How many of us thought `If I could just publish one novel, my career would be on its way’? Sadly, as many of us have learned, that is not the case.
I recently browsed through my 2000 membership directory for my local romance writers’ chapter and discovered of the 23 authors listed as published in 2000, more than half of them have not received a publishing contract in at least three years. Most of those authors have not had a new book out in many years.
Why? This is a perplexing problem. Because I’m not a close friend to several of them, I don’t know the answers.
For many, though, the line they wrote for folded and they have not been able to transition into another type of book. Think about it. They lost their editor, lost the line for which their writing "voice" was suited, and have to compete against established authors at other lines. In addition to all of this, they have lost their power to attract agents.
For others, writing was a hobby they sandwiched around professional careers and never intended their books to be the focus of their lives.
A few of the authors in my group were forced to push their writing aside because of personal crises.
I suspect many of the authors were dumped by their publisher for a variety of reasons ranging from weak sales to incompatibility with their editor. Another reason for an author losing her publishing home is the perennial "cutting back" that occurs at publishing houses.
Just like the recording industry’s "One Hit Wonders," we have those in publishing, too. And just as mystifying as in the music biz, we don’t know why that author – often award-winning – can’t repeat her former success.
But I can’t explain why some authors’ once-strong careers fizzle. The closing of the door on Harlequin’s Temptation line has seemingly stifled the career of one of the most solid, professional writers I know. This author (formerly of my local chapter) published about 40 books for Harlequin and was a three-time RITA finalist. Why in the heck is she no longer publishing?
Granted, there are hugely popular authors like Loretta Chase and Laura Kinsale who take a hiatus from their highly successful careers.
But what – to me as a writer – is really scary is taking a look at the list of past RITA winners at the Romance Writers of America website (www.rwanational.org) and see how many of those names are no longer in publishing.
Hopefully of few of those supremely talented ladies were forced by publishers (because of low sales numbers) to take a pseudonym. That actually happened to the now-New York Times best-selling author Sabrina Jeffreys, who will no longer use her real name in any of her publishing information – even on writers’ loops.
We have two PASIC members (Bonnie Edwards and Gerry Bartlett) who went five years between publishing contracts and just this year reinvented themselves in hot new genres where their publishing careers look very bright.
But for every Bonnie and Gerry, there are many more who will never be able to publish a romance again. This is very disheartening.