Having a crappy day at the day job today.


People, when you call a company, sometimes the person who can help you is the first person who answers the phone. Don’t be rude to them and don’t try to blow by them to the person you think can help.


As much as I try (try!) to make this blog a not-specifically-about-writing blog, here’s two writing-related things:

First is Rob Sawyer’s post about the end of the full-time SF novelist, and John Scalzi’s reaction.

I’m still sifting through my thoughts on both men’s ideas. I’m a fantasy writer myself, which some people might consider a close, close cousin to “SF writer” but I doubt Mr. Sawyer would agree. So, my experience is not directly transferrable to his, since we write for different but somewhat-overlapping markets.

First of all, as I mentioned in the comments on Scalzi’s blog, health care is a huge issue. I would be a full-timer right now if I were a Canadian and had access to their Medicare system. I doubt I’ll even try to become a full-timer until the Affordable Care Act comes into play, and we all have a chance to see if it works.

Second, also mentioned in Scalzi’s blog, there are a lot of people who make their living off novels. The person who drives the truckload of books from the warehouse to the bookstore is one of them.

But for writers? There’s an awful lot of competition out there, and it’s getting more intense. Every time I see a 4 (out of 5) star review on Child of Fire, I feel like a minor leaguer. If I’m going to try for a career in writing, I need to max out the awesome scale as much as possible.[1] That’s the way to build readership, and that’s the way to maintain an active backlist.

Because it’s the backlist that does the heavy lifting. One of the lessons from Donald Maas’s free ebook on writing, The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success, was that the writers he represented who earned six-figure salaries didn’t do so with their advances, but with their backlists. That’s what I want, too.

But how much of Rob Sawyer’s concerns come from the recession rather than general publishing trends? Is the type of work he does going out of fashion? Should I dump a bucket of live bait over his head because he uses an offer of three grand for ten days of work as an example of why SF writers can’t write full time?

And for John Scalzi, he’s pretty clear that he’s coming onto the scene in a big way (he’ll become SFWA president tomorrow, among other things)–how will the market look for him in 15 years?

Great, I hope. And for Rob Sawyer, too. I hope the two of them become filthy millionaires, just like me. But Scalzi’s correct that few novelists ever get to quit their day jobs[2][3]; however, just pointing this out doesn’t speak to how many of them can do so in the future.

But this is a really bad time to be making predictions about the publishing industry. The recession is hurting a lot of folks right now, from readers to publishers to us writers, too. New delivery systems are gaining ground, and it’s still too early to judge how far they’ll penetrate the market, or how deeply. Urban fantasy is still doing well, but Christ, does that genre need to be shaken up and broken open.

On top of that, U.S. health care reform may make it possible for me to go full time with my writing. In fact, I’m hopeful that there will be a bunch of positive effects of the ACA, including a reduction in job lock, more new business startups, and more self-employed workers. How great would that be?

Which is just me saying that I want it and hope to get it. I suspect I’ll need to be way more prolific than I currently am, though.

Damn, wasn’t I supposed to talk about two writing-related things? This got a little long, so I’ll put that other topic off until the next post. Also: day job still crappy.

[1] Not that I need five stars from 100% of all readers who ever pick up my book; that would be crazy. I’ll settle for half.

[2] Why oh why didn’t I get a degree and a career back in college when I had the chance?

[3] Dean Wesley Smith talks about how many writers work full-time right now right here. Interesting stuff.

4 thoughts on “Having a crappy day at the day job today.

  1. Your Publisher’s Weekly starred review did a lot more convincing me than Amazon reviews did.

    When there’s not very many of them I don’t trust them a bit — even when there’s a lot, they can easily be drummed up by people with strong online presences.

    And as long as they’re not down in the dumps then I figure it’s more about individual taste.

  2. And a separate post for the main part:

    Good luck on making it full time! I had read some time back that 5 books in the same genre is when it could happen.

    I do think writing urban fantasy has a better shot than sci-fi. For one thing, I think the sci-fi audience is really fragmented. Some people want Star Wars, others want old Asimov stuff, others looking for Singularity. I sort of suspect you’d have a better chance writing sci-fi graphic novels and hoping for a movie option to bring in the real bucks.

    That’s one great thing if you can launch a screenwriting career — the WGA has a nice health plan.

    I’d think, though, that once you get three books in publication, then you’d be able to get a 20 Palaces comic series going and then that’d make it a lot easier to get some movie or TV money.

  3. True: some of those reviews are by friends of mine (but not all of them are five stars–I nearly emailed a friend to say “Is this really the time for integrity?!?) but not many.

    And at least I don’t have to put up with the “over-priced Kindle version” one-stars.

  4. The WGA does have a great plan! The only downside is that you have to get notes from movie people for it.

    I have friends who write comics–and one who runs his own comic company–and you should hear the way they talk about people who write comics in hopes of breaking into Hollywood. Brrr.

    I’m happy with foreign language sales for now. I do know a lot of folks in L.A. and working in film, but that’s not really worth all that much in the long run.

    I just need to write the next book.

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