The winners of the VW#4 giveaways are:
StarDoc Novels: Amelie Markik
Goodie Bag: sandy l
Winners, when you have a chance, please send your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com, and I'll get your prizes out to you. Thanks to everyone for joining in.
I. Crunching the Numbers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 there were 44,170 writers and authors surveyed who earned hourly wages* ranging from $13.47 to $51.26**. The industries with the highest employment and wages for our occupation were Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers (employing 8,790 writers); Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services (7,260); Radio and Television Broadcasting (3,100); Motion Picture and Video Industries (2,340) and Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers (2,140).***
Of these surveyed writers, the highest-paid were the 2,140 Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers, who earned an hourly mean wage of $48.37, or an annual mean income of $100,600. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? What a great job!
Well, maybe we should first consider in addition to those nicely employed writers how many other writers are actually employed or seeking employment (because they didn't survey all of us.) How many of us are there out here?
Many writers are members of writer organizations who are always happy to count heads. Let's assume everyone who belongs to Romance Writers of America, for example, is actually serious about pursuing a professional writing career. The membership currently stands at about 10,000. Then you can add in all the writers who belong to the other writing organizations: AG (8,000+) SFWA (about 1,500), ASJA (1,100) HWA (400+), NINC (300+), and of course we shouldn't forget the screenwriters, as they're always picking up media tie-in novel work, so add in the members of WGA (12,000) and the DGA (6,000).
That's roughly about 40,000 writers. If I'm looking at the math right, then according to the wage survey we should all have nice writing jobs making at least thirteen bucks and change per hour, with some left over. Okay, workshop over, everyone go home and collect your checks and have a nice writing life.
I'm kidding. The numbers sound wonderful, but they don't really add up if you go by other figures. According to statistics offered in an interesting look at the future of publishing by author Steven Mather (you can get a .pdf version of it here), publishers each receive on average 2,100 manuscripts submissions per year, for an industry-wide total of 132 million submissions. Sounds a bit much, until you consider that there are over 75,000 publishers in the U.S. (that's how many report statistics to Bowker, anyway) and that 2,100 per year breaks down to 40 submissions per week per publisher, which sounds a bit excessive to me, but for the sake of argument we'll run with that.
So every year the forty thousand of us serious writers have been sending . . . 3300 submissions each? Holy Toledo. I better hurry up and get the other 3299 of mine typed and in the mail.
II. Help, Three Thousand People Want My Job!
The problem with statistics and random numbers is that they are the products of surveys, and surveys are limited in their accuracy to the number of people surveyed and what portion of the industry they represent. Whether or not there are 75,000 publishers in the U.S., I can safely say most of them would not consider publishing anything I'd write as Lynn Viehl. With the type of writing I do in that genre -- dark fantasy/paranormal romance -- I'd say my prospects are limited to about 100 publishers. Of those 100, about 75 aren't my top choices and likely wouldn't make it onto my submission list.
This is why I don't have to be concerned with the 132 million writers and their submissions; with the 25 publishers I am interested in I have to compete against about 52,500 other writers. About fifty thousand of them are probably not published, and less than one percent of them will make it to the show, so let's drop the fifty thousand who for whatever reason aren't going to make it into print. That leaves 2,500 other published writers competing for the same sale. We'll add back in the one percent of the writers who have never been published but who will be eventually, and kick that total up to 3,000. Yep, that sounds about right.
So every time I submit a novel, in theory I have to beat out three thousand other writers for that sale. That's how dazzling I have to be -- as good or better than three thousand other dedicated, serious, talented writers who are actively going after the same job. I think it's safe to assume that many of them are younger, prettier, better writers, more willing to do things I won't do, or have other advantages over me that could allow them to sell more books and make more money for that publisher.
My Lynn Viehl books could also fall from popularity at the same time something else one of those 3000 writers submits becomes very hot. It's the way this gig works, and those 3000 writers will continue to compete against me for my job every day of every week of every year without fail. They'll get younger every year while I just get older. Publishing isn't concerned with my job security at all. They want to sign someone who will make money for them. So it's not a question of if one of those 3000 writers will take my job from me, it's a matter of when.
Frankly I'd be worried if all I had to depend on were my Lynn Viehl books. Fortunately that's not all I write.
III. Learning Lessons from Nature
"At some point, humans are going to have to realize that our production-line mentality, which seems so efficient to us, is not really the best way to do things. We like farming just one species in neat rows because it’s easier for us to comprehend. But easier to comprehend is not the same as more effective.." -- Tom Konrad, Diversification: Nature Knows Best
Nature is a master of diversification. Since the beginning of life on this planet, she has survived and flourished through evolutionary diversification. It's the reason why there are twenty-five thousand species of flat worms, one hundred and twelve thousand species of mollusks, and maybe as many as eight million species of arthropods. Nature insures the longevity of her creations by having them adapt to the climate and environment by specialized evolution, which results in all the different species. That adaptive diversification minimizes Nature's risk and maximizes her growth potential by spreading out the total number of her creations in a variety of different forms custom-designed to survive by their genetic evolution, which responds to their specific environment.
We know from the demise of countless species that anything that can't or won't adapt and evolve is doomed to extinction. Earth doesn't have a one-size-fits-all environment, which is why we have 25,000 different species of flatworms -- there were 25,000 different reasons that triggered each species' particular adaptation. And here the numbers do make sense: what has a better chance of surviving, 25,000 species of flat worm, or one? Or, if one species of flatworm were to become extinct, which is better: having 24,999 other types of flat worms left, or none?
Despite opinions to the contrary, a writer is slightly more sophisticated and evolved than a flat worm, and while we all belong to the same species, we each have the potential to make our own adaptations to the changes in Publishing's climate and environment. If we remain the same species of writer, and only adapt to one situation, then we run a greater risk of career extinction. But if we do dump the assembly-line mentality and instead adapt to multiple Publishing climates and environments by career diversification, I think we do stand a better chance of survival.
IV. Your Writing Diversification Plan
Yes, I'm going to make you think about planning again. You should know by now that I delight in torturing you this way. Before anyone whines about how tiresome it is or the reasons why they can't make a plan, let me assure you that you can have a Publishing career without a plan. Lots of writers are happier taking the Trust in Dumb Luck approach, and some of them even manage to stay in the business for a few years. And hey, anything's possible; you might become the first John Grisham of the Clueless.
For those of you who would rather not trust your future on how well the planets align on any given day, you need to think about how you might evolve as a writer. I advocate diversification because it's helped me to survive a lot of changes and tough times. If you're interested in doing the same, follow these steps:
1. Inventory and list what you currently write by market category and type of writing, i.e. romance novels, nonfiction how-to articles, SF short stories, etc. If you only write one thing, that's fine, you'll have a very short list.
2. Make a second list, also by category and type, of types of writing you have done in the past and/or haven't yet done but are interested in. For example, my list would be have on it greeting card poems (I used to sell those), sermons (ditto), mystery short stories (wrote one), contemporary horror and Christian YA fiction (am interested in these.) Also, take some time to look around at the market ops for these projects, too -- you don't want to spend valuable writing time working on a project you can't sell.
3. You should already have a work and submission plan for list #1, but if you don't, write up a general plan for what you'd like to write and submit this year. Put together a rough estimate of how much writing time you need to devote to your current projects.
4. Now take list #2, and pick at least one item from it that you can comfortably fit in with your current writing schedule, and that has the best chance to sell (this will be based on the number of market ops out there.) Also create a rough estimate of the writing time involved in this project.
5. Using both lists, create a master work plan that allows you to a) complete everything on your current projects list and b) gives you some time to work on your interests list project.
For those of you who have never tried to diversify before now, I suggest first starting with a small project from your interests list. It can be anything from a how-to writing article you submit to some trade magazines to a short story to pitch for an open submissions anthology.
Working up a diversification plan is going to be easier for as-yet-unpublished writers, or newly-published authors. The more category-established an author you are, the more difficult it will be to sell to another/new market under that name. However, you one-category old-timers can always try to pitch a new market under a new pseudonym, or work around your category in related projects (for example, an established author with a long backlist of only science fiction novels would still be an attractive prospect for science nonfiction magazines, how-to publishers, and web sites that cater to the SF writing community.)
Contests of all types also provide opportunities for writer in all career stages to try out new interest projects, because usually you don't have to be established in that category to enter them, and what you've already published won't matter.
V. Other Reasons to Evolve as a Writer
Avoiding Labeling: A couple of years ago when we were discussing multi-genre writing and selling, someone mentioned an agent in the industry who recommended writing and publishing three books in one genre to establish yourself before you try publishing in another. With all due respect to the agent, I don't agree with this. By the time you've established yourself with three books, you're labeled with that one genre as a writer, and judged by your publisher according to your sales performance in that one genre. This narrows your chances of publishing in another area, as publishers prefer to stick with proven sellers versus taken on new risks.
Writer Self-Discovery: you think what you're writing right now is the best choice for your career, and chances are you're probably right. But what if you're not? What if you were meant to do something else you haven't tried yet? I can think of one writer who had a nice career writing cozy mysteries, and yet for some reason one day she decided to write a vampire novel. The new project was black-humored and really nothing like her other work. From what I understand she encountered a lot of resistance to it and had a tough time selling it. But she stuck with it, and it paid off handsomely. Last time I checked the Times List, three of those vampire novels were in the top twenty. HBO has just started running the second season of their television series based on those novels. So if Charlaine Harris had played it safe and stuck to writing cozies, there's be no Sookie Stackhouse novels or True Blood.
Stretching Your Writing Range: It's easy to become complacent and satisfied with one type of writing (or so I'm told), and there are some arguments that say the only way you can rise to the top of your category is to stick with it. Certainly it's the safest way to do this job, and there are enough successful cookie-cutter novelists out there to support the theory. But as a writer I'm restless. I'm also always looking for ways I can increase and improve my understanding of the craft and grow as an artist. If I did the same thing over and over, not only would I be bored out of my skull, I think I'd stagnate. For me the well would run dry. Diversification allows for writer self-improvement by forcing us to reach for more than what we already know and can do, and in the process learn new things and become better writers.
Writers aren't flat worms, but just the same our survival depends on how well we adapt. There are a ton of factors we can't control: luck, timing, buzzworthiness, etc. What we can control is what we do with the work. We can try one thing, over and over, and hope for the best, or we can diversify and try many things, and learn to adapt to the changes in the industry. However you decide you want to evolve, just be sure not to write yourself into extinction.
V. Related Links
Craigslist New York is a good resource to check if you're looking for freelance writing, editing or copy-editing/writing jobs. Just be sure to check out any listing and employer thoroughly and understand the terms of employment before you commit to work or sign a contract with anyone.
Duotrope's Digest has an online fiction and poetry market search engine; input your word length, genre and other details and it will give you a list of potential sub ops.
During a hunt for freeware back in June, I found this freeware toolbar for writers looking for jobs. I haven't tried it myself but I thought it looked neat.
Look for all manner of writing jobs at FreelanceWriting.com
Gary McLaren's article How To Find Foreign Writing Markets has some good advice for those of you who want to sell to other countries.
I regularly hit the many market listings over at Ralan's Webstravaganza for SF/Fanasty/Horror/Weird/Strange/Whatever sub ops to list here at PBW.
My ten things list on additional places to find writing jobs.
Some ideas on how to beat the recession: Diversify to Keep Freelance Dollars Coming In ~ Economy-Proof Tips for Writers by Mary Yerkes
Photo credit: David Hughes
*"Annual wages have been calculated by multiplying the hourly mean wage by a "year-round, full-time" hours figure of 2,080 hours; for those occupations where there is not an hourly mean wage published, the annual wage has been directly calculated from the reported survey data."
**All wage amounts shown are in U.S. dollars
***"Estimates for detailed occupations do not sum to the totals because the totals include occupations not shown separately. Estimates do not include self-employed workers."
Today's LB&LI giveaways are:
1) A MusicWish (any CD of the winner's choice which is available to order online, up to a max cost of $30.00 U.S.; I'll throw in the shipping)
2) a goodie bag which will include unsigned new copies of:
Burn by Linda Howard (hardcover)
Way of the Cheetah by Lynn Viehl (author-printed, signed and bound in a three-ring binder)
Halo ~ The Cole Protocol by Tobias Buckell (trade pb)
88 Money-Making Writing Jobs by Robert Bly (trade pb)
The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square by Rosina Lippi (trade pb)
Between the Lines ~ the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing by Jessica Page Morrell (trade pb)
Animal Attraction by Charlene Teglia (trade pb)
Taken by Sin by Jaci Burton (paperback)
Touch of Darkness, Scent of Darkness and Into the Shadow by Christina Dodd (paperbacks)
Round the Clock by Dara Girard (paperback)
Amazon Ink by Lori Devoti (paperback)
Hawkspar by Holly Lisle (paperbacks)
The Iron Hunt and Darkness Calls by Marjorie M. Liu (paperbacks)
plus signed paperback copies of my novels StarDoc and Evermore, as well as some other surprises.
If you'd like to win one of these two giveaways, name a genre you'd like to write in, or comment on this workshop before midnight EST on Sunday, July 19, 2009. I will draw two names from everyone who participates and send one winner the goodie bag and grant the other a MusicWish.
Everyone who participates in the giveaways this week will also be automatically entered in my grand prize drawing on July 21st, 2009 for the winner's choice of either a ASUS Eee PC 1005HA-P 10.1" Seashell Netbook or a Sony PRS-700BC Digital Reader.
As always, all LB&LI giveaways are open to anyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.
Other LB&LI Workshop Links -- new links are being added every day, so keep checking the list for new workshops (due to different time zones, some of these will go live later in the day):
E-publishing: From Query to Final Edits and Beyond -- Authors Madison Blake, Paris Brandon, Cerise Deland, Fran Lee, Afton Locke and Nina Pierce provide helpful insights and tips on e-publishing. Today's author: Fran Lee
Writing Transformative Sex - Part Two by Joely Sue Burkhart -- So you know you want to avoid Plot Interrupted and Tab A/Slot B mechanics, but how do you get “down and dirty” into the emotions of a really deep sex scene?
Bird Migration by Suelder -- third in a series of workshops on birds that will focus on the science as well as how to adapt this information to writing.
Why You're Not Writing by JM Fiction Scribe -- Examining the reasons behind your writing block - because the identifying the 'why' of the problem is the best way of getting past it.
How-To Books that Saved My Life by Alison Kent -- a look at the three how-to books the author can't write without, and why.
Break through your fears and write! by Tamlyn Leigh -- One of the biggest obstacles on a writer's path is their fear. It can be for anything: fear people won't like their stories, fear they aren't good enough. In my workshop I want to offer tools to break through that fear, and get everyone writing!
Writing Prompt Series by Rosina Lippi -- catch up day.
Have No Fear by Marjorie M. Liu -- third in a series of workshops about different aspects of writing and publishing.
From Pantser To Plotter: How I Joined The Dark Side by Kait Nolan -- five workshops on the transformation of a pantser to a plotter.
Writing Sex Scenes That Matter by Jenna Reynolds -- Readers sometimes say they skip over the sex scenes in a book. And usually it's not because they have a problem with the sex. It could, however, be because, other than the sex, nothing else is going on. This workshop provides some suggestions on how to write sex scenes that matter and that readers won't skip over.
Defining the Basics by Midnight Spencer –– Query, Cover letter, Blurb, Synopsis, ms or mss, SASE, SAE, Copyright, Electronic Rights, Electronic Submissions, Erotica (some people do not know that romance and erotica are two different types of writing), Genre, Hook, Pen Name, Proof Reading, Fair Use, Joint Contract,
Left Behind in Interesting Times by Charlene Teglia -- e-publishing in interesting times.
Epubs-wondering where to start? by Shiloh Walker -- Info for those curious about epubs and where to start.
Killer Campaigns: Volunteerism by Maria Zannini -- Passive promotion at its best