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Monday, March 5, 2012

Welcome to 2012, the year of living dangerously. - by Leigh Stites

The following article was first used in the January, 2012, issue of MRW Impressions and may be reproduced by sister RWA chapters with acknowledgement to chapter and author. Bloggers may refer to the article but not republish it. The author, Leigh Stites, has graciously allowed me to post the article here in order to share it with other writers.

 Dear Authors,

 Welcome to 2012, the year of living dangerously.

 As I sat down to write my first column as President of MRW, it struck me that this year promises to be the most dangerous year of my life.  Before you think I’m planning something illegal, let me explain.  At no time in history, (well, maybe when Guttenberg was around, but no time since) has the publishing world faced such seismic change.  In the slightly less than four years since I’ve been pursuing writing as a career, I’ve seen the gut-wrenching fall of Borders, the spectacular rise of e-books, the surprising march of the ‘Indies’, and the not-so-surprising ascension of Amazon as King of Publishing.   I suspect the aftershocks will be stronger than the quake.  Amidst all this chaos, what’s an author to do?

 Now, I don’t want to limit my metaphors to natural disasters because that would imply this is a bad thing.  In truth, it may be the best thing that’s ever happened for those of us who’ve been wishing there was someone else in charge of ‘Book Nation’.   As authors, we’ve been liberated (like it or not) and can put our books out into the world without having to go through the maze of gatekeepers that determined our entry into the kingdom in days of yore.  However, getting a pass doesn’t mean you’ll be successful.  That takes more.

 By now, you may be pounding your fist on the desk, demanding: “So tell me, what does it take?”  I won’t patronize you by saying ‘write a good book’ because those of us laboring away at this fully intend to ‘write a good book’ or we would be wasting our time.  Besides, what makes for a ‘good book’ is highly subjective.  What we, as authors, should strive to do is write the best book we are able to write.   That hasn’t changed, and there are many opportunities for learning how to become better storytellers and writers.   My advice on this is simple: keep learning, keep writing, keep honing your skills and feeding your artist, but don’t cut your own throat by cutting corners.  If anything, authors need to be more committed than ever to making sure their best work is what gets into the hands of the reading public.  

Once you’ve written that book, you can pursue a traditional route (as I have for the past three years) or try alternatives.  What I’ve decided to do this year is to become savvy to what those alternatives are, more scientific in how I experiment with them, and a lot more sensible about managing my career.  It would be nice to think someone else would do this for me, but that’s kind of like a child thinking her parents will take care of everything for the rest of her life.  I’m talking to myself here, because I’ve not been doing these things to the extent I need to in order to be successful.  I’ve been writing and pitching and getting rejected, and writing and pitching and getting rejected some more, and writing and pitching and…well, you get the idea.   I’m ‘nuts’ if I keep doing things the same way and expect a different result.  So, this year I’m doing things differently. 

 MRW’s theme 2012 is Finding Success in a Changing Industry.  Along these lines, we’ll be developing programs, running workshops, writing newsletters and engaging in conversations (live and online) to help our membership understand what’s going on in our industry, find out how others are responding, explore the opportunities presented, share our own experiments (positive and otherwise), and, of course, learn more about honing our craft and improving the products we put out there.   I say ‘we’ because it will take every one of us participating to make this year’s activities and information meaningful and useful.  (Translated: you will be asked to/expected to do something this year if you are a member of this organization.)

We all write about heroes and heroines who risk everything to take charge of their destinies.  Can we do less?  I hope you will join me in living dangerously this year.   Let’s get prepared, have a little faith, and JUMP.

 Blessings for the New Year,

Leigh           

Leigh Stites, writing as Elisabeth Burke, is a Golden Heart finalist, 2010, for The Healer. Website: www.elisabethburke.com




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