Sunday, July 07, 2024

The Unpredictable Writing Life

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

For decades, Ive been in the world of publishing and working with authors. Repeatedly Ive seen the unpredictable nature of this work and life. For example, as I meet authors and acquire their books at Morgan James Publishing, I learn about authors who are eager to sell their books and reach their readers. I have one author who writes fiction and published two novels with us. She was actively selling these books at specialized trade shows which tied to her plot and characters. When she pitched her third novel, she told me that she had sold over 300 books during the last year which showed her activity as an author. 

As a part of the acquisitions process, I checked in with a colleague about her bookstore sales for her first two books. This number will give me an indicator of the enthusiasm (or lack of it) from my colleagues about the third novel. I was surprised to learn she had sold about a carton of books inside the bookstores. In general, a carton holds 25-35 books and depends on the size of the book. It was not an impressive sales record and showed me that my colleagues would not be inclined to publish a third novel from this author. I spoke with the author about these details and she decided to self-publish her third novel in this series. If the bookstore numbers improve, then its possible she could bring this third novel into her series, but not at the moment.

I could not have predicted these bookstore sales and believed the number would be much higher than a single carton. This example shows again one of the many unpredictable details and how a great deal of those details are outside of anything that I can know about or control.

Heres another example: I wished a long-time publishing professional a happy birthday. Its something I do on a regular basis and gives me a touch point with people. In her response, she told me she was no longer working at that publisher. I called this author to hear more detail. I learned the change happened because she didnt hit the sales number for her authors books. This key number is outside of anything this editor could predict or control. She told me about one of her authors with a large Instagram platform has a daily gathering of thousands of participants. The book this group was using repeatedly wasnt the authors book but a book from another author. This simple choice gave huge exposure to a different book than the authors book and contributed to the editors dismal sales numbers. 

These stories about publishing teach me lessons about the details of this business and how it works. Yet repeatedly Ive discovered there are a myriad of details outside of anything that I can control or do anything about. There is one singular person who I can control: me

Id love to have some predictions but the only prediction I can control is myself. I keep promoting my own work. I continue to pitch authors to my colleagues and writing different material. I work with various authors and various types of books. In addition, I listen to my colleagues, answering their questions and helping as many authors as I can. I cant control others or much of anything--but I can control my own activities.

What about in your writing life? Is it predictable or what steps are you taking for your books and your writing? Let me know in the comments below. 


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2 Comment:

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Karen Lange Left a note...

There are many variables, and about the time I think I have it figured out, things change. :) So it keeps us on our toes, right? I agree, we can control our actions and what we invest into our writing. As a freelance writer, I continue learning, whether about writing itself, SEO, marketing, and so on. The more I learn, the more I can bring to the table for clients and fellow writers. I continue to trust too, for God's direction and how to be used for His plan.

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Thank you for this comment. There are no simple answers but the more we learn, the more we can help others. I'm constantly asking God to guide my steps and phone calls. We can't fix our past or know our future but we can do something today. The days are short that we are on the earth and I have a growing sense about the brevity of our lives. Terry


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