September 5-6, 2011:

Quick catchup on two days and some thoughts about  the writing game 2011.

Books:

Editor loves new revision of Thirteenth Fey (money). A poem taken for a small upstart journal (no money). Am working on first draft of keynote speech for a Mt Holyoke writing conference (a tiny bit of money).

House:

Tiling begun on garden room (lots of money out when all done).

Quarterly taxes:

Paid. (lots more money out.)

So you see where this is going. Outflow exceeds inflow most times. (Until the royalty payments start up again.) With the death of many bookstores and chains and others flooded in the recent hurricane, publishers are reeling. My new novel Snow in Summer is an interesting example. The editor loved it, wanted to have gold tipping the ends of the pages and a ribbon. Was told she could have one or the other. Chose gold over ribbon and I agreed. Two years later the book is coming out, and we have neither gold nor ribbon and the print run is cut. Publishers figure (probably rightly for midlist authors like me) that it’s cheaper to reprint than warehouse a book. And even though my Creepy Monsters/Sleepy Monsters picture book is in its fourth printing in its very first year, it’s still not up to what would have been its initial print run, say ten years ago.

So publishing companies are dashing about madly to put everything they can into print on demand and online and apps and electronic rights, without knowing quite how to make the things safe from piracy or how one can autograph such things or whether this is a flash in the pan or the next Guttenbergian five hundred years of storying. And they are offering writers and illustrators even less than before. (Unless, of course, you’re one of the handful of superstars. As well, high midlist authors and even some superstars are opting to put their own work out on the web by themselves (sans publishers) practically for free, going out of pocket to pay editors (if they think they need them, though often their choice is not when they actually do!), cover artists, publicity. And spending mammoth amounts of time doing their own publicity.

The point is that NONE of us knows what to do. We spin around and listen to gurus. We dip our toes into various raging waters and hope not to be drowned.

And all the while what we should really be doing is what we do best: Writing. Illustrating. Telling stories.

Or maybe it’s just me.

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