Friday, 24 April 2009

How Writers Can Beat The Recession

Every day I read stories of cutbacks in the publishing world. Editors are losing their jobs; imprints are being closed; and I’ve heard reports that many signed-up titles are now being held back from publication and all its associated costs.

Writers watch and worry how on earth they can survive in this difficult time.

There is one certainty: publishing houses are going to need new and better books to publish in order to survive. They are going to have to publish their way out of the recession: they have to keep publishing new books with some sort of regularity or their income stream will dry up. But with fewer lists publishing and fewer editors acquiring, every book that is published is going to have to work harder and generate more income; and writers will have to compete harder for the reduced number of publishing slots that are now available.

The writers who produce exciting, consistent work are going to do well: those whose work shows a little less potential, or which needs more work to get it ready, just won’t get published. So how can writers beat the recession? By being completely reliable: and by writing increasingly better books.


Marty said...

Great Advice... a bit of hope in a bleak world. Thanks!

none said...

I know--I'll go into cryogenic suspension for a decade!

Helen P said...

Well...I'm reliable.

Anonymous said...

Anybody requiring a gun to shoot themselves form a line behind me, the dyslexic lion.


Anonymous said...

Jane, while the big guys are having a hard time, we little spuds are cleaning up. Big houses are only looking for the blockbuster books in order to generate big bucks.

Agents' stables aren't filled with blockbuster authors, and they are coming to the smaller indie presses. In the past several months, we've signed debut authors repped by very huge agents.

Yes, the writing has to be fabulous, but it always did. Authors can recession-proof their writing by understanding how the industry works, how editors think (putting to rest that we really do think at all!), and avoiding the pitfalls that beset so many authors.

Frankly, I feel very good about the industry. There is a very big evolutionary process going on, and I liken it to cleaning a dirty turkey pan. It takes a lot of rubbing and scraping, but the beneath all that goo is a pristine foundation that is unshakable.

Maybe my glasses are tinted rose, but I'm also very much in the trenches.

Sally Zigmond said...

I now have a bizarre picture in my head of Lynn, sitting in a trench wearing a pair of rather fetching pink shades, a margarita in one hand and a gooey turkey-tin in the other. I hope the beagle has his tin hat on.

Nicola Morgan said...

Jane - only this morning I finalised the description for an event we're doing in the Edinburgh Book Festival - "Writing in a Recession: Adapt or Die" - I'm going to copy this link to our speaker!

Jane Smith said...

Lynn, I'm glad to hear that you're doing well at Behler, especially now.

I've always liked the way the smaller houses publish quirkier stuff than the big houses tend to, and I suspect this difference is going to be reinforced as the recession deepens; I hope that it'll lead to a greater proportion of quirkier books on the shelves. Which will be a big bonus for me, and, I suspect, for publishing as a whole.

BigFatLion: I know who you are and you're a fraud. Your writing is some of the best that I've read in a long time, dyslexic or not, so shut up, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and write another story or I'll be the one with the gun.

And Mrs Morgan: this is the second big dose of serendipity I've had this afternoon. I'm glad to have been of some use to you, and hope your speaker likes me too!

catdownunder said...

Ah yes Jane but does this also mean that it is the well known authors who will continue to be published because they are already known to readers? Does it mean that new writers will have even less hope because publishers do not want to take the risk?
I want to put my paws over my face but I suppose I had better start cleaning my fur - rejection looms.

Damon Young said...

Yes, I've had similar...hopes (I'll not call them predictions).

I wrote about it here.

David Dittell said...


Always have to think of situations like this as opportunities. A lot of other people are going to have to give up, and those who can purchase your work are going to be in much more desperate need for something good.

Yes, there's much more "noise," but if you can get through it and you're a good writer to begin with, you're in a better position than before.

Dan Holloway said...

I think it's good to be reminded that publishers still need new talent in order for them to survive the recession.

I also think writers need to be reminded that it's not going to help them to try and write "recession-busting" books - not only is it always best to stick with the maxim of writing what you're comfortable with - by the time you've written your uplifting, "how I made millions and had a happy ending by playing with a broken staple and the tube of a bic biro" masterpiece, the recession will be over. My guess is that publishers are now looking to commission the books that will be in print as we come out of recession.

I think, Jane, you've hit the nail on the head with the word RELIABLE (and I don't mean that in the sense of consistent with writing). I think publishers want to know in difficult times they are dealing with professionals who will take direction and hand in rewrites on the date they're expected. I think too many new writers fancy themselves too much in the vein of grand eccentrics, but if I were a publisher, I'm afraid it doesn't matter how good your book is - if you're untried on the public I wouldn't want to know. There are more great books than slots on publishers' lists, and one of the best ways to make sure you don't get one of those slots is to act unprofessionally or unreliably.