Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taking A Long-Term View Of Your Writing Career

Today I was emailing back and forth with someone and they laughed a bit, commenting that I seem to be "taking a long-term view on things," meaning my writing career.

At first I was startled because it was so natural for me to consider the fate of my work once I'm dead. I wasn't being morbid. It's just that for me, when we talk about the rights that we authors grant publishers, my mind automatically skips to 3 things:
  • Benefits now - advances if any, royalty structure, frequency of payments, additional monetisation opportunities if possible
  • Benefits over the span of the contract - the potential offered by royalty payments over time, what other rights I can sell and where
  • Long-term benefits - My heir's rights to existing royalties or opportunities for them to sell more rights
I think it's the last part that startled my friend, but having seen how some authors' works continue to be used  and produced long after their deaths, and a lot more rights sold as new platforms emerge, it seemed very natural for me to always consider long-term implications for my work.

Another factor that drives me is that  I started out writing back in the day when it took around two years for a publisher to go from accepting a manuscript to get a book into print.

Nothing seemed to be rushed then, and once your story was accepted, you didn't expect to see royalties for at least 3 years (2 years for the publication process to happen; 1 year for the publisher to sell the books and reconcile statements and then pay you your share). Of  course there were exceptions to those practices, but for a newbie like me then, I had to fit into a schedule determined well in advance. Now the publishing process happens so fast, especially when it's digital platforms that I feel like I'm telling a fairytale when I talk about publishing lead times. What in heaven's name were the publishers and editors doing all that time?

There is also the fact that, as an avid gardener,  I'm used to planning seasons ahead to ensure a good supply of certain vegetables and herbs when I want them. For example, if I plan to have an adequate supply of potatoes starting the winter of 2015, best I plant all my potato seeds by the end of November this year.

Failure to plant the seeds by now means no potatoes from the garden when winter starts. I could and would still be able to buy them from the store, but then, what would be the point of having a food garden if I'm not planting in time to work with the seasons?

One unexpected benefit for me to learning to take the long-term view on my writing career is that I'm learning to plan my life more, which means less panicking. For exampe, instead of looking for writing work I need to do this week to pay bills at the end of December, I'm looking for work to do in February/March 2015.

I'm also learning to be more patient. If I want to make something happen, I can keep pushing and working it.. and because I don't expect immediate results, I'm less likely to be discouraged by delays and dead-ends. I can also outstubborn most of the obstacles along the way.

Finally, there is a nice sense of security that comes from knowing I survived a lot of other writing fads over time (anyone remember Themestream?)

 I've learnt that if I just keep writing and publishing and taking a long-term view of things, I have a better chance to still be a working writer long after most writing/publishing sensations have enjoyed their five seconds of fame and faded back into obscurity.

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