The Business Rusch: Why Writers Disappear (Part Three)

My writing process is just plain goofy sometimes. Two weeks ago, I started what I thought would be a short blog post on why writers disappear. I had just given talk on the topic, and felt that it wouldn’t take much time to make it into a blog post.

Um…never mind.

Three posts later, I’m just finishing up. Apparently I can talk faster than I can type. :-)

If you haven’t read parts one and two, please do so now. Please read the comments as well, especially in the first part. A lot of folks give good advice and also share their experiences. I think that’s all quite valuable.

For those of you who have read the previous two posts, here’s the refresher.

Writers disappear because:

1. They can’t get a new book contract under that name.

2. They can’t get a new book contract because their genre has vanished.

3. They became toxic—and that toxicity trickled through the entire industry.

4. They achieved all their goals.

5. They were no longer interested in writing.

6. They moved to a different part of the industry.

7. They got discouraged.

8. They couldn’t handle the solitude.

9. They couldn’t handle the financial problems inherent in a writing career.

10. They had life or health issues that interfered with the writing

11. They didn’t keep up with the changes in the industry.

12. They sold or gave away too many rights to their books.

I’m going to deal with the last three points in this post. No matter how long it takes. So, here goes:

 

Writers disappear because they have life or health issues that interfered with the writing. 

I wrote a long blog post on this topic back in April when I was in the middle of both life and health issues that interfered with my writing. I managed to continue, but sometimes writers can’t. Sometimes issues like the death of a spouse or a cancer diagnosis can take writers out of the career for years.  The blog that I wrote in April deals with the reality of those issues, how hard it is to write, and how writers return. The comment section in that post is especially marvelous, and worth reading.

The topic here, though, is why writers disappear, and there are some writers who never return from the life or health issue. One of my favorite writers, Randall Garrett, spent the last eight years of his life in a coma. He died in 1987. I discovered his work in 1980, read every book I could find from my used bookstore, and then searched for more. I didn’t know what happened to him until I became active in the professional science fiction community, and his friends told me about his last several years.

One major writer from our local community had so many health issues that she ended up in the hospital repeatedly and finally had to move to an extended care facility out of state. At present, she’s not able to write, but I keep hoping….

Every professional writers community has stories about writers who, for reasons outside of their control, can no longer put words on the page.

But there are professional writers who do the injury to themselves. An entire generation of writers believed in the Hemingway myth—that the man drank himself to greatness—and believed that drinking to excess drove the creative process.

Drinking to excess has a serious impact on the mental process, and the older the writer gets, the harder it is to concentrate. I know of dozens of writers who drank their careers into oblivion. Several are bestsellers whose work has become formulaic. Why has the work become formulaic? Because ghost writers are now finishing the books that the bestseller can no longer complete.  These ghost writers (I live with one) signed confidentiality agreements so iron-clad that no one outside the family will ever know that the ghost writer had a hand in that novel.

Most of the writers with serious addiction problems never become bestsellers.  Addicts—whether they’re addicted to alcohol or cocaine or some other drug—usually have behavior issues as well. When I was editing The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, I developed a list of writers I should never call after three p.m. because I’d get the drunk or stoned version.

They would turn in good work, and then they’d turn in mediocre work, and then they stopped making deadlines entirely. Those toxic writers I mentioned in point three? Many of them had addiction issues.

In many of his essays, the marvelous mystery writer James Lee Burke writes about the way his alcoholism derailed his early literary career. He cleaned up, and then had to rebuild his entire career, step by step, earning the trust of the publishing establishment.  He’s rare; most writers who go down the path to addiction rarely take the road to recovery. It’s too bad, because many of them are as talented, if not more talented, than Burke.

The thing to remember, as a reader and as a writer, is that writers are human. We have issues just like everyone else. If your health problem would keep you off your day job or force you to stop working and go on disability, then you might want to give yourself a break on your daily writing grind as well. If the problems in your life would allow you to take family leave time from work, then take leave time from your writing and stop pressuring yourself.

Sometimes, you have to step away from the career to deal with the things life throws at you.

Make sure that the health issues aren’t self-inflicted. Get help if you need it. And the same goes for major life events. Return to the writing when you can.

Eventually, though, health issues will take us all out of the writing game.  Eventually, our lives will end.

The key then is to make sure we have our estates properly set up to maintain our writing and our careers long after we’ve ceased to exist.

I know, I know, I will write about estate planning Real Soon Now.

But let me simply acknowledge here that the lack of estate planning—and the lack of planning for a career-ending health crisis like Randall Garrett’s—will cause a writer to disappear.  Forever.

 

Writers disappear because they didn’t keep up with the changes in the industry.

Once upon a time, this wasn’t an issue. The publishing industry changed so slowly that even the writers who wrote one book every five years and tried to publish it could get the memo on the (relatively minor) publishing change.

In the past five years, though, the change has been so rapid that writers—particularly bestsellers—are getting caught flatfooted. Just this week, I watched James Patterson on The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson discuss his worries that e-books would cause libraries and bookstores to go away. That little show of ignorance made me realize the man hasn’t been keeping up with much more than his corner of the industry. And honestly, I now wonder if he’s read his latest batch of contracts and understands how some of the language in those contracts has a whole different meaning than it did ten years ago. (For more on this, see my posts from the summer on deal breakers).

One of the reasons I’ve been blogging about traditional publishing so very much in the past three years is because I’m worried about my traditionally published friends. They don’t keep up, they refuse to read about the changes in the industry, and they expect their agents to take care of them.

These writers don’t understand that agents can no longer make a living off 15% any more and are becoming publishers or taking other unethical methods to stay in business. The ones that don’t go the unethical route are losing clout and are trying to find other ways to make money.

These traditionally published writers don’t understand that agents can no longer negotiate a good deal with a publisher. Nor do these writers understand that the contract language has gotten so tricky in most publishing contracts that intellectual property attorneys are now consulting with other attorneys to make sure they catch all the landmines buried in those contracts.

Many traditionally published writers attack those of us who straddle the world between indie publishing and traditional publishing, or those of us who have left traditional book publishing altogether, considering us the enemy. I’ve left a list serve because of this, and in person, I’ve fielded some pretty nasty commentary from folks whose ignorance is so startling that I can only shake my head in disbelief.

But the ignorance does make sense to me on one level. So many traditionally published writers have tight contract deadlines. These writers spend all their time writing and dealing with their own business issues that they don’t keep up with the industry as a whole until it’s time for their next contract.

And—for the past fifty plus years—that method worked.

It changed while these writers were busy. They’re the Rip Van Winkles of the publishing industry, staggering out of their book-induced sleep and finding themselves in a strange new world.

Some writers learn about the world and then change their opinions. Sue Grafton is one of those writers. In early August, she did an interview with LouisvilleKY.com about publishing and gave what was, until 2009, the standard advice about self-publishing.

Ten years ago, her advice was good advice. But in 2012, her advice was sadly and insultingly out of date. Unlike so many writers, however, Grafton blinked, looked around, and realized she was in a brave new world of publishing.

She contacted the reporter and asked for a clarification interview. In this later interview, Grafton wrote:

Several writers took the time to educate me on the state of e-publishing and the nature of self-publishing as it now stands.  I am uninitiated when it comes to this new format.  I had no idea how wide-spread it was, nor did I see it as developing as a response to the current state of traditional publishing, which is sales driven and therefore limited in its scope.  I understand that e-publishing has stepped into the gap, allowing a greater number of authors to enter the marketplace.  This, I applaud.  I don’t mean to sound defensive here…though of course I do.

I don’t understand the mechanics of e-publishing and I still don’t understand how you can earn money thereby but I realize now that many indie writers are doing well financially and netting themselves greater visibility than I had any reason to believe. 

Her response is classy and smart, and I fully expect that two years from now, when asked the same questions about publishing, Grafton will have answers that are informed about the current state of the industry.

The key part of her quote? I am uninitiated when it comes to this new format.  I had no idea how wide-spread it was, nor did I see it as developing as a response to the current state of traditional publishing, which is sales driven and therefore limited in its scope. 

She had no reason to learn about the new format because the old format was working so well for her.

However, what she isn’t seeing—what most bestsellers aren’t seeing—are the changes in contract terms, the changes in the way that traditional publishing is treating its writers. Those changes will eventually force every writer to either learn about all the available forms of publishing or experience a decline in income, a decline in clout, and a decline in sales.

These changes happened in the music industry over the past two decades. They’re instructive, because so many musicians with excellent careers either lost those careers or lost their fortunes, their rights, and their ability to market new music precisely because those musicians did not keep up with their industry.

We’ll see these things happen to traditionally published writers now.

And indie writers, you’re not immune to this.

Just because Amazon is the big gun today doesn’t mean they will be in two years. Just because “free” worked last year as a promotional tool doesn’t mean it will this year. Just because the contracts with various distributors seem writer-friendly right now doesn’t mean they will be a year from now. This morning, when I logged into iTunes, they sent me yet another update on their user agreement. I think I get one of those from iTunes every month. I get them from other distributors as well. I read them. Do you?

We’ve gone from a staid and hidebound industry to one that changes almost daily. It’s now part of our jobs to keep up.

We need to do so…or we will disappear because the ground has shifted so badly under our feet that we no longer know how to move forward in this ever-changing world.

 

Writers disappear because they sold or gave away too many rights to their books.

Again, much of this comes back to the changes in publishing in the last five years. For decades, a writer’s goal was to make sure that traditional publisher bought all of their work and kept that work in print. Writers wanted publishers to have options on the next book, as a kind of guarantee that the publisher would continue to invest in the writer’s work.

The changes in this part of publishing came before the e-publishing revolution. Publishers wanted more and more rights for less and less money. Around the year 2000, publishers started taking books out of print within months of publication and yet refused to revert the rights to those books.

Now, it’s almost impossible to get rights reverted on out-of-print books. I’ve managed it on all but one of my backlist titles, but I do it by being the squeakiest wheel in the world. The publishers get rid of me because they can’t stand to get yet another letter from me. And that hasn’t worked with my novel Fantasy Life. Simon & Schuster has put out a lousy print-on-demand edition, and an outrageously expensive e-book edition, neither of which sell well. But the contract is old, and because it is, it doesn’t reflect the current publishing environment. S&S is taking advantage of that—not just with me, but with hundreds of other writers as well.

S&S isn’t the only company playing such games. Most of the traditional publishers are. S&S was just one of the first to do so. Almost all of them have jumped on the bandwagon now.

I’ve dealt with this in detail in many posts. I suggest you just go back and click through the posts on traditional publishing to understand all of these changes.

The bottom line is that what was a good deal fifteen years ago isn’t one now. Writers still have books under contract to those publishers, books that have been out of print for years. Yet the publishers won’t revert the rights, and no matter how hard the writer struggles, she can’t get break the contract.

What does that mean for the reader? It means that books five and six of a series might be permanently unavailable. It means that an entire decade’s worth of a writer’s work might be impossible to find. It means that your favorite writer might not be able to sell a book to traditional publishers any more, yet those traditional publishers won’t revert her backlist, so she has nothing to indie publish until she writes something new.

If she writes something new. Remember point seven: writers are easy to discourage. Although I must admit: not being able to reprint your backlist and being unable to sell new books is demoralizing for anyone. Essentially, a writer’s life’s work—work that should be in front of readers—is being held hostage by an unfriendly industry.

Those writers are being forced to disappear.

And what makes things worse, in my opinion, is that groups like the Author’s Guild here in the United States aren’t fighting these practices. I don’t know of any writers organization—for print/book writers—that provides free legal services. Not legal advice, but the services of a lawyer who will actually advocate for individual writers on personal issues.

I know many of you will mention the idea of a class action suit, but generally speaking, that’s not possible. Contracts differ. We weren’t all offered the same contracts on the same terms, which is necessary for such suits. Writers organizations, for a variety of reasons, can’t do these things either.

So writers are on their own.

Eventually lawsuits will happen, if writers can’t get their rights back, but those suits will be individual suits. Maybe someday the publishers will get a clue. Maybe not.

In the meantime, writer after writer after writer cannot reissue her own backlist.  And let’s not even talk about the non-compete clauses that some writers mistakenly signed, the clauses that prevent her from reprinting her backlist because those books might compete with her single-title vampire romance. It’s a mess.

When you see a writer with a long career like mine, and you note that the writer has only part of her backlist in e-book and another part in audio and a completely different part as print only, realize that this patchwork quilt of book releases is because of contract terms, not because the writer wants her work to be unavailable to her fans.

Will these things happen to indie writers? Absolutely, if they blindly sign onto exclusive deals with some retailers or if they only offer their books through one distribution service. Writers never ask themselves what will happen when (not if) these services go away. They don’t think about the future, only the present. It will get ugly, just like it has in traditional publishing.

I exchange a lot of e-mails with traditionally published writers, offering strategies for reprinting backlist, things to look for in old contracts, sending them to IP attorneys to get their rights back. Writers are struggling to make their work available to their readers.

Weirdly, traditional publishers—and some distribution services (for indies)—work very hard at preventing authors from getting their work before the public.

That’s a crime.

And much of it isn’t the fault of the writer, but circumstances that occurred when the entire industry changed.

 

So What Causes Writers To Disappear?

Essentially, three things cause writers to disappear. Their personalities (3,4,5, 6, 7 and 8), personal problems (10), or their lack of business skills (1,2, 3, 9, 11, 12).

Frankly, learning how to survive in business will help a writer more than anything, provided he wants to remain in the industry. Taking a businesslike attitude which means looking for a window whenever he finds a closed door will help a writer a great deal. The other thing that will help some writers sustain a long-term career? Professional help in the form of some kind of counseling, be it through AA or a licensed therapist or a religious organization.  And the final thing that might help? Patience. A willingness to wait out whatever health problem or personal problem that life throws at you.

You can’t do everything. But you can be aware of the things that cause writers to disappear from readers’ radars. You can try to avoid those things as much as possible.

In this new world of publishing, your work can stay in print and available for years and years. Learn business. Take care of yourself. Remember that a writing career isn’t about next year or even the next two years. It’s about decades of work. Keep your focus on the long-term and figure out what you need to do to stay in this career.

And then readers won’t ask whatever happened to…about you.

Thanks to everyone who retweeted or linked to these blog posts. They have gone viral and brought a lot of readers to the blog who haven’t been here before. I hope you all see something you like and will return. I also hope you got something useful out of this short series. As a reader,  I personally hate it when writers disappear, and I’ve spent a goodly portion of my career trying to keep other writers in the game. That’s, in part, what this blog is all about.

However, this blog must pay for itself, and when I do a series—even on that goes viral—donations drop. So if you got something useful out of this series, please leave a tip on the way out.

Thanks so much for coming.

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“The Business Rusch: “Why Writers Disappear (Part Three),” copyright © 2012 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 

 

 

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69 Comments

  1. I was a writer who disappeared for a while due to #10. I had a year and a half of life rolls and health issues. After I finally got well, it took another 6 months before I started writing again. But I completely disappeared for 2 years.

    Then, because I still believed the myths of writing slow, I stayed “invisible” for 3 more years, writing a trilogy (one book per year.) This trilogy will never be published, but it meant 5 years of being gone.

    Then I took the cliffhangers class with Dean. And I turned my writing career around. I just figured out that I’ve written ~158,000 words so far this year — about an average of 500 words per day. I will have 25 titles published this year. I’m currently writing a short story a week. I plan on writing about this much next year as well.

    There may be more rough times ahead. I may disappear again for a while if the circumstances force me to.

    But I’ll come back. I’m far too stubborn not to. And I also have you and Dean to thank for encouraging me.

    Reply
    • Thank you for this, Leah. And you’re one of the reasons I do what I do. I love your work, and to find a way to encourage you to do more of it, well, that just makes me happy. That said, I give out a lot of advice, and very few writers take it. The key to your post is what you said about being stubborn. It’s the writer who keeps herself in the game, not the advice she gets or the encouragement she receives. It’s how she recovers from the life issues and health issues and keeps going. Congrats on staying and thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  2. I’m so glad you touched on the health issue, Kris. It really is the foundation of a lifelong writing career. Along with fiction, I also write and edit huge amounts of health & fitness nonfiction for one of the biggest publishers in that arena, both magazines and books. I also like beer way too much and know without a doubt that I have an addictive personality. The Hemingway and Hunter Thompson school of thought ruled my younger self for a long time. Luckily, I’ve been able to research how all that works because of my job. I am not clean. I’m functional. So I deal with these issues daily. And because I do it for a living, I can’t help but offer the following advice:

    –Every writer needs to exercise. Period. It’s too easy to settle into your chair and pound the keys and lose track of entire days, if not weeks. Meanwhile, what muscle you have is atrophying. That’s no joke. And let’s forget about vanity muscles and strength and looking good. Muscle, among other things, helps your body regulate blood sugar. If you’re losing muscle, gaining fat, and seeing a spike in blood lipids, you’re heading into metabolic syndrome, which is a direct line to type 2 diabetes and all the fun that entails. In short, you’re killing yourself. Writers hit themselves so hard about getting their butts IN the chair, I’m saying get your butt OUT of the chair once a day for some kind of activity that makes you break a sweat. 15 minutes is great. 30 is better. (I do it at lunch, to break up the day and give myself an energy boost for the afternoon)

    –Every writer needs to mind his/her posture. This is so crucial, and yet something no one thinks about. If you spend a lot of time in a chair — especially without any regular exercise — your shoulders will hunch forward, messing with your posture and encouraging back, shoulder, and neck pain. And because you don’t exercise, you won’t have the muscle conditioning in your core that’s necessary to support your torso. Slumping forward also inhibits your breathing, though you probably don’t know it. Poor breathing means lousy oxygen. You won’t be as mentally sharp as you think you are. Quick fix: Catch yourself slumping. Sit tall. Put your shoulders back so they feel as if they’re resting on top of your shoulder blades. Notice how much easier it is to breathe? Fill your lungs. Now keep writing until you catch yourself slumping again and start over. Pretty soon, it’s habit.

    –If possible, choose resistance exercises over cardio. Honestly, the best exercise is the one you will do regularly. I don’t knock ANY exercise. But for what we do, trust me, it’s more important to have a well-conitioned total body than it is to be able to run 6 miles. You need muscle, especially in your core, hips, glutes, and shoulders to give your body a fair shot at supporting itself while you sit for long periods. Here are three very simple but amazing exercises you can do daily. Forward lunges. Squats. Planks. Not familiar? Google ‘em. They are so simple but they are efficient, hitting a large amount of muscles all at once with minimal joint impact. If you want a resistance workout that offers a cardio benefit? Move faster and don’t rest between sets. You’ll get your cardio.

    –Stand while you work. Many editors I work with — some of the best in the health & fitness business — use standing rigs. Some stand all day in front of their screens. Set your monitor at eye level, raise up your keyboard, and have at it. You burn more calories per day, but standing also forces you to mind your posture. It also keeps you awake.

    Maybe I got a bit carried away here — that’s a lot of words. But this is the kind of stuff that doesn’t just keep me in my chair, it gives me stamina to do it longer. And I ain’t perfect with it, not by a longshot. But if more writers took this kind of thing seriously, they’d feel better while they work long-term. Energy levels are higher. Brains sharper. Which can only help the quality of the work. And hey, maybe you live longer, too. Hemingway and Hunter Thompson may disagree, but some folks think that’s a good thing :)

    Anyway, hope this helps.

    Mike Zimmerman

    Reply
    • Okay, Mike. You made me sit up straight at my internet computer. (It’s a laptop. My writing computer is set up ergonomically. My laptop isn’t.) :-)

      What he said everyone. I know people generally don’t like to exercise, but it’s really, really, really important. I do cardio and resistance every week–cardio because I like it; resistance because I have to–and it makes a big difference. When I got so sick last spring, I had to chose between the writing and exercise some days. The days I chose writing due to deadlines meant that I just felt worse the next day. I asked for extensions on two deadlines, just so I could keep exercising. Then I made the original deadlines. :-)

      Exercise. Eat right. Take care of your body. As with actors and singers, our body is our instrument, so we need to tend to it. Thanks for this.

      Reply
      • “…our body is our instrument”

        That’s SO easy for a writer to forget. So easy to think “I AM my MIND!”

        Soooo … not quite so!

        One note: older writers MAY want to check with a doctor and/or physical therapist (mine have been the best!) about exercising that won’t harm the (hem, hem!) aging body. Sorry, folks, but old bones and connective tissues need to be wary of some traditional strengtheners. Floor crunches come to mind as one example. There are others, and ways to compensate for not being able to do all that stuff safely, any more. I believe the (gov’t health dept.?) has a good, well-illustrated (and I think, free) manual of safer exercises for seniors.

        That said: whut you folks sed. Use it or lose it.

        Reply
    • One thing Mike didn’t touch on that is essential for good health: sleep. Get your eight hours, for goodness sake. Try to do it at the same time every day, in as pitch black a space as you can. There is almost no single more important thing you can do for your health that get sufficient rest.

      Reply
      • Oh, dude, don’t get me started on sleep. Let’s put it this way: Even if you have a meeting with Steven Spielberg at 9 am today, a lunch date with Marty Scorsese at noon, a table reading of your latest screenplay with Clooney, Wahlberg, and Scarlett Johannsen at 3 pm, and a vibrator party at the Lohan residence at 7:30 (after a quick secure Skype with the director of the Secret Service about that thing with the guy in the place)…sleep will still be the most important activity of your day.

        It’s that simple: No matter what you got cookin’, sleep is the most important activity of your day.

        Good catch, David!

        Reply
    • Just wanted to add that the “women get bulky” thing is a myth. Those “bulky” people you see might be on drugs and/or be professional bodybuilders. Their really low body fat makes the muscles show. Usually they look just like everyone else.

      Men AND women should push themselves with weight lifting. When you can easily lift it 8-12 times, go heavier. Keep pushing yourself like you do with writing. I prefer 30mins of weight lifting 3 times a week over 60mins of cardio 6-7 times.

      Reply
    • For the standing rigs, I hear that you need a good mat for this — something besides hard floor or thin carpet — or else it will start messing up your feet and lower back, which will tend to drive one back to the sitting-down stuff! (And remember to shift position, or put one foot up now and then, etc.)

      Reply
    • Someone just advocated doing squats on a writer forum. I nearly fell over.

      Squat to live.

      (and Kris, great addition to your series, btw.)

      Reply
    • Here are three very simple but amazing exercises you can do daily. Forward lunges. Squats. Planks. Not familiar? Google ‘em. They are so simple but they are efficient, hitting a large amount of muscles all at once with minimal joint impact. If you want a resistance workout that offers a cardio benefit? Move faster and don’t rest between sets. You’ll get your cardio.

      And if you want encouragement thru watching someone, there are A LOT of exercise DVDs out there. Some are straight strength (lifting dumbbells, etc.), some are straight cardio, some are a mix of the two.

      You can look for ‘em on Amazon, of course, but here’s another site if you’re interested: http://www.collagevideo.com. If you’re unsure what to get, they have an 800 number where you can get some good ideas.

      I’ve bought a lot from them over the years, and they ship pretty quickly. Now I just have to get back into a regular routine, like Mike says.

      Reply
    • I love to stand at my computer, and not just stand. I pace in place. It gets the blood flowing, and I find I write great action scenes while doing it.

      I don’t have a standing desk was I don’t have the space for it, but I’ve found two odd shaped boxes that when used together on the desk put the laptop at just the right height. Changing between this and a seated position helps me all around. Sometimes you just have to get creative to make it happen. :)

      Reply
    • Maybe there’s a market for a “Writer’s exercise Program” DVD market out there?:-D

      I do need to exercise. If for nothing else, to get out of the house and do something.

      Good advice Kris.

      Craig

      Reply
    • Mike, I agree with you 100%! I’ll never forget a talk I went to at a Romance Writers of America conference where three long-term bestsellers talked about things they wished they had known early in their careers. The only one that stuck with me (although I’m sure they were all valuable) was that they wish they had taken better care of their backs and necks. Gotten regular massages, exercised, done yoga, etc. I took that to heart, and right away started treating my body like the machine it is. I get it regularly oiled with massage therapy every other week. If I’ve been working particularly hard on a book–14 hours in the chair, for example–I have the massage therapist do what we call “The Writer’s Special,” which is deep work on everything above the waist. She unclenches my hands, straightens my shoulders, etc.

      And yes about exercise in general. If your body doesn’t feel right, it’s hard for your mind to produce.

      Thank you for this great comment to another great post by Kris!! (Carry on, Kris.)

      Reply
  3. Thanks again for this series, Kris.

    While you seemed to be aiming it at readers who wonder about what happen to their favorite authors, which this really is about is author nightmares. But that’s an abyss we all have to look into: what will happen to me, what will happen to my books, how will this end?

    Or “how will this change?” which is the question writers should ask themselves.

    I just had a major life change: I got laid off on Tuesday.

    As I walked out of the HR office to go back and pack up my stuff, I was thinking “Why am I not upset about this?” and also “I can’t walk back into my department grinning from ear to ear, look grave!

    The reason I had that reaction is not because I have a hefty emergency fund or am otherwise independently wealthy (sadly I am not). The reason is because I bothered well ahead of time to look into the abyss of the subjects you’ve mentioned in this series. And being a writer, I spent a lot of time thinking, “what would I do if…?”

    In some ways, I think the current “worst case” scenario is something I secretly wished would happen. I am much too conservative about money to do it voluntarily. And I think my family knows this, and that’s why I’m getting a phenomenal amount of support for the option of staying home and writing, blogging, and doing book covers for the foreseeable future.

    The thing that gives me nightmares is your item #12. The idea of things that matter to me being controlled by someone else gives me the willies.

    Reply
    • Um…congrats? I’m sorry? Whatever you need to hear on the layoff, Camille. I’m glad it’ll get you to write more. And you’re not the only writer who wished to get laid off so that she could write more. Lots of writers are secretly happy when the boss lets them go. I’m glad you planned for this.

      And yeah, number 12. It was the reality until a few years ago. Now we long-term writers are cleaning up many, many messes. [sigh]

      Reply
      • LOL – yes, both are appropriate.

        The really ironic thing is, though they may have done me a favor, they screwed themselves… and I may have a nice lawsuit.

        Reply
      • Well I’ll say it—Congrats Camille! Yours is a very similar situation to my own (sans the law suit, but I was able to point the IRS to some squirrely accounting practices used by my former boss) and I was not upset at all.

        But—word of warning. Be very aware of your daily schedule and finishing tasks. I worked for a well-known insurance agency for 16 years, in the printing and design house the company owned. I was accustomed to a production schedule, nailing deadlines, travel (fifteen trips in 2004, and 9 of those were to the Oregon Coast!), in essence, knowing what had to be done every day in order to achieve a goal.

        And lemme say, doing this on your own? Waaaaaay different. It’s very easy to convince yourself, “Oh I’ll just read this book first because it’s research,” and then before you know it a week’s past and yeah, you’ve caught up on that huge pile of books by your bed or that staggering list of things to read on your e-reader, but you haven’t written a thing!

        Or “This television show is like what I want to write so I can blast through all 7 seasons on Netflix,” and again you’ve lost a week, or even a month before you realize you’ve not only finished that series, but NINE others!

        Or my personal favorite, “Eh…I don’t have to go work…I’ll just catch up on my sleep because I need to be fully rested now,” and before you know it, you’re sleeping till noon, showering, not getting any exercise and definitely not writing.

        I can’t remember who said it, but I love the quote “Freelance is not for those who aren’t self-motivating.” I believe Kris talks about this in her Freelancer’s Guide, and the need, after being out of the workplace to find the process that works so that you FINISH what you start.

        I went freelance at the end of 2009. It’s now the end of 2012 and I JUST FIGURED ALL THIS OUT. Getting caught up in all the distractions can also make it look like you disappeared when nothing new shows up in ANY store, brick and mortar or online. All these suggestions offered here (not necessarily mine ’cause I have diagnosed ADD and can’t keep on target) can help. Find your process and trust it. I’m not saying don’t go to those wells to fill up the creative junkyard (quoting the guys from Writing Excuses), just keep the writing and the finishing of writing FIRST.

        Once again, Congrats!
        (Sorry Kris if I yammered too much. XD)

        Reply
        • Naw, Phae, you didn’t yammer too much. It’s all good stuff–for everyone. Thanks!

          Reply
        • Thanks, Phaedra!

          There’s another reason that I went out of that HR office feeling good: I’m a part time employee. (Or was.) Flexible hours, etc. In terms of my personal schedule, I’ve treated it as if it were not a day job, but a freelance gig on the side for over a decade.

          I’ve never had a dependable kind of employment in my life. Self-employment is more or less a family tradition.

          Which isn’t to say there aren’t hitches and pitfalls, just that I am very aware of most of them, including the one about the things you didn’t see coming. I’ll be blogging about it on Wednesdays and Sundays for a while, because I know this adventure is going to be… interesting.

          (The lawsuit, btw, looks less likely. Higher-ups are stupid, but my direct supervisor — a saint among supervisors — saw the issue immediately without prompting, I am told.)

          Reply
  4. These three posts were great, Kris.

    Just a note – re providing legal services – last I knew, Novelists, Inc. had retained some IP attorneys and offered an hour of an attorney’s time to each member of NINC free of charge. (That was a year or two ago – I think it still stands but I’d have to check.)

    Reply
    • Wonderful, Pati. I’m glad to hear it. But an hour isn’t really enough to pursue big matters like suits. I wish there was a writer Legal Aid, like there is for housing and a few other things. However, an hour might be enough to give the writer a way to get some legal matters settled on her own.

      Anyone else know of organizations that provide free legal services? (Not just advice?)

      Reply
  5. Mike Z: Good post, nearly all of it, save for this:

    “And let’s forget about vanity muscles and strength and looking good.”

    How, pray tell, are “vanity muscles” developed? Is the physiological process different?

    Yeah, I understand what you are getting at — but it kind of smacks of the old saw about bodybuilders not being strong and only *looking* strong. Not so, and I know you know this.

    Which is not to say that somebody who looks like Hercules is necessarily healthy — exercise is not enough, it’s not a panacea, you have to look to diet and lifestyle, but I would offer that going to the gym and working t make yourself look good is a lot better than sitting in the chair and not going at all. Whatever gets somebody out of the chair …

    SP

    Reply
    • It seems to me that vanity is a muscle. I know lots of people with a highly overdeveloped vanity muscle… :-)

      Reply
    • Steve:

      What we refer to as “vanity” muscles around the office are basically biceps, pecs, and abs for men, and arms, glutes, and legs for women. These are generally the muscles the people concentrate on when they simply want someone to look at them. Having well-developed biceps, however, doesn’t necessarily make you “well-conditioned.” Having a six pack doesn’t mean that you have a strong core — it means you have a low body fat percentage. And strength is relative. I’ve known powerlifters who can bench press 450 pounds, but can’t do a pullup.

      My basic point: For most people, the best advice is exercise your whole body with an eye towards feeling good and maintaining functional muscle, rather than doing 40 biceps curls because you want someone to stare at your arms.

      And I hear you on bodybuilding. Competitive bodybuilding is a totally different animal than what I was talking about. It’s a sport that you train for in a specific way.

      In the end, what I’ve learned is that a total-body approach makes me feel far better, and function better, than focusing on one particular muscle group, or activity, or sport. But like I said, ANY exercise is good exercise if you do it consistently.

      Reply
    • Oh, and also to your point, Steve, I thoroughly agree: Anything that motivates you to get off you butt and break a sweat regularly is a good thing, even vanity.

      (possible exceptions: running from police, running after potential victims)

      Reply
      • Hey, what’s wrong with running after potential victims? (says the horror writer)

        Reply
    • Biceps and pecs are vanity muscles. Quads and spinal erectors are life savers. Trying for hypertrophy through pump routines instead of strength training is vanity.

      Putting on bikini shorts, smearing on tanning lotion until your skin glows orange and then flexing in front of a mirror is not just vanity, it’s a psychosis. And yeah, pound for pound bodybuilders are stronger than Joe 6-pack; but against an Olympic lifer? Fuggedaboutit 8-)

      Wow. This comments thread is a little weirder than usual

      Reply
      • I thought that emoti-con was Big Grin, not Hipster Sunglasses. Sorry about that, I was being teasing, not cool.

        Reply
  6. Thank you, Kris, for the whole series (and everything else). And, as usual, the comments here are also terrific and full of great information and advice.

    A lot of your points applies to so many creative pursuits. I watched my mother, who had huge creative potential, drink and smoke herself to death. She also had untreated mental issues that were at the root of the other problems. My whole life has been about avoiding her tragic end: keeping sane, sober, and not giving up. Finishing projects. Moving on. Not being a perfectionist.

    I have an aunt who painted for twenty years until she started selling her work. Initially she wasn’t nearly as good as my mom (in my biased opinion), but she cheerfully kept at it and started selling her paintings for thousands of $. So, she’s my inspiration. Not raw talent, but dumb, cheerful perseverance.

    (Camille, sorry/congrats about the layoff. Good luck!)

    Reply
    • I’m amazed at the cheerful perseverance. It’s hard to remain cheerful. But dumb? Naw. It’s a strategy, and it’s hard. I do understand avoiding the Mom issues. Me too. Although the perfectionism catches me at the weirdest times. Fortunately, not in the writing… Thanks for the post!

      Reply
  7. One of Dean’s best bit of advice is to set a timer and move about every 15 minutes. That is potentially life saving advice. Deep Vein Thrombosis/PE is a bigger killer in the US than breast cancer, and is a particular writer killer.

    Health issues can work either way. They can stop a career in its tracks, but as Heinlein once said very many professional writers take up the job because their disabilities make it hard to work a regular job.

    Actually, I think the only two things that stop a writer long term are to stop writing, or to stop trying to sell your writing. All other problems can be solved (even if you need to get a day job for a time) .

    Reply
    • You might be interested in Focus Booster, a free app which sits on your computer and times you as you work for 25mins. After that, you get up and take a break for five minutes. Then back to work. The theory behind this is the pomodoro technique, desgined to help you focus and get more work done (it can also help you take those breaks).

      Zoe Winters says she uses it and I’ve occasionally found it helpful: http://www.focusboosterapp.com/

      Reply
      • I use tea and water. I drink a glass of water or a cup of tea. After a certain point, I can’t just finish the next sentence: I must leave my desk and walk to another room. It works, and you don’t have to think about it. :-)

        Reply
        • I do the water thing too. I drink tons of water, so when I finish it, I get up. It works. :)

          Reply
          • Or you could just have young children. They keep you hopping up every 15 minutes or so ;).

            Thanks for all the advice good thread.

        • I do that at my day job. ;) Unfortunately, when I’m writing I forget to stop typing and drink. (And I can’t chug a glass of water without my very-touchy-stomach getting cranky.) However, I do find that every time I get to a rough writing spot, I suddenly need to get up and do laundry or dishes…which works because as soon as the one task is done I make myself go back to the desk.

          Reply
  8. As a reader that is a really good article explaining what happens to the author I like. Thank you for it.

    Mike Z. Working at a computer all day every day … YES do those things or wind up with health problems. .. :p

    last I hadn’t even considered that publishers just hang onto books because they can. But that explains something I encountered. I’ve been buying a best selling action authors considerable back list and book 3 or 4 of his series is just not available as an ebook. I couldn’t figure out why? But if the publisher is essentially keeping it for themselves that makes sense. Given that he has published the rest of his backlist I can’t imagine he hasn’t published this one book because he doesn’t want to. Ick, that is just back of the publisher.

    But it does match a story I heard about a publisher doing something very like that to an author and the story dates back to the 80’s. Something about printing a small run but not releasing the order numbers for it and warehousing the run just to keep the book in print so the publisher could keep the rights locked up but denying the author any royalties because it never sold copies.

    Reply
    • Sadly, Tom, things like that do and did happen. It’s tough on the readers and the writer, but the publisher feels virtuous. :-(

      Reply
  9. When I first read the name ‘Hemingway’ I thought you were jumping to the ultimate way to stop your own career: suicide.

    Hemingway, Richard Brautigan, Hunter S Thompson, John Kennedy Toole, Thomas Disch, H. Beam Piper, Robert E Howard . . . a sad list.

    Hemingway’s a good example of a hard drinking writer, but I don’t believe he started the fashion. I don’t even know whether he drank while writing.

    His friend Scott Fitzgerald did, and wrote about it, and died far too young.

    As someone who spent over 30 years interviewing many different kinds of people, in many different states of mind, I can say long-term chronic alcohol use is the worst health hazard, physical and mental. I’d rather talk to a crackhead, a heroin addict, or a schizophrenic than an alcoholic.

    Reply
    • Thanks for that, Richard. Alcohol is extremely destructive. I’ve seen too many people destroyed by that particular drug. It’s ugly.

      Hemingway didn’t drink while writing, and probably was not an alcoholic. Which is why I call it the “Hemingway myth.” Fitzgerald did, and it destroyed him. If you ever want to read an essay that’ll put you off living like F.Scott, read “The Crack-up,” which he wrote. He realized, too late, that the way he lived was terribly destructive.

      And no, I wasn’t talking about suicide, since we all die eventually. Most of us just don’t choose the method. I don’t think anyone has done a study as to whether more writers commit suicide than other artists or the rest of the population, but the writers are more eloquent about their despair.

      Reply
      • Coincidentally, I just read this short article this morning about a study linking creativity to mental illness: http://cbsn.ws/TCWDIZ

        According to the study, writers are “almost 50 percent more likely to commit suicide than the general population…”

        For what it’s worth.

        Reply
      • And a quick PSA: never try to stop drinking alcohol cold turkey. A lot of people don’t realize it, but that can kill you if you drink a lot regularly. A friend of mine recently decided to quit drinking and ended up having a seizure. Fortunatly her husband was home when it happened. So please always consult your doctor. /endPSA

        Reply
  10. Kris, you said about James Petterson : “That little show of ignorance made me realize the man hasn’t been keeping up with much more than his corner of the industry. And honestly, I now wonder if he’s read his latest batch of contracts and understands how some of the language in those contracts has a whole different meaning than it did ten years ago.”

    Reading your previous blog posts, I figured bestsellers writers like James Petterson didn’t have a single change in their contracts, even with the tremendous changes in the industry. What I understood was that the midlist writers were being screwed with sudden changes in their contracts in favor of the bestsellers like Petterson who were given the best treatment.

    And you know, thinking about my past and the reason why self-publishing attracted me from the start (yes, I was published once, because I wanted to know what it was like), I remenber when in my previous life I was a freelancer jornalist, even if I was independant and rather proud of it, I had to do a lot of schmoozing to get enough work.

    And so when I was published back in 2009 (by a small press), it striked me that my book was not the only one being published by that publisher. At that time, I didn’t know Konrath’s posts on schmoozing your publisher (and the booksellers, and everyone who help sell your books), but I didn’t need them to understand the situation repeated itself from the time I was a freelancer, and I didn’t like it.

    I think it’s the main thing that’s in the core of my implication in indie publishing, it’s the realisation that I didn’t want that human relationship thing of a publisher prefering one book upon another, and making choices in her own catalog of books, to get in the way of my career. Knowing a publisher has to screw some of my peers to get my books in front of readers, or that in the same way, I could get screwed, too. Too arbitrary for me, thanks.

    I would rather have directly the reader make that human relationship thing of prefering one book upon another (even if I don’t see the whole business as a competition thing).

    Regarding what you said about Amazon and Apple and others, I would advice not only to read contracts, but also to read carefully sales reports. By doing that I discovered on Amazon’s Excel files that the delivering cost of one of my ebooks (only one, so that must be a mistake) changed from 0,16 € to 0,26 € than to 0,36 € from april to july, resulting in a 10, than 20 cents loss for each ebook sold on that period.

    Still investigating about it with Amazon. I thought that was worth noticing (on the excel file, the delivering cost is on the far right side, and you may not notice it at first sight).

    Reply
    • Thanks, Alan. Yes, bestsellers do get better contracts than midlist writers, but that doesn’t mean bestsellers get good contracts. And with the advent of new technologies, along with the changes in publishing, the bestsellers contracts have changed as well–and probably not in the bestsellers’ interest.

      You make a good argument for indie. Thanks.

      Reply
      • Kris, in what ways have changed the bestsellers contracts ? It’s very important, because they are at the peak of the industry pyramid. There are rumors that Stephen King gets 50% of rights and license all his books for a limited period.

        For example, in his case, would his ebooks rights would be licensed for an unlimited period now ?

        Update on Amazon : it appears in June, I had uploaded a new version of an ebook with a high definition cover. My mobi file passed from 1 Mo to 3 Mo. So the delivering fee did increase for this one.

        It’s better to have very light files with Amazon KDP, elsewhere you’ll feel the difference.

        Reply
        • You’re assuming all bestseller contracts are the same, Alan. They’re not. They differ by author and by book. And, just an FYI, Stephen King’s contracts are negotiated by an attorney, not by an agent, unlike most bestsellers.

          Reply
  11. As a fantasy writer, I like doing the sort of exercise that doubles as research. I walk every day for basic cardio, but I also ride horseback and take an archery class. One summer when I was writing scenes on a sailing ship, I took sailing classes. Small-boat sailing is inexpensive (where I live, anyway) and extremely physical–in fact, I had to give it up after a couple of summers because I didn’t have the necessary upper body strength and couldn’t develop it due to an old shoulder injury. I learned enough to write the sailing scenes, though.

    Reply
  12. Just this week, I watched James Patterson on The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson discuss his worries that e-books would cause libraries and bookstores to go away.

    Wow, talk about head in the sand. I know of at least two libraries where you can download ebooks onto your Kindle or whatever…so how is this making libraries go away? Although I haven’t participated in that (yet), I have no doubt I’ll d/l something soon.

    And good on Sue Grafton for opening her eyes and being honest.

    I do have health problems and a couple of major life issues>. I don’t write as much as I want, but when I do, it’s like therapy to me – I get taken away from those worries and pains for a little while. (I’ll take whatever I can get. :-))

    Great way to wrap this up. And it’s a real shame when people can’t write anymore due to stuff that’s out of their control. So sad.

    Reply
    • The “e-books will erase libraries and bookstores” argument also assumes that everyone has internet access and can afford and e-reader. I’d say that 20% of my town lacks internet for 1) financial or 2) personal reasons. Perhaps 20% of people have an e-reader. That leaves a lot of folks who either don’t want to read e-books or who can’t access e-books. Granted, those numbers will change, but to assume that everyone will be able to afford an e-reader (or will be willing to spend money on an e-reader and e-books) strikes me as being foolish at best and terribly condescending at worst.

      Reply
    • Nancy and Kris, I don’t think Grafton “got it” even after being taken to task. She says in the second post, “I meant absolutely no disrespect for e-publishing and indie authors.” But her original comment was: “Don’t self-publish. That’s as good as admitting you’re too lazy to do the hard work.”

      It seems she did mean to disrespect e-publishing and indie authors (you lazy bums), but then realized, when called on the carpet for being disrespectful, that it made her look bad. So she apologized without really apologizing, imo.

      Her response boils down to: I have no idea how this indie thing works, and after being told how it works, I’m too above it all to care (her exact words: “I don’t understand the mechanics of e-publishing and I still don’t understand how you can earn money thereby….”)

      What? You mean after a 15 minute conversation on how indie publishing works you still don’t understand how someone can earn money that way? That is not, imo, “classy” or “smart” – it’s arrogant. She’s old school and won’t change. Doesn’t need to change, that’s fine, but she should watch what she says if she wants to retain fans.

      Reply
      • The old advice, Lyn, was that if someone self-published, they were too lazy to learn how to do this properly. They took shortcuts that wouldn’t help them, and were considered, quite frankly, stupid. For years, I gave the same advice she did. The only difference is that I was too polite to use a pejorative, even though what I thought was probably a lot worse than “lazy.”

        In the early draft of the Freelancer’s Guide, I worried that self-published authors didn’t try hard enough. Then I studied the changing phenomenon, realized that my opinion was out of date, and revised the guide. A lot of traditionally published authors haven’t had any reason to look at indie publishing, so those writers have the same opinions they had in 1999.

        And honestly, why should she learn how indie publishing works? All of her rights are tied up with publishers, and she has no interest in rereleasing those early books. It’s not part of what she feels she needs to know, and she just might be right. It’s not her job to give advice to new writers or to even care what other writers are doing. Writers who’ve been in this business a long time know we’re not in competition with each other, so that kind of maintenance isn’t–or rather, hasn’t–been important.

        The fact that she went out and discovered what she didn’t know, and is savvy enough to say she doesn’t understand it but things are different is classy, in my opinion. Being able to say you don’t understand something and that you were wrong is the sign of a mature adult. It’s also very uncommon in our culture these days.

        Reply
        • Good points, Kris. And she may have even been referring to how one can make *millions* self-publishing. As far as I know, no indie author is selling a million copies of one book like she has. In her mind, that may be what money means. Why self-publish when you can only make 50k to 70k a year?? Still seems a bit arrogant to me, but like we both said, she doesn’t need to learn this route (I doubt she still has learned it, other than enough to cover her unfortunate comments, but that’s just imo.) Thanks for your response earlier.

          Reply
          • You’re probably right about how much she’s learned, Lyn. Somewhere down the road, she’ll wonder why indie writer who sell fewer books make more money than she does and seem happier. But for now, she knows better than to make those comments about self-publishing ever again. :-)

  13. About health issues:

    I just spent yesterday afternoon with another Aspie (someone gifted with Asperger’s Syndrome). I’ve been emailing another young man with Asperger’s who also seems to be on the way to writing some valuable fiction written with a unique point of view.

    Possible life rolls notwithstanding, I think these two young men could do quite well in his writing and publishing career. I would classify autism as a health issue–one of those that Oliver Sacks frequently treats in his books.

    Twenty years ago, education, societal attitudes, the publishing industry and the pharmaceutical industry would have quietly killed the careers of these two people before they’d been able to finish and publish a thing.

    What a great time to be different.

    c.

    Reply
  14. The points you made about how the contract terms and dealing with big corporations can affect Indies are right on track. The terms of services are always changing. What happens when they change the wrong way? Those things are non-negotiable, so you are up a creek without a paddle if they become unacceptable unless you can find a place to sell with better terms. This is yet another good reason to diversify. You can then cut that retailer out of your mix and divert your readers to other options (not ideal, but at least there’s the possibility).

    I was thinking about this earlier with the review fiasco going on over at Amazon. Fans of a book are now getting their reviews taken down at Amazon. When they inquire as to the reason they are basically getting accused of being the Author shill accounts, and if they pursue the matter again or try to repost again their accounts AND the book in question will be pulled.

    As one commenter mentioned, this would be a great underhanded way for a rival author to get your book pulled through no action of your own. They could set up an account and appear to be a shill, ignore the warnings from Amazon, and then one day the original author goes to look and can’t find their book. Oops. Good luck in dealing with Amazon support to get it reinstated and any funds forfeited according to the TOS returned. After all, didn’t Amazon warn your shill account what would happen if you continued?

    All because Amazon made a knee-jerk reaction to an issue and has an algorithm working on the back side with poor people support on the issue, which you can do nothing about. Well, if that’s the only place you have your books, and the book is pulled as well as possibly any current profits from it…

    And again diversifying can help lessen the impact of this kind of disaster.

    How many will disappear because of these kind of things? If they went exclusive, most likely they will have to wait until that time-period is over even after the retailer they were exclusive with pulled the plug (again, depending on the terms). They then become ‘toxic’ to that retailer. Either scenario would cause not only massive discouragement, but also financial hardships that may necessitate a reorganization of a writer’s time. They may seem to disappear as they try to keep a roof over their heads. They may think its time to move to a different part of the industry if this is going to be the kind of headaches they have. Did the stress of dealing with it affect their health? (keeping up with the changes in the industry would also apply here)

    Yeah, a bunch on your list would apply for anything like this happening.

    It really comes down to what you once said. You need to go into these things expecting that the nice people you are working with right now are going to go away, and their replacements will be the very epitome of evil. Look at the contracts and TOS that way.

    I’ve been accused of being a little bit of a conspiracy theorist on how some of the big book retailers are acting. Maybe in a way I am, but then I’ve worked with and within enough corporations to know the basics of how they work. However, I’ve also been right several times in what direction they’ve then later gone. All because my business world-view isn’t all unicorns and rainbow-farts (to whomever posted that phrase on The Passive Voice, my family wants to hurt you for having it become a part of my phraseology. :P ).

    Reply
    • Great points, J.A. Thanks.

      And now you’ve infected me with that phrase…

      Reply
    • Or, another example, I had Amazon contact me saying they found one of my short stories elsewhere on the web (wouldn’t say where) and I had so many days to provide proof that it was my story. Fortunately, they picked one of the stories that had been previously published, so I offered to provide a copy of my original contract. But for ones I’ve only self-pubbed, that would be harder, because at this point I can’t afford to pay $30 to register the copyright every time I self-pub a short story. But one wonders what that would have done to my author account if they’d decided that I didn’t have (or couldn’t prove I did have) the rights to publish that one story?

      Reply
      • It’s pretty common to get that notification, Rraythe, and I’ve wondered the same thing myself. You might have to register and then get back to them. I don’t know. Anyone have that experience with a previously unpublished piece?

        Reply
      • You can make group registrations of several short works over the course of a year at the US Copyright Office. The fees are higher now. You have no protection if you fail to do this because the only place you can sue for copyright infringement is a Federal District Court. Registration in hand is required. It’s best done within 90 days so you can claim statutory damages. Your copyright registration covers all derivative uses, such as film and television. “Brokeback Mountain” was based on a nine page short story. You never know where opportunity will happen. Spend the money and invest in yourself. BTW the two best courses I took for a writing career were Accounting and Business Law.

        Reply
        • Actually, Francis, your copyright exists from the moment you commit your story to a form. The only reason to register is for statutory damages if your copyright is infringed. It’s better to register than to not, but you don’t have to register to take a case to a federal court. Check out the Copyright Handbook for information on what copyright is and what statutory damages are, and the reasons to register.

          Reply
  15. I’ve enjoyed this trilogy of posts. I must be one of the weird ones. :) Help me if this falls into one of your existing categories, but for me, if I ever disappear, it will likely be because I managed to write something that does succeed, and I’ll be paralyzed by trying to follow it with something as good or better. Every time I finish something, I struggle through the roadblock of thinking I’ll never have an idea that good again – and I haven’t even written anything popular yet. If I were ever in a position of having something wildly popular, I can see myself shutting down for fear of being viewed as a one-hit wonder when my next book comes out and doesn’t measure up. I’m trying to prepare myself for how to fight through that, in the desperate hope that I do someday write something popular, but I know that about myself, and if I ever disappear, odds are that will be why. I didn’t see a “They couldn’t handle success” entry in your list, but maybe it fits into one of the other ones (or it’s just a lovely little psychosis of my own).

    Reply
  16. Your “why writers disappear” series really struck a chord with me. Commercial artists/illustrators in SF/F who create in “traditional media” have had to deal with similarly complex contractual quagmires, rapidly changing and eroding economic/marketing situations, strong socio-economic incentives for abandoning the literary arena, with very much the same working conditions (isolation) and response (discouragement), so that your “bottom line” trio (personality, personal problems, lack of business skills) seem very much on the mark, and apply equally well to established artists in the sf/f genre. The collection of essays I put together in “Paint or Pixel: The Digital Divide in Illustration Art” (NonStop Press, 2005) was my version of a ‘wake up call’ to those in the visual arts side of this industry . . . who might be thinking the 1980s would last forever. Fact is, the road has been just as bumpy for illustrators as for writers working in the sf/f genre. So your reasons for “disappearance” makes us first cousins :-) and although I can’t recall ever meeting you in person – I sincerely hope that will be rectified in the future. In the meantime I want to thank you for your clarity, and for inspiring me to give new thought to the interesting times we are living in ….

    Reply
    • Thanks, Jane. I’ll check that out. Because I think all of us who are in the arts are going through a massive change at the moment, and survival is…confusing…at best.

      Reply

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