Another Writer's Lament... [Archive] - Glock Talk


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05-18-2008, 00:40
After a rather strong meltdown on the well-known DorothyL site, and in response to many writers and readers asking him why, Rob Walker responded to his announcement that heís giving up writing -- something I donít totally believe -- with the following:

Date: Thu, 15 May 2008 06:52:21 -0700
From: Rob Walker <inkwalk@SBCGLOBAL.NET>
Subject: Re: Raw Awful Truth of Rob's Writing Career w/Smiley Face

LJ Sellers asked "What's Bothering Robert Grape" so to speak.
Others offline have asked the same, so here's my reply with
apologies to those who are offfended beforehand as few none
writers have a clue as to how most "careers" in novel wrting

First, make no mistake, I love the act of writing as much as a
perfromer loves to be on stage or an ice skater loves to be on
the ice, an athlete on the field. To support my habit, to
supplement my need to write (writing is breathing for people with
this particular 'malady'), I have taught writing in all its
permutations from working with students who could not put
together a sentence or paragraph to working with novelists and
story writers both gifted and misguided. I have also always run
an editing service on the side and have helped many authors to a
clearer picture of what they wished to create. That said, I will
try to put into perspective the careers of most authors using my
experience as an example, and then you dcide if I have reason to
feel as depressed as I do about where I stand today and the peg
I fall into on the roulette wheel we call the writing business.
Luck and preparation some believe is the essence of the wheel -
ah business. Be prepared for when and if luck should fall. My
brother, Rick, is a lifelong addict--his addiction is gambling.
Writing fiction for profit is no less a gamble, and we often
lose, and the house is stacked against us.

After writing something in the neighborhood of six series, and
many stand allones, totally over forty novels, I am writing what
I consider my best work these days--having learned on the job sot
to speak from all those previous books. Like a home buider, you
learn--or ought to learn--from each project. My City Series is
the best house I've ever built, but my Instinct Series and other
ME-based or cop-procedural-based modern day stories sold far more
than my City for Ransom and its sequels. It's just befuddling
for an author to do his or her best work and find it far less
well recieved that the more off-the-cuff, schlock work. I COULD
be just happy that I accomplished what is--in my mind--my best,
and This wouldn't be so bothersome except that publishers
routinely--not routinely--but always make a judgment on whether
to buy one's next book or series on your numbers--sales.

It is a business of what have you done for me lately. This is
particularly true of NYC majors. So judging on my
history-mystery series, I have no future in this arena, despite
the fact I WANT to write more historical suspense. But no one is
looking at the numbers racked up by previous books in previous
years, only the last one or two. Agents do likewise these days.
First thing a doctor asks you when you arrive at hospital is DO
YOU SMOKE. First thing a prospective agent or editor *NYC editor
asks for nowadays is your numbers--sales numbers. Of course, Van
Gogh had this problem all his life too, leaning on his relatives
for rent and emotional succor--as has Tonya Harding (LOL). Darn,
why didn't I tape Tonya's story? Damn me for a fool.

So one turns to smaller presses and makes deals unagented--at
least I have as has many others, I know. This has its own
problems. No advances or token advances rhat pay for gas for a
week. Now imagine this: You sell a book for low money, money
you could make in a week editing someone else's book. You learn
pub date for your new book is a year and a half to two years
away. Then you learn that "your publisher" will only purchase a
second book several months after publication of the first (if at
all). This then has you seeking out some method of putting
yourself into a cryogenic's chamber for a year and a half so that
you don't have to eat, purchase petroleum products, refill the
soap dish or the fridge, etc. This is the life of any artist, I
know. Who am I to complain. I got a lot of nerve. Does it get
a guy down from time to time? Did I really hold a wake at a
bookstore for Dr. Jessica Coran, when her series was killed?
Yes, I did. Should I hold a wake for Inspector Alastair Ransom?
I suspect so.
Thing of it is, I love the character and hate to see him go but
economics is economics.
> Rob Walker wrote:
> With my writing career once again appearing to be in the
> toilet. . .
> I chose for your tombstone: Does It Make Sense?
> Because that's what I'd like to know: How can you say that
> about yourself? I'd like to know the story of what's got you
> so down.
> Lj

DOROTHYL Official Homepage


Now, personally I think the guy is just going through a bad period. But I know a lot of writers (and bookstore owners) who deplore the current industry turmoil. Returns, deep discounts, monopolistic practices, theyíre killing the industry. Whatís the answer? I donít know. Publishing and book-selling are changing big time, and thereís going to be a long period of instability. Many writers may just give up. Hell, I may be one of them -- who knows? I think weíll see much more online publishing, small presses, POD, more niche-stuff, fewer large dedicated bookstores, more online sales.

Itís a tough time to be a writer. Still, itís rare to see someone so well respected go off a cliff.

05-18-2008, 11:32
The publishing industry is hitting some hard times. With the growth of the internet, eBooks are becoming increasingly popular and may be an effective method by which to reach the younger, technically-proficient demographic. This also can lead to higher profits as it costs little to sell them as they are digital files.

As hard as things are getting, I don't think I'd ever be able to permanetly abandon writing. I've had a natural drive to release my thoughts in literary from since I was young. No matter how difficult things become, I'll always be writing.

05-18-2008, 12:30
My book will come out first as an E-book and if I can get sufficient interest, then as a hardcopy. (The Secrets of Portrait Photography)

E-Book (PDF is 90% of the market) is the wave if the future and is the fastest growing sector of the of the overall book market. Self Help and How to Books are the fastest growing profit centers, FWIW.

Just last year an E-book make the NYT best sellers list.

I wish I could remember the title/type of the book.

05-18-2008, 14:00
When I finish my novel, I am considering not only offering paperback and (possibly) hardcover editions but also a downloadable PDF version. Many of the modern PDA-style phones are capable of storing and reading such files, in addition to computer and devices made for such a purpose.

05-18-2008, 17:52
Mine are available in hardcover, trade paper (becoming my favorite form) and Kindle, except that my first one is only available in the last two categories. Frankly, I would have forgone hardcover all together, but didn't have that option.

And like you, I cannot stop writing, first as a professional in his walk of life, now as a writer. It's in my soul. So I'll adapt. The problem comes for those who can't adapt, who don't like change or won't accept it. The whole Who Moved My Cheese scenario.

05-18-2008, 18:02
... I also think Rob may have been hitting the sauce. Too many typos for a writer/editor.

Regardless, you might want to consider joining DorothyL, whether your write mysteries/thrillers or not. Lots of important writers on there, lots of good topics. Just Google it and determine if you want to join. The moderators keep pretty tight control, but some of the folks can be a bit prickly, like on most fora.

05-19-2008, 17:36
I believe that my works could possibly be considered for inclusion in the mystery genre, although they are primarily action/adventure. There is a fairly prominant vein of mystery and secrecy involved, so I may join. I've been browsing the web for some other fiction-oriented forums. I love it around here, but I also want somewhere dedicated entirely to fictional writing.

05-19-2008, 20:34
Give it a try. Lurk for a while until you feel comfortable, then chime in. They've got a good moderator, and keep a pretty tight rein, and you'll pick up lots of good tips.