Thursday, January 08, 2009

Adapt or Die

As the layoffs continue, the sales decline, and the number of acquisitions grinds to a screeching halt, it's impossible not to think about the future. As a newbie novelist, I am constantly thinking, "Well, if it was hard to break into the industry before, it's going to be virtually impossible now." As newspapers go under and book sections are cut, my job as a freelancer is also put in jeopardy. So how can we survive in such a struggling industry? We adapt.

I think now, more than ever, online articles and reviews are key to staying in the game. Journalism is a lot like novel writing: go too long without publishing something and you are soon forgotten. Guest blogging and publishing reviews or interviews online is an easy way to keep your name in the game. Since their overhead is minimal, online publications aren't struggling the way newspapers are and they have far more space for freelance submissions.

From talking to people and reading industry publications, it seems that the movie business hasn't taken as much of a hit as print, however, these two industries often work hand in hand. How many novels were completely forgotten until their adaptation was released on the big screen? I do believe that authors (unless they're horrible at writing dialogue) can write decent screen plays, so why not take a stab at adapting one of your novels or short stories? Sure, it's great to get a book optioned, but unless the movie gets made, it won't translate into sales. I'd say in this climate, it's a lot easier to sell a screenplay than it is to sell a novel, so why not try your hand at something new?

One thing that I still would stay away from is self publishing or e-publishing. While technology like the Kindle and Sony Reader will eventually give way to a burst of e-books, the market still isn't there. I'd say your much better off holding on to that novel until the market improves than going down the self-publishing path.

In order to survive in a changing industry, one must adapt. Writing has always been a tough industry to break in to, but now, it's tougher than ever. Innovation and creativity are necessary to getting a foot in the door, even if it's a different door than you originally intended. Opening yourself up to different genres or different mediums will make it easier to break in and give you valuable experience so you, hopefully, will stay in.

1 comment:

Quinn said...

Lots of good points in here - it's definitely a scary time for a newbie (or even a veteran for that matter) in the publishing industry, but there are still a lot of opportunities to take advantage of.

I'm not sure I'd agree that it's easier to sell a screenplay than a novel right now, though; the film industry might be a bit more recession-resistant than publishing, but it still costs much more to make a movie than to publish a book, and far fewer movies than books are released in a given year. We've all seen how much studios love to adapt or remake established properties, since they theoretically have a built-in audience and carry less risk; an original screenplay has a lot of roadblocks between it and production/distribution (not to mention a LOT of competition - estimates that 50,000 scripts are written each year in the US alone).

Not, of course, that I would discourage anyone from writing a screenplay and trying to sell it. It's not any more quixotic than my own attempts to get published. But it's probably best to be sober about one's chances.