chance but your sales numbers have scuttled your career, you can reinvent yourself. This is something you’d want to discuss at length with your agent but if all else fails, you can create a pen name– a nom de plume— and start all over. Mark Twain (real name: Samuel L. Clemens) and Alice in Wonderland’s Lewis Carroll (real name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) both wrote under pseudonyms. It’s harder for nonfiction where you may already have a platform and be known in your field, but it can be done. If you decide to use this strategy, use everything you learned from your first experience to build a cohesive persona/brand. Spend the time to coordinate website, message and marketing.
- Of course, all of these strategies assume that you are an excellent writer and that your unfortunate sales history was a result of market realities. If your writing is the culprit, however, use the break to work on the craft itself. The best way of all to reinvent yourself. We say it over and over but a stunning book can rise from obscurity with word-of-mouth.
So now it’s your turn to talk to me. Does any of this make you feel uncomfortable? Is it dishonest to write under a nom de plume? If you put aside your own writing dreams for a time and co-write, is it somehow too commercial? What do you think?
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