Mark Terry

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

You Are Where?

October 16, 2007
There's been some buzz lately about Reed Coleman's piece in Crimespree Magazine called "How Did I Get Here?" It's fairly easy to take this piece as a rant against promotion, even though it ends with a declaration that it isn't. Here's some of what Reed says, though:

"What I realized, finally, was that it was not so much these things themselves but what they represented. Each bad meal, each tour date—good or bad—each night away from home, each convention, and book launch, I came to understand, was a small step away from what mattered. And what mattered to me, what will always matter to me, is the work itself. It was as if one day I went to sleep back in my boyhood home in Brooklyn, but woke up years later in Buenos Aires or Burkina Faso. I had let myself get farther and farther away from being a writer. It had happened by the inch, in tiny, almost imperceptable, increments. Whether I’d done it gladly with eyes wide open or had it foisted upon me was beside the point. I was no longer where I wanted to be, not even close."

I have a pretty good idea where Reed is coming from and I've had nowhere near the success he has had in the fiction arena. Lately I've been spending a lot of time trying to sort out my feelings about fiction. Some of this has to do with some of the changes going on in my nonfiction business. You see, in 2007 I got a little complacent. I had let a number of my clients go because I was so busy with ONE BIG CLIENT and OBC paid a lot of money and kept me very busy... until recently. They'll probably keep me busy still and probably still pay me quite well, but the fact is, my work with them is changing... and I only found out yesterday when I called them and asked about some work they had mentioned I might be doing in 2008. And I find that, underneath my feet without anybody mentioning it to me, their priorities had changed. They had decided what type of work they wanted me to do and as far as I can see didn't consult with me on this for even a millisecond. Ultimately that's fine. I'll still be working for them and the pay is still good, but the work they want seems to me to take me a ways away from what I ultimately want to be doing.

I'm not exactly scrambling, but my priorities changed pretty much overnight and what I'm kicking myself about isn't that it changed, but I had forgotten momentarily a key rule of the freelance life--things change. So I've gotten a couple of my previous clients back and I'm looking for new ones and already have one or two.

So that's all affecting how I feel and what I think about publishing fiction. I still very much love writing fiction. But the business end of it, the numbers games, the promotion, the never-ending rejection that is just a fact of life of the fiction game, the little dance writers, agents and editors dance is wearing me out. It's not fun; it's not exhilarating; it's not exciting. It's irritating and unpredictable and, unfortunately, a little depressing.

On my walk with Frodo this morning I was thinking that the problem is that a publisher is a corporation and when we expect corporations to act like anything but a corporation, we're complaining about zebras having stripes.

Anyway, Reed wraps up his piece with these words of wisdom:

"Don’t misread this essay as a rant against promotion. It isn’t. It’s more a warning or suggestion to my colleagues that they take inventory of their lives and careers on a regular basis and that when so doing, they pay particular attention to what it is they want out of this life. I submit, however, that regardless of what they want out of the life or wanted out of the life when their careers began, and in spite of the increasing pressures to promote themselves and their work, that if the balance of their energies aren’t focused on producing the best work they can, something is wrong. Ask yourself, 'How did I get here?'”

Mark Terry


Blogger spyscribbler said...

The problem with marketing is the percentage game. I've been trying to be a good girl and market my pseudonym (which brings up a whole 'nother issue of "who" I should be focusing on), and I spend HOURS to get eleven hits on my website, LOL.

It's way more fun blogging and hopping around without that pressure, just for fun. Which is probably why pseudonym blogs--oh, gee--maybe twice a month and I blog every day.

That's the thing, though ... pseudonym doesn't blog about writing, which is almost all I think about. My readers wouldn't care about the writing craft, and I sense it would spoil a bit of the magic for them. Man behind the curtain and all that ...

(But there seem to be an awful lot of writers out there, so I guess it's not a bad demographic to market to at all.)

7:35 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

(Sorry to go on ...) I hear your struggle!

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

More and more I realize that to a large extent I don't really want to go to a large corporate publisher. Sure, I would like to say I am with a big publisher (Yay. Look at me. I win!) And I would love to make enough to write books full time. But although I want the prestige and pay that might go with working for one of the biggies I don't want any part of the actual job of "author" as they define it. If I got the chance, of course, after all the effort, those childhood dreams etc etc, I'd sign with a big publisher and probably be thrilled too, until I started to argue over my job description.

As for other work...freelancing is a balancing act. In return for freedom we deal with uncertainty. (Or at least, unlike regular employees, we can't fool ourselves that we have any security) Juggling is tough. I have been increasing my work for one client recently, but it is worrisome because that means reducing work for others and when (not if) this client goes it will leave a bigger hole to fill. I'm also considering dropping another client because the pay has just got too low. But that's risky because low pay would be preferable to none if any of my other clients vanish. But, you is kind of exciting, isn't it? I would never trudge in to an office again. Making a living as a freelancer is actually, in a way, a more important accomplishment than getting books published.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I'd never trade it either. But every year seems to bring a lesson in how to best manage your finances. This year has brought on yet another lesson about keeping a certain minimum funds in the savings account.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Even when there's plenty of work, with big projects I can go five months between big checks, and sometimes work gets slow. It's hard to say how much "savings" we have because we can never be sure how the work is going to go.

8:55 AM  

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