When nothing is sure, everything is possible ~ Margaret Drabble
I love the positive spin this perspective places on uncertainty, which is a state of being most of us otherwise dread.
This reminder seems especially apt at the end of a rough week in the publishing industry (and for several of my friends). Another small press (Samhain Publishing) is going to be closing its doors soon. Like many publishers, it and its authors are seeing diminishing sales as the tide of new, cheap books swells, making it hard for any book to find an audience.
Technology has been a double-edged sword in publishing (much like in the music industry). On the one hand, it has expanded avenues for many writers, especially those lucky enough to get in at the beginning of the digital book market. Subscription services can be a boon to voracious readers (much like Netflix is for those who like television and movies). But these changes have also destabilized the market, pushing all publishers to scurry around to catch up to the changes (and try, if in vain, to predict them). In many cases, it has shifted the burden of the marketing and promotion of books (traditionally, the publisher’s job) to the author. And with so many books going live every day at rock bottom prices, it may even be devaluing books, which makes the economics of publishing unsustainable for many authors.
Yes, with all of this bad news, it is easy to be pessimistic. To abhor change and the uncertainty it creates.
But I also know that publishing is neither the first, last, nor most important industry to be affected by technology. Every sector of our economy gets hits, periodically, with uncertainty and must adapt and swim with the tide. Adopting a mindset that welcomes uncertainty instead of fearing or lamenting it seems to be a good place for anyone to start.
While I’ve been very blessed so far in my publishing journey, I know that nothing lasts forever. That more changes are sure to come. And that I cannot expect my good fortune to go on indefinitely. That undoubtedly I will hit roadblocks, and some may throw me far off-course.
However, I also cannot allow myself to dwell in a negative space. To fear that inevitable disappointment that is lurking around some corner. To worry about things beyond my control, or yearn for something that is no longer fact.
I can control the quality of my work. I can support other authors by promoting them to my friends and fans. I can have a voice within Romance Writers of America if I choose to vote or to serve. I can speak openly with my agent and publisher about my concerns, my goals, and my support needs in order to garner a “team” mentality in this otherwise very solo journey. Those are the things I can do to exercise a bit of control on these uncharted waters of the ever-changing publishing industry.
And when fear sets in, I need to remember Ms. Drabble’s quote. Change, while scary, can present opportunities. Sometimes the status quo is broken, and innovation opens the floodgates for new and improved ways of doing things. Thus, the best thing I can do is stay positive, informed, and keep working so that I am prepared when those opportunities present themselves.
That’s my plan. Wish me luck! And if you have any advice about how to approach uncertainty, please share!