Monday, August 22, 2016

Publishing Is About Taking Risks

There are no promises in publishing. There is no way we can make predictions on what great trends will happen in the coming year. Agents and editors are asked this at every panel I have ever seen or sat in on. "So, what do you see at the future for..."

When editors and agents sign on clients, they are doing so trusting a gut instinct. We THINK this might have potential. We THINK this new idea will fly. We THINK this author will have the stamina to pursue a career of the long haul. But these are all just guesses. We are taking a risk on you. And yes, that risk is going to cost the editors and agents.

  • For agents, it is the time and energy, working for free, to get that that story ready and then to get it out to the editors.
  • For publishers, it is the advance they sent to you, gambling that the book will sell, and the the time and energy that they put into the project.
I wanted you to think about that side of the equation before I dove into what risks, you as authors, need to be taking.

As you write those stories, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone every now and then. Yes, writing what you always write is an easy route. You know what you are capable of doing and you can be comfortable writing it. But that pushing yourself to try to do different things with your stories is what will make you a stronger writer.

I don't know how many authors I have heard complain that their editors/publishers are "wanting them to write something that they are not comfortable with." The view this as an infringement on their craft and personal voice. In reality, what they should be seeing is the editors/publishers (and yes, even agents) trying to shape your career and give them something that might potentially prove to be great. 

It is a risk the author has to take. Writers cannot say that idea will not work. Remember, none of us can make that promise.

One of my clients was asked by her editor to spice some things up with her stories. Right now, her novels are pretty dang hot, but the editor wanted to "push the barrier a bit." I knew where the editor wanted to go, and I knew the writer could do it. But, as I read the partial, I could see she was holding back. This was a risk she was struggling with. So, we talked about it and worked through some potential directions she could go with the story.

But, to make it work, means she has to take that risk.

My son struggles with this. He s a swimmer and a dang fussy eater. We know something happened when he was young but now, food is scary to him. He sticks with the things he knows works and that is it. Does it get boring? Yep! Does he get frustrated? Yep! Is he willing to take that leap of faith. Right now the answer is no. We cannot push him to do it because it is up to him and his own personal motivation to take that leap. Only time will tell if he accepts that risk!

All authors have had to take that leap of faith. They had to take the risk to send out that first story for a critique. They had to send out that story to an editor or an agent as a submission. They had to take that risk and sign up for a pitch appointment. Would it work out? They didn't know at the time. Some did and some didn't. The point is, you don't know until you try it. 

So, what risk are you going to take this week. Let me know how that goes!

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