Anybody who follows publishing industry news is aware that this last year and a half, two years, has been one of the worst times for new writers to break into the business, to get that first deal. Publishing is changing in ways that no one can yet predict and the overall economic crisis has compounded pre-existing structural problems in the business. There are so many commentators who are more expert than I am, and I'll direct you to this post by my amazing agent, Nathan Bransford, for just one example of the seismic forces at work here.
But that's not what this post is about. Instead I want to talk about beating the odds. Yeah, this is a happy story.
My novel will debut from Soho Press next year. But it's not just me. All kinds of people I know have sold, gotten agents or otherwise achieved some publishing success during this very tough time. I'll name a few names: Judi Fennell (who sold her first three book series in 2008 and just sold a second), Elizabeth Loupas, whose historical mystery/romance will debut in 2011, Bryn Greenwood (agented, on sub), Dana Fredsti (on sub), Jenny Brown (sold three book romance series), and Nathan Bransford (already a publishing pro and now an author whose middle-grade novel comes out in 2011). I recently started hanging out on a forum at Absolute Write, where in the last couple of months, more writers than I can count have gotten agented and/or sold.
And finally, just two days ago, another writer friend scored a multi-book deal (I'm leaving that announcement to the writer in question).
I'm trying to figure out what the lessons are here, that so many writers I know are achieving career milestones during what is arguably the worst period in publishing since the Great Depression. I'm concluding two things: that serious-minded people flock together, and that a sort of positive group-think emerges, one that is oriented toward success and encourages the success of others in the group. My own progress I attribute in large part to the people by whom I'm surrounded -- I don't know that I would have known how to scramble up to that next level without the knowledge and enthusiasm of writer friends who in many cases were ahead of me in their own career progression, or at the very least certainly had a better idea of how to go about it than I did.
So, the take-away? Surround yourself with serious-minded writers. People who have the same commitment to excellence and success that you do. You'll boost each other up, and you'll fill in the gaps in each other's knowledge and experience.
I know that sounds suspiciously like management-speak (especially that "commitment to excellence and success" part), but you know what, it's true.
Plus, you know, maybe there's some kind of weird quantum physics at work here. Success reinforcing success, blasting out success waves...or something.
Okay, maybe not.