We have nothing to fear, but poor sales, I mean fear itself


Right, we know, “it’s the economy, stupid.” One author posted her thoughts that publishers might stop accepting debut authors and stick with midlist authors (of which she is one). One agent tells writers to polish, polish, polish and keep working on craft. (That advice still bugs the shit out of me, smells like teen spirit or something–who isn’t trying to get better?)

Come up with a groundbreaking novel! Stick to the tried and true! Don’t quit your day job. No kidding. I’m lucky enough to work for a “company,” perhaps the only one in my state, with a 12-billion dollar surplus. Of course, with the generous alumns watching their stocks plummet, that won’t last long.

So what are YOU going to do? Are you buying books? I’m not buying a damned thing these days–one of those contributing to the circular doom of poor consumer confidence.

Are you writing books for New York? Are you nervous? Are you putting that great novel in a vacuum bag until things look up?

Are you worried that your publisher may even fold?

Look, there will always be books. Electronic, perhaps. Paper, for a while. Maybe a long while. Maybe someday books will be video-interactive plays holographically zinged into your living pod.

My theory is that you can’t live your life with one eye to the sky like Chicken Little and be creative. The sky may be falling, but you have to write like it’s 1999. Because it won’t mean a thing in a hundred years. And girls just wanna have fun. And that kind of stuff. So your “dream agent” (that phrase always reminds me of a board game from some other decade called “Dream Date”) is blogging gloom. There is no reason why this recession should not touch publishing–that’s simply not how economics works. Unless you are employed in publishing (your only bread and butter), you might have to tighten the worry belt a little and chill. This is nothing small-time authors can fix, any more than we can save the auto industry (if you are inclined to do so–but that’s another argument).

Go ahead, let me have it. I know you want to.


6 thoughts on “We have nothing to fear, but poor sales, I mean fear itself

  1. Angela James says:

    (That advice still bugs the shit out of me, smells like teen spirit or something–who isn’t trying to get better?)

    You’d be surprised. The reason we give that advice is because we get to see ALL THE TIME the results of people who don’t understand about continuing to learn their craft, polish their writing and get better. All the time. I promise you, there’s more people out there who don’t know what that means than you could possibly guess. Many people think you just sit down and write the book and that’s it. No learning, no polishing, no anything else involved. It’s easy to be an author! So why do we say it? For our own sanity, hoping just one of those people will hear it and finally listen.

  2. Ciar Cullen says:


    You see it, no doubt. I’m just surrounded by writers mired in self-doubt and doing everything they can to get better. Sometimes the wrong things, like listening to ten traffic cops pointing in twenty different directions. I consider myself a fledgling writer, and I have a bunch of books published. I remember well teaching new students in karate and feeling as if I didn’t know anything myself–even with a second degree black belt. The more you learn, the more you’re sure you have a lot more to learn.

    Still hate the word “craft,” though, and you can’t make me like it, no matter how cute you are. And your cute little imp child :o)

  3. Sue says:

    Ugh Angela, that has to suck some major snot! I know I hate it when I tell someone I write and they act like it is no big deal. I want to knock them down, sit on their chest and beat them until they bleed as much as I have over a blank sheet of paper.

    I will, however, have to continue to write what I want to (or what the muse wants) and hope it turns out to be the next NY Times Best Seller 😉 I agree with you Ciar in some aspects though. You hear so many conflicting things from publishers so you just have to do what makes you happy!!

  4. Seeley deBorn says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who hates the word “craft”. It sounds so pretentious.

    For the rest: The sky is falling! Faster and harder than it did after 9-11. What we need is the same kind of campaign they ran after that: “If we don’t (go to disneyland, buy a new car, get a facelift, your choice) the terrorists win!” Trouble is, we’d have to demonize the stock market and big banks in order to pull it off.

    Most people are still employed, still have the same amount of cash coming in, but the panic, oh the panic! of uncertainty, seems to be driving this whole thing. Yeah, because 3 months ago everything was written in stone.

  5. Chuck Bussey says:

    I love reading your comments Ciar! (esp at Romance Divas.) I have always enjoyed writing and after I read my first ‘romance’, I was hooked! Some of the best descriptive writing takes place between the steamy pages.
    I’m a wanna be newbie. I’m practicing writing…
    I know when it’s better and when it’s not.
    When I read accomplished authors, I’m reading the story and mechanics. What a way to learn!
    I hope to be ready one day but I won’t go out prematurely and embarrass myself!
    Chuck <—- Trying, writing and polishing while learning!

  6. Lucinda says:

    Writer’s Digest had an article this month about the economic crisis and declining sales in the publishing industry. It mentioned that this might be a good thing for ebook sales as people will be looking for less expensive reading alternatives.
    I’ve had some surprising success with the new Amazon Kindle Book. I say surprising, because I’m actually selling copies of books that are almost 2-years-old. Of course, I think Amazon does a really good job of promoting Kindle, too.

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