I'm not usually a big believer in New Year's resolutions. I'm all for vowing to live a better life whenever possible, but I rarely succumb to the big, fatalistic year-end pronouncement.
I'm making an exception this year.
2010 has been a very good year for me, professionally. There's every indication that 2011 will be just as good, if not better. Yet despite this success, I still sometimes feel depressed about my future as an author. It's as if I'm always scanning the sky looking for that one dark cloud, knowing it's just beyond the horizon.
And I think I know why. It's because I read too many articles about the publishing industry. And most of those articles do nothing but predict its imminent demise.
So this is my New Year's resolution: I refuse to read any article proclaiming the death of publishing, the end of the printed book, the rise of eReaders combined with the prediction that editors, publishing professionals, cover designers, etc., will no longer be necessary, that the author will become one lean, mean writing/editing/marketing/designing/publicizing machine, cutting out all so-called middle men and sticking it to the man (i.e., Big Bad Publishing).
Because, really, what am I supposed to do with all these predictions? I'm a writer. Period.
It's not as if I'm going to drop everything and enroll in an MBA program so that I, single-handedly, can save publishing. It's not as if I'm suddenly going to acquire the ability to be a publicity-hound or a marketing strategist. It's not as if I'm suddenly going to be able to compartmentalize my brain so that I can edit my own work with the dispassionate precision that the necessary third eye brings.
And there's no way I'm suddenly going to be able to design my own cover art (considering that the only items I can draw that are in any way recognizable are horsies and kitties).
I've been in this business awhile, and I've learned a few things in general, and a few things about myself in particular. One of those things is that not every author is going to have the same kind of career. There are authors happy with small presses, authors content with writing for hire, authors who like to micro-manage every facet of publication.
I don't fall into that last category, I've learned.
A few years ago, between writing careers, I dabbled with a self-published eBook, garnering thousands of downloads. (This was before the publish-to-Kindle option was available.) I spent a lot of time thinking up marketing opportunities, pitching ideas to one huge conglomerate, even getting them to sponsor a kind of tour for one of my previously-published books.
None of this mattered when I started submitting my next novel to publishing houses. I can show you the rejection letters, if you want.
Most significantly, though, was the discovery that I didn't like doing any of that other -- stuff. It wasn't the career I envisioned when I first dreamed of being an author. I found myself knowing a lot about spreadsheets and learning some cool marketing terms. I found myself thinking like a business person instead of an artist, for the vast majority of my day -- and I hated it.
So I went back to doing the one thing I really loved, which was immersing myself in words and thoughts and other worlds. I went back to being the author I really wanted to be.
And it worked out for me. I've found my greatest success since then; since concentrating only on the writing.
As I said, there are different careers for different writers. Some authors are happy selling books out of their trunks, or becoming the go-to expert whenever anyone writes an article about self-publishing. Good for them,
Funny, though. Whenever I go to literary conferences or meet with readers, nobody ever asks me about my marketing plan. No one ever wants to know how I plan to stick it to the man. Readers don't care about that part of sausage making.
What I am asked is how I come up with my ideas. How I research the history. Why I choose certain words or images. In other words -- readers do want to know how and why I write.
And it all comes back to that, for me. I'm a writer. That's it.
So my New Year's resolution is to stop reading those "death of publishing as we know it" articles, because they don't affect me. Not really. I'm going to keep writing, for as long as I can. And if the day comes when the only future for me as a writer is one in which I have to be my own editor, marketer, publicist and designer, then I will fade away into the sunset. Grateful for the time I had doing what I loved.
Until then, I'm going to enjoy my time in the sun. And only continue to make New Year's Resolutions that I think I can keep.