A little perspective on recessions

Snowboader image by Davide Fioraso

I’ve been a little tardy writing and blogging this week because my remunerative clients have all come at once screaming for work to be done by Christmas. Ah, the joys of self-employment! However, mustn’t grumble. Work is good. If it wasn’t for the last recession then I wouldn’t be in this position to fund my writing ambitions now, and this recession might just be the making of many a debut author’s ambitions. How so? Let me explain: it’s all a matter of perspective.

In 2001 the dot com crash directly affected my own line of business, while most other professions were spared. I lost my job that year, so I know how recessions can bite. I decided that was the time to finally set-up on my own as I had thought of doing for a long time. It would also give me the chance to write the novel. It took a good year to establish my client list, but now those clients are paying off when times are tougher for others and a permanent job might not seem so permanent anyway.

The point of all this? Out of disaster springs new opportunities. When DARPA revoked funding for military IT projects back in the ’70s, those talented researchers dispersed. Some set up companies, and the whole disaster gave birth to Silicon Valley, including today’s big success stories like Microsoft, Apple, et al.

So apply this to what is happening now in publishing and what it might mean for debut authors. Last week, many publishing jobs were lost. Debut authors (like myself) initially fear this will mean less opportunities for our books and perhaps lowers advances. Well, some of those masterless publishers and editors will no doubt now be thinking (as I did in 2001) this is the kick in the pants to do what they’ve long thought of – start up their own businesses. In an industry where jobs are scarce, self-employment becomes a necessity. Some might change career, others will become agents, or even set up new publishing houses. The necessary agile practices of newer, smaller, and leaner publishing houses will challenge the ingrained practices of the older, larger publishing giants and perhaps one day surpass them. But they need one thing to do this. You’ve guessed it — novels! Our novels.

In assembling my list of agents for submissions, I always tried to include agents that were new to agenting, or recently moved agency, because that means they are looking to build their author list. The chances of getting taken on are significantly higher with such a person. A relocated, experienced agent with a history of previous deals and lots of publishing contacts is, of course, preferable to a green agent. The agent who first requested a reading of Broken Evolution was a newly moved (but experienced) agent. So, debut authors, keep a keen eye out in next years Writer’s Yearbook for new publishers/agents and agents on the move. They’ll be looking for their own, new, big names, while the old fusty publishing giants will be focussing on wringing the most cash out of their bestselling authors and less likely to take a chance on new talent.

Recessionary times — as at any time — can present opportunities as well as obstacles. It’s all a matter of your perspective on it.

Meanwhile, the new story plays in my mind. I’m looking forward to writing the snowboarding sequence!

2 comments December 12th, 2008

I don’t like Mondays.

The podcast over on Litopia is a great source of interesting little tidbits that can educate any aspiring writer about the world of publishing. One of those little facts I learned from Peter Cox is that Friday is a “reading day” in the publishing industry, when agents catch up on submissions and slush pile material gets considered. The unfortunate consequence of that, I’m sure, is that rejection notices get sent out on Mondays. And if your submission happens to be via e-mail? Well – this Monday morning e-mail rejections were sitting in my Inbox when I started work .

At least I know why the week began on such a downer, but there is cold comfort in the knowledge.
Why can’t agents follow-up “reading Friday” on a “rejection Tuesday”? 🙁

Add comment November 10th, 2008

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