The problems of success

As pointed out last week, Mad Genius Club has been around for over 10 years, now. This means it’s older than the average career of a fiction writer… and more than twice the lifespan of the average indie writer. The advantage of a group blog is that as writers get burned out, they can take a break or leave, but the group is still here – and thanks to Dave Freer, Sarah Hoyt, and Amanda Green holding down the cornerstones and surviving through it all, this place is still awesome.  (Check out their books! Good stuff, and thanks to long careers, they have lots to choose from!)

As the bloggers and commenters have been here a while, the questions start to change. Starting out, the problems are simple, clear, and everybody has them. How do I tell the story in my head? How do I get published? How do I get noticed? But when you’ve been around long enough, you have the problems of success, and the problems of having a career. When and how do I end a series, and how do I minimize the impact to my income, and draw readers to other books? When do I rebrand all of my covers, and rewrite my blurbs? What are the advantages and disadvantages of anthologies, or of going hybrid? How do I get my rights back? When is it time to incorporate? What provisions do I make for a literary trust in my will?

Hopefully, we’ve answered a lot of these to your satisfaction, as well as helping the authors who are just working on their first, second, or third books – or pointed you to someone who can!

Speaking of people with the long-term perspective on a writing career, Kris Rusch this week tackled the question of writers who want to write a book of the heart instead of the series or genre they’re locked into. What is a book of the heart? It’s the thing you really, really want to write, instead of what you’re contracted to write or your fans expect you to write, or your series momentum depends on you getting the next one out in this month / this quarter.

For example, Peter wants to write another western – but the main cash flow comes from the space opera & mil SF. How do we work that in, creatively and cash flow wise?

Read it here:

Also, she links into that piece on another timely topic: burnout. As the days get shorter, the dark crashes in an hour earlier and gaining, and everything seems frantic and getting in the way of writing with the holidays approaching, it’s good to take some perspective and take stock.


16 thoughts on “The problems of success

  1. Thinking out loud here; I started writing fiction in 2012, does that mean I’m six years into my career, or does the fact it took me until 2018 to get my finger out and self-publish mean I’m one year into my career? Just saying, for a friend. 😉

    1. In the “length of indie/trad career”, it’s usually counted from first publication – while you did a lot of writing and prep prior, think of that as training, prior to your first paycheck.

        1. I prefer to measure career from when we could finally afford for me to drop the bodice-rippers and write fantasy. I think of the preceding years as “paid apprenticeship.”

            1. LOL. Bodice-rippers ARE fantasy. I’d tried to write them and just couldn’t until I realized they are fantasy. I still can’t quite get over that into a “it’s okay if none of this could ever possibly happen this way and people don’t actually function like this” so it hasn’t exactly solved the problem. More like, it identified the problem.

        2. I’m hoping we can all motivate and assist each other into not burning out, and having nice long careers, spanning decades!

        3. Hmm…. thinking of ways to extend that.

          What if, conceptually, “first publication” begins five years of apprenticeship? And then after those five years, another five years of journeyman, and then after that another five years of being a Master Author?

  2. > Peter wants to write another western – but the main cash flow comes from the space opera & mil SF

    What kind of marketing is he doing? Is he trying to connect with “readers” or “people who read Westerns”, which aren’t often the same thing?

    In my experience Western fans are even more insular than SF fans. And since Westerns are an officially dead genre, they don’t bother looking for them in new or used book stores, because there aren’t any there. (it’s a rare used book store that has any, and other than the same old ancient reprints and the collaborative series, same for new book stores)

    The Western readers I’ve met are borderline rabid about their chosen genre. They’d buy any freaking Western if they could get their hands on it. But they’re probably not the types who are going to spend a lot of time online poking about Amazon; most of them don’t have time for that even if they had the inclination.

    1. Hastings (RIP) used to have very large Westerns sections, but that was about the only new-book bookstore to have them. I don’t recall seeing them at B&N unless they are romances with western stuff in them, or literary “Westerns.”

  3. Maybe you need to start up a Western Writers Group with lists of titles they’ve published. Maybe “The Sons of Louis L’Amour”. Maybe “Writers of the Purple Sage” (my preference).

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