Friday, November 14, 2014

Changing With The Times - Being Flexible

We say this all of the time, but the publishing industry is constantly evolving and changing. Sometimes it is for the better and sometimes, the industry changing in directions that are less than favorable. As the saying goes, Change Is The Only Constant.

For writers, being successful in this business requires being constantly aware of where you are and what small (or large) changes you might have to make with your career. This can involve anything from simple voice and plot changes to larger issues of how and who you work with. The editor or agent you were working with might no longer be the right person for you (and visa versa). You might change how you go about your writing. You might change how you market things. You might even change your genre. In simple terms, change is necessary to keep up with this business.

Change, of course, is not comfortable. When we face times where change is imminent, we have this sense of being lost. Questions such as "What now?" or "What is going to happen tomorrow?" will start to clog your thoughts and take up your entire day. Even though people around you tell you things will work out fine, within your head, you simply don't see this. It is at this point you can either suck it up and go with the flow, or roll over and let the "change" stop all of those goals and dreams you had.

I heard an author at a recent conference talking over lunch about a string of rejections she had just gone through. What she said to the other authors after this gave me both a note of concern and a note of hope. Let's start with the positive part.

First of all, she saw it was time to try something new. She was going to toss that manuscript aside, dust off the old books and workshop notes and try a different approach. This was awesome to hear because we were witnessing someone who was taking that change and doing something proactive about it. She was not to be deterred. But...

On the other side of the coin, her answer was to also dust off an old manuscript that had been sitting around in her files for a while. Although this might seem like a potential approach and yes, there have been times this works, it might not be the best solution. Remember, this business has been changing and growing since the time you wrote that story. The world has moved on, but that story has been in hibernation for some time. It was written in a different time and place. Most likely, this story is simply not going to fit in.

I am reminded of Brenden Fraser's movie where we have him coming out of a fall out shelter after living there for 35 years. Although this made for a great romantic comedy, the struggles he had to go through were immense. The world had gone on without him.

As an author, you have to constantly assess where you are and how this is fitting in the publishing world today. Although at one time, you thought your career was going to take you to St. Martins with your writing, you might now be better suited for something at a smaller, independent house. Although at one time, you thought your career was one where you wanted all of the control and self-publishing was the way to go, you might now want to head in the more traditional route.

The point is simple - Embrace change. It is going to happen with or without you.

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