Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reinventing Yourself

In the last month, I have seen several writers in the middle of trying to "reinvent themselves" or to "re-launch a career" after taking a brief hiatus. Unfortunately, this is not something that is as easy as many would think. The end result is a lot of hurt feelings and frustration, especially on the part of the writer.

There are several factors here that we have to consider in situations such as this. Let's deal with the reinventing aspect first.

I honestly think a lot of writers want to just jump into a different genre because they are bored with what they have been doing. Now in some cases, I do think writers can be successful with this, assuming they have three things in place. The first is a publisher that is big enough to really market that new approach. Those smaller houses just might not have the resources necessary to accomplish this.

The second thing that has to be in place is a very large and very dedicated readership. Now when I say large, I am not talking about that mailing list the writer created over the course of years, I am really talking a huge fan base. These are the people that would literally follow the writer to the end of the world. I honestly have to say the number of writers who have this following is really limited out there. This population is crucial though because they would be the foundation for that new fan base for the writer.

Finally, and this is a combination of the prior two points, the writer needs to have the numbers out there to warrant a shift such as this. Those numbers deal with the print runs, the reprints, the sales and the like. Writers can have great sales on a book, but if that book just disappears after that print run, it becomes difficult for a publisher to want to support a shift such as this.

I have to stess that it also doesn't matter if that writer has an agent because in the end, it doesn't matter how much persuasion that agent does on his or her end, it is still coming back to the numbers and the followers.

Now let's talk about trying to re-establish a career.

For whatever reason, some writers just leave writing and then want to come back again. It might be due to family matters at home, or it might be that the prior publisher didn't come back with another offer for the writer with a book. It doesn't matter what the reason is, the writer diappeared and is now back. Now what?

First of all, it is important to make sure the writing style is "up-to-date." While the writing might have been great in the past, it has to compete with the current books out there. This is not simply the genre but the voice has really changed over the years.

I think the next element to consider is more of an attitude change. The writer may have been very successful in the past, but that reputation can't simply be re-lit immediately. In other words, you can't just pick up where you left off. While this is disappointing, it is a cold hard fact.

Now I want to stress that I am in no way saying writers can't be successful with either reinventing or reviving a career. What I am saying is that, in many ways, that writer is at the same place he or she was at when they were new to the business. And guess what, it will take time.



  1. Just a curiosity, but for the second scenario, might a new pen name help? Both to help re-invigorate the author with that "new career" feeling, and to show readers bright shiny newness to go with that updated writing style?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. No offense, Sandy, but to me, the information is more appreciated than the need to catch an agent making an error. He's made several over the years I've read this blog because these types of communication are "get it down quick and dirty" sharings.

    We live in the electronic "hit the button...oops" age and none of us are immune. ere is human; to forgive is divine.

  4. Sandra,
    Thanks for catching that. Sometimes when we rush through things, we miss even the smallest things.

    Honestly the pen name thing really won't do it. The writer would still want to highlight the work they have done in the past and, while the readers might not know the difference, the editors and agents are very aware.

  5. No problem, Scott. Your posts are valuable.

    No offense taken, Barb. Just watching out for a fellow word lover & you can see I deleted the post above.

    Scott, regarding reinvention - how would an author handle an early career being published by small presses with little exposure, and then procuring an agent with a subsequent book? Would changing the pseudonym make sense, or should that be left alone for the benefit of the few fans the author has collected so far?