I worked in publishing for a long time. Over ten years as an acquisitions editor. That was one of the reasons I was skeptical about trying to write “professionally”–in other words, trying to earn my living with my writing. I know how ridiculously hard it is, I know how few people manage to do so. But hey, I decided to try anyway, and even decided to make it formal, create a publishing company, etc. I decided to treat the job professionally, practically.
Yesterday, with my publisher hat on, I tried to talk myself out of writing A Precarious Balance. Not just now, but ever.
If I was a good publisher, I’d look at the numbers–29 copies of A Lonely Magic sold in the month of August, worse than any of the Tassamara books have ever done, including when I had no audience at all–and I’d make the kind of phone call that makes my stomach twist with anxiety for hours ahead of time.
“So sorry,” I’d tell the author. “We loved the book, really we did. But the numbers just aren’t there. We’ll keep trying. We’ll push it, see if we can squeeze it into a promotion or two, but we need to put #2 on hold. Indefinitely.” I’d mourn with the author, especially for a book I loved so much, and I’d feel guilty and torn by indecision–where had I made the wrong choices, how had I screwed up, why hadn’t my passion gotten through to the sales reps? But I’d bite the bullet and do it anyway, because publishing is a business and investing in books that don’t make money is a fast way to layoffs & cost-cutting & midnight stress.
I suspect that this is why at some point in my publishing journey, I’m going to wind up working at McDonald’s. Not because the book isn’t selling. That’s sad, but all I have to do is think about how much fun it was to write and I can shrug my shoulders and let go of that. But because I’m not capable of choosing my writing projects based on whether or not they’re good business decisions. When the practical publisher and the impractical author collide, the impractical author is winning every time. My anxious side really hates that, but my author side goes on strike every time I try to do it differently.
Today, the impractical author side is going to take a weekend day, and say good-bye to summer by hanging out with my niece, with swimming and maybe grilling and probably a lot of Doctor Who. And on Monday–or maybe Tuesday–the publisher side can start worrying again.