Thursday, June 20, 2013

Killing Writing Careers

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a post about writing careers, and how the crap of the industry almost did her in at one point. But she found a way to persevere, and is now glad she did. This is a must read for anyone who wants to be a pro writer today.

I admire her telling her story, and could have been one of the crushed writers she speaks of. I felt so strongly, I commented on the blog. Here's my thoughts:

Kris, thank you for telling your story, which needs to be part of a writer's basic education. A mere three years ago, I would have signed any ridiculous publishing contract to get my mystery series started. I believed in the traditional path, had an agent who had industry pros agree the book was good, etc. And I would have likely had a soul-crushing experience as well. The series would be dead by now, and I would be wondering why I'd bothered.

But I was always learning. I read your blog, and Dean's and Konrath's, and many, many others.I talked to writers, who'd had terrible publishing experiences. Locked into contracts, with shrinking returns, and unable to put out anything else under their own name. Books that never got sold or delivered when people begged to buy them. Even best-selling books had been rejected over 50 times, on average. I started doing the math, and figured I'd be dead before I could get anything going-- and I'd still have to win the lottery, since over 96% of books don't sell more than a couple of thousand copies.

So I found a small publisher who would do it my way, and launched. Instead of a boulevard of broken dreams, my third series novel just came out, plus I've put out 6 story collections by myself, in different genres, and I continue to write and publish short stories. I do public signings (self-scheduled), and people tell me how much they've liked something I wrote. The freedom to do what I want is a heady thing, and I feel great about being a writer on my own terms, with the covers I want, and the content approval I desire.

Awhile back, I went on a supposed writer's help forum because some people were asking questions about my publisher (though some were just mindlessly bashing them while getting their facts wrong). I tried to clear things up by explaining how I'd reached my decision, that writers now had options, and how we should look at them, etc, and each choose their own path. You can guess the result. People who were chained like galley slaves to the Old Path blasted me as the worst kind of heretic, disparaged any evidence I offered, and repeated untruths as if they were gospel. I was told that bigger publishers were always better, would always make you more money, and always lovingly take your book to the best possible place it could be. I tried to offer contrary evidence, and point them to some data that disproved these assertions, but more of them kept piling on in the echo chamber. So I bade them well, and signed off, but wonder how many other authors they doomed to go the heartbreak route.

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