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When Do We Get to Stop Worrying?

I started writing my first novel nearly fifteen years ago.  I signed my first professional contract a year later.  I was at the bottom of the Tor food chain at that point, and that first book needed a good deal of revision, so I didn't become an Official Published Author until the spring of 1997, almost eleven years ago.  Since then, I've published eight more books, I've won an award, I've had books translated into more than half a dozen languages.  That first novel is in its fifth or sixth paperback printing.

And still, I find myself worrying about the sales of my latest book.  At Chattacon this past weekend, other con guests and I spent a good deal of time talking about the market for genre fiction, the difficulties inherent in making a career of writing, and the financial rewards -- or lack thereof -- of our profession.  Don't get me wrong:  none of us was complaining.  We all agreed that we'd be writing even if we weren't making a thing.  The fact is we have no choice in the matter; we have to write.  If we didn't give voice to all these characters crowding our minds, clamoring to have their stories told, we'd be like those guys who stumble down the street mumbling to themselves.

But the upshot of it all was that everyone of us worries about the sales of our most recent release, and the terms of that next contract.  My wife is an academic, and while I don't regret my decision to leave academia -- not at all -- there are times when I wish there was such thing as a "tenured writer."  I love my job.  And I think that's part of the reason I sweat the sales numbers, why all of us do.  I still fear the day when someone says to me, "Sorry, you can't write anymore.  No one's reading those books of yours and we can't afford to publish books that don't sell."

My question to my fellow writers:  Any of the rest of you feel this way?  How do you cope with it?  What do you tell beginning writers when they ask you about the business side of writing?

Today's music:  Old and In the Way -- eponymous


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
I freak out about it quite regularly. I'm still pretty much a bottom-of-the-food-chain author with DAW, and ... well, I'm hoping my agent will be able to sell them the next two books, because that means I'll be contracted for at least a few years before they can dump me :-)
Jan. 29th, 2008 01:18 am (UTC)
Those early years are the hardest. Hang in there, Jim. Seems like you're off to a good start.
Jan. 28th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
:le sigh:

The many worries I can do nothing about: I hunker down, get right back to the world where I do have a modicum of control.
Jan. 29th, 2008 01:20 am (UTC)
I do that too, Sherwood. But I have to admit that there are times, when I'm in the middle of a negotiation, say, or when I've had some sort of business related setback, when I find it hard to concentrate on the writing. Those are the worst moments.
Jan. 29th, 2008 03:31 am (UTC)
Yep. Oh, I hear ya.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 29th, 2008 01:21 am (UTC)
No, it ain't, Tiffany. Read on....
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 29th, 2008 01:29 am (UTC)
So is this like the old Bene Gesserit saying? "To suspect your own mortality is to know the beginning of terror; to learn irrefutably that you are mortal is to know the end of terror." Do you find peace in accepting that the worries never go away?
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 29th, 2008 05:30 am (UTC)
Oh, well. I was looking for some silver lining....
Jan. 28th, 2008 09:04 pm (UTC)
I still worry. There's no guarantee to this thing. A poor-selling book can sink your career, and it doesn't matter how many books you've sold, or how great the reviews were for the book, or that it was the publisher's screw-up or inability to get the sales staff behind the book that caused sales to tank.

Yep, I still worry. You're not alone.
Jan. 29th, 2008 01:31 am (UTC)
Nice to know I'm in such good company, Steve. Good thing we love writing so much, eh?

Edited at 2008-01-29 01:32 am (UTC)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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