Okay, so maybe you heard Houghton Mifflin is no longer acquiring manuscripts. I know, breathe. Or you read this post by Editorial (Ass)istant and you're scared your book won't catch an agent's eye or sell to any of the twenty editors to whom she's submitting. Scary stuff. But take heart, where there's a will, there most certainly, undoubtedly, is a way.
Q: Okay, I know the chances of making it as a writer have never been good, but the bad economic news I hear every day has to make my chances worse. What I need to know is whether or not there's any chance now for me. And before you tell me I need to write well, let me say that I'm no J. K. Rowling. All I ever hoped for was to be a mid-list author; I love to write and I want to make money on the side. Go ahead ladies, make my day and say there's still a chance for me or tell me to give it up. I can handle your version of the truth!
My answer contains both good news and bad news. The bad news—and the reality is—there will be fewer book deals in the coming months and years. So whether you want to hear it again or not, this means you must write well. Very well. Pen a story strong in narrative drive. Work hard to unravel the secrets of writing a novel.
Yet this reality has an up side, too. In my opinion, fewer books should be published. Being an eternal optimist, I think this economic downturn will force editors and publishers to acquire only the best books, working with talented writers who have career potential. Fewer acquisitions will mean more focused campaigns for promoting the ones they do buy. Economic concerns aside, your challenge will always be to write the best book you can. And for goodness sake, readjust your attitude. Don’t aim for midlist, hoping you’ll be offered pocket change. Aim high. Don’t settle. And of course, write well.
Until you want this with every fiber of your being and you're willing to dedicate nearly all of yourself to your writing, no, I don't believe you have a chance. Writing isn't about the money, it's not about dabbling here and there, and it should never be about shooting for mediocrity. It's about pouring your soul onto the page.
Well, all I'll say is that children's books were published in the Great Depression. You've heard of the Tales of Babar, right? What about The Little Engine That Could? That's right, both of these published in the worst of times and from what I here, the news today, unemployment, etc. doesn't even come close.
Oh, by the way. I asked this question to my husband (A Marketing Man). He said simply: Publishers need product. And the piece I heard on NPR the other day said that authors like you, my friend, are now often referred to as "content providers."
And I promise you, between now and Christmas, Publishers Marketplace will annouce sales; just last week I read about an auction and a pre-empt for two children's book authors.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
If you have characters in your head who beg to come alive, whispering to you about a set of situations that make you laugh or cry or shake with fear, and they won't leave you alone no matter what you read or hear, then read and hear us instead. Get them onto paper. Fill the edges of their world with details and beauty. You can't get published if you don't finish a manuscript, so take control of what you can. Write, and read, and study, and revise, and connect and believe.