3 Ways Writers Survive Slow Times

Yesterday’s news was sad: PW has learned that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has asked its editors to stop buying books.

NOTE: News has filtered down that the buying freeze applies to adult imprints, not the children’s imprints.

How Can Writers Survive in Slow Times

In light of our sluggish economy, how can writers still pay bills — make money? Of course, I’d like to become Famous Editor’s new best friend, sell five mss by January 1, receive calls asking me to write a great book on a fascinating topic (for a great advance), and so on. Not likely.

Instead, I will read Art and Fear yet again, and try these three ideas.

  • Write Better. Emily van Beek, Kathi Appelt’s agent, said Appelt revised The Underneath eight times.

    Help is readily available. For example, my workbook on revision, Novel Metamorphosis, helps you diagnose problems, plan a revision in 8 strategic areas, and gives you tools to accomplish those revisions.

    Or take online classes, sign up for that MFA program you’ve been wanting to try, or give yourself an assignment to seek out information and learn learn new writing skills.

  • Diversify. Look around for other writing opportunities such as writing newsletters and magazines: consider children’s magazines, parenting magazines, adult magazines. Publicize your public speaking to schools or organizations. Teach online, at a local community center, local university, or in your neighborhood.

    To find school visits, find resources such as Authors and Illustrators Who Visit Schools, and evaluate which meets your needs best.

    If you write fiction, try nonfiction. If you write nonfiction, look for new markets. Try writing a movie script.

  • Maximize Your Writing Time. If you have to spend more time making money, consider maximizing your time for your own fiction/nonfiction by using things like Nanowrimo to keep you motivated to produce a lot in a short amount of time. Also check out their NanoFinMo (Finish Month) and other variations.
    (Of course, be sure to morph your fast writing into great writing with Novel Metamorphosis!)

Times are sluggish, but not desperate. I’m optimistic that books will be popular as Christmas gifts. I’m optimistic that the economy will turn around soon.