Monday, January 30, 2012

Handling Changes in the Publishing Industry with Guest Erica Vetsch

Casey here: I fell in love with Erica Vetsch through the pages of her books. Her personality and warmth on Twitter and finally in PERSON at the ACFW conference and was just a *tiny* bit excited to spot her walking across the hotel restuarant. I might have flung myself upon her...but we'll leave that up for you to assume. ;-)

I'm excited to have her guesting today on The Writer's Alley with her usual blend of charm, humor and wisdom. Here is Erica....
If you’ve spent any time at all pursuing publication, you know changes happen. Predicting them is impossible, timing them even more so. I’ve often asked myself ‘How can something that moves as slowly as the publishing industry change as quickly as the publishing industry?’

When you first start out as a writer pursuing publication, the wait just about kills you. Waiting for an agent’s approval, waiting for a publisher’s offer, waiting for your release date. Slow, slow, slow. Nothing ever changes, nothing ever will.

But consider how quickly things can happen in the publishing industry. Amazon began selling books online in 1994, revolutionizing how many people purchased their books. It’s only been five years ssince Amazon introduced the Kindle, completely changing e-readers and e-books. The e-book side of publishing has exploded in ways and directions unforeseen. Publishers, agents, bookstores, and authors are scrambling to establish a ‘new normal.’ Changes are rampant in the publishing industry. Publishing houses close, consolidate, are bought and sold, editors leave, editors come. It’s impossible to keep up.

And industry-wide changes aren’t the only changes an author can expect. In the last six months, I’ve been told the line I was writing for was being closed and my last book wouldn’t be released, then was told the line was in the process of being sold and my last book would be released. I’ve been informed that my agent was moving to a new agency and I needed to decide if I was going with her or if I was staying with my current agency. My publisher let me know one of my books that was scheduled to release in June would now release in December. And these changes that have happened to me recently aren’t as heart-wrenching as those some of my author friends have experienced. They’ve had book contracts cancelled, been dropped by their publisher, had their agents quit altogether.

So how does a writer handle all these changes that seem to come willy-nilly and in bunches? Here are three tips I’ve found helpful:

1.       Take a deep breath. There are always those out there who are sounding the death knell of publishing. In fact, I recently read an article that said ‘publishing is in love with its own demise.’ The end of the publishing world as we know it had been foretold, lamented, and mourned. And yet, here we are, still plugging away. Books are being published, contracts are being issued, readers continue to buy books. Take a deep breath. It will be okay.

Photo credit
2.       Educate yourself. You have nothing to gain by cowering in fear. If you wonder how e-books are affecting the book industry, ask questions of those who know. I had lots of questions this past fall about publishers offering free e-books on Kindle. How was this affecting sales of other books? Was the plethora of free content available keeping folks from buying books? So I asked. I talked with my agent, with my publisher, with industry professionals, and with other authors who had books free on Kindle.  By gathering information and advice from industry professionals who knew what they were talking about, I was able to allay my own fears and get some questions answered.

3.       Expect change and know that not all change is bad. If you dove into writing for publication because it was the most steady and secure employment you could think of…you’re in the wrong business! In this industry, you must expect changes and prepare for them as best as you can. Nothing is certain, and many things are out of your control.  Rather than wallow in fear and uncertainty, prepare yourself to roll with the changes. Keep an open mind about whether a change is good or bad. That isn’t to say some changes might not be painful or that just by expecting change, change will be easy. But my own experience has taught me that by being open to change, being flexible, and not basing my self-worth on being or getting published, I can better handle the inevitable changes that being a writer brings.

How about you? How do you handle changes in the publishing industry? Have you had to adapt and change when things don’t turn out like you plan?

My latest release:

A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas
About the Book: Hoping to leave the shadows of her shady yesteryears behind, Adeline Reid is focusing on her photography career. But when her ex-boyfriend’s compatriot in crime shows up in Dodge City her entire past is threatened by exposure. Can Addie keep her secrets while helping to catch a killer? Deputy Miles Carr’s investigation into a shopkeeper’s murder leads him to Addie’s door. Will his attraction to this female photographer keep him from catching the true culprit? Or will Addie lead him off course in more ways than one?

Author Bio: Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and reading, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical fiction set in the American West. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two terrific teens, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

Casey here again. What are your concerns about the changing market? Do you fear trying to sell your book with so many seemingly fickle and rotating demands?


Sherrinda said...

I find all the change fascinating. It's weird that I don't fret over all that stuff, but I tend to feel like I'm a long way off in my "publication" so I don't really "need" to worry about it all. Also, I am really trying to just enjoy the journey and let God's timing handle the rest. Kinda simplistic, but it is how I cope. ;)

Erica! I am thrilled to have you here! I have always been impressed by the amount of books you spit out. And may I say, that I love the cover of this newest book. It is awesome!

Lisa Lickel said...

Hi, Erica!
Even since I started writing and publishing, change is pretty much every month. I'm about to have my first eBook published, and in my book clubs there are people with eReaders who now are excited about it. I'm going to a workshop at my local library in a couple of weeks to talk about eReaders. Amazing!

Jeanne T said...

What a fun interview, Erica and Casey! Erica, it's good to read of the lessons you've learned so far. I loved what you said about change:

"But my own experience has taught me that by being open to change, being flexible, and not basing my self-worth on being or getting published, I can better handle the inevitable changes that being a writer brings."

Such true words. I think knowing where my self-worth is based helps me work through many of the changes that come into my life--writing and otherwise. Thanks for your encouragements to embrace change!

Casey said...

SHERRINDA, I'm in that same "boat" with you. Completely get what you're saying, because any other book I would try and write wouldn't be MY book.

LISA, that's great about ebooks! I know I just got an ereader last year and already adore it. Interesting how ebooks are gaining ground.

JEANNE, it seems that even if we try and change who we are in the writing world, it's constantly changing and something will happen to mess our plans up. It seems a good strategy to just go where God points us. :)

Lindsay Harrel said...

Though I can be a worrywart at times (OK, a lot of times!), I realize in the end that I can't control things. So there is no use in complaining or fretting. Like Erica said, we just need to roll with the changes. I have a feeling God is going to teach me a lot about patience and relying on him for my worth as I walk this writing journey.

Erica Vetsch said...

Hi, Sherrinda! I think you're positioning yourself very well for when publication rolls around for you. You're already knowledgeable and you're always trying to learn and improve. You're going to be better prepared than a lot of folks for the inevitable ups and downs of this industry through all the hard work you're putting in now. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Lisa, I was a die-hard 'never-gonna-have-an-ereader' type. Until I got an ereader. I.Am.In.Love with my Kindle! I can't believe how much.

And I've realized I buy more fiction now to read on my Kindle than I thought I would, partly because it's so ridiculously easy to point and click and have it immediately downloaded, and partly because I enjoy reading in bed every night before I fall asleep, and the Kindle book light doesn't keep my husband awake. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Jeanne T. I think it is wise to really reflect at an early stage in the process on what it is you're trying to accomplish with your writing. This will clarify your goals and help you meet the challenges.

Thanks for your comment!

Erica Vetsch said...

Lindsay, I've learned so much about myself and people and life through this writing journey. And I'm still learning more every day. Maybe that's one of the things I love best, the continual challenge of learning new things as I write.

Pepper said...

YAY! It's Erica!!!
Welcome back to the Alley :-)
Your new book sounds/looks great.

I still have a Kindle on my wishlist. ACFW money FIRST, then kindle :-)
But I've downloaded a few books on my laptop. Not as accessible or convenient at a kindle, but it works for now.

I dont' mind the changes so much, but I must admit I'm a cover/pages girl. I LOVE to hold a book in my hand and smell the pages. My computer screen just doesn't provide that same feel :-)

The first ebook I ever read was Pam Hillman's Stealing Jake. It's amazing how (regardless of the mode) a great story takes you to another world and keeps you there till the end.
So...I guess mode definitely doesn't matter as much as story. ;-)

(that's kind of a no-brainer, isn't it?)

Thanks for being here, Erica.

Stephanie Morrill said...

Oh, Erica, this:

‘How can something that moves as slowly as the publishing industry change as quickly as the publishing industry?’

totally put words to something I've been feeling but haven't been able to articulate. Great post!

Diane Ashley said...

Great post, Erica. I always enjoy your insight and comments on writing. Change can be scary, and I think you've given all of us some great advice. At conference last year, many were concerned about ereaders and their effect on the market, but something one of the publishers said still resonates with me--keep writing stories and let us worry about the format. You're such a wonderful writer, I know your stories will always be in high demand. Keep up the good work!

Erica Vetsch said...

Ah, Diane! Congrats on hitting the CBA Best Seller list! :)

I was in that workshop too, and I can't tell you how reassuring the answers to my question were. That same editor you mentioned said also to keep writing and let the reader decide the format. Our goal is to reach readers, and if they prefer books in e-format, it's unwise to exclude them just because we might prefer paper copies of our books.

Sarah Forgrave said...

So glad to see you here today, Erica! You've shared such wise advice. Sometimes simply educating ourselves can get rid of fear.

Beth K. Vogt said...

I look forward to meeting you one day. I feel like I've followed you around the blog-o-sphere!
I so appreciate your calm approach to change -- wonderful perspective.

Casey said...

So glad you're here on the Alley, Erica! And thank you for sharing all your wisdom with us!! :D

Erica Vetsch said...

Hi, Steph, you were definitely on my mind when I was pulling together ideas for this post. You're a model of grace in changing times. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Sarah, I really appreciate that there are great blogs and websites out there to help me get the answers I need. It helps calm my jitters. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Beth, hopefully we can meet at ACFW this fall??? That would be so great!

Erica Vetsch said...

Thank you so much for hosting me today, Casey. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Erica, so great to see you here! Those are excellent words of wisdom that help reassure me. I'm not quite there in the midst of all that yet, but it's smart to think ahead and to be educated, like you said. Thanks for stopping by and giving us some advice.