Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dying To Ditch the Day Job

My trusty google alert dinged me with this wonderful review from Romance Reader at Heart, which said that, "Every woman should read this book."

I also got a lovely review from the Jewish Reporter, which said that after reading TDLF, "readers may find that they, too, can disregard their own talismans now that they have a guide for finding their way."

Oh, and I don't know that I ever mentioned this, but the Philadelphia Inquirer picked TDLF as one of their five summer reads! Coolio!

If you haven't picked it up, what are you waiting for?? Buy it now!

Question of the day: I am currently involved in a search for a literary agent. I finished my novel six months ago and began querying immediately. My query receives a good response rate, as many agents have requested partials and fulls of my manuscript. However, I find myself increasingly hopeless about actually obtaining an offer from an agent, as many have sent me rejection letters (albeit usually with some positive slant - though I can't help but think they're placating me as they do everybody else with some positive words in closing). Anyway, I was wondering if you have any advice for someone trying to embark on a career as a writer. I'm anxious to leave my current job, but nervous to enter the world of freelance writing and/or odd jobs and an uncertain stream of income. But part of me thinks my mental health will suffer if I don't make this move soon. All I want to do is write! I wanted to wait until I secured an agent before making this big move, but the process is taking much longer than I expected.

First of all, hang in there. As I've said many times on this blog, there is very little instant gratification in this business (not that you're looking for it), but establishing a writing career is a very, VERY long process, and if you don't have the stomach for what could be a decade-long process, this probably isn't the career for you.

Second of all, it sounds like your agent search is going well, or at the very least, you have a strong query letter, since you're getting good responses. Have you taken a fresh look at your material lately? Or had an objective source take a fresh look at it? Perhaps there are tweaks that can be made that you're not aware of that will strengthen your work and take it from good, but not agent-worthy, to outstanding.

Third of all, I'd be very wary about quitting your job (if you're your sole provider or don't have a hefty savings account) just because you've landed an agent. I know that this isn't what you want to hear (and I'm sorry!!), but getting an agent is by no means a lottery ticket: just ask a lot of us whose first works didn't sell. Then, once you've spoken to that group, go talk to another group of published authors whose work DID sell, but barely covered their annual grocery bills. I've said it before here, but the average fiction advance is somewhere in the 10k or less ballpark. Yup. 10k. Not exactly the ticket to luxurious living, even if you live in the cheapest town in America.

Fourth of all, if your job is killing you, maybe you can find something writing-related outside of work that will help fulfill you. A critique group. A fiction class. Anything that will make you a stronger writer while also beating back the workday doldrums.

Fifth of all, if you're hellbent on leaving your job to write full-time, I'd line up clients long before you say "sayonara" to your boss. I don't know what your area of expertise is, but say, for example, that you're capable of doing corporate work...well, I'd contact some small businesses in your area and try to secure them for future work. This will a) ensure some flow of income after you leave and b) reduce your (sure to be high) stress level once you do leave and are frantic to take on more clients.

So...that's my advice. Readers, what say you to this writer who is dying to leave the daily grind?


Sara Hantz said...

i think you'er spot on with everything you say. i ahve nothing to add.

Sara Hantz said...

Ooops, I pressed send before proofing hahahaha

Amie Stuart said...

This may sound like a *duh* but maybe she should look at who she's querying? Or is she doing it scattershot and hoping to get a hit? Just a thought....

Trish Ryan said...

Congrats on the great reviews!

I agree with your advice about not quitting your day job right away if there is no backup source of income. It's impossible to predict when a project will sell, and there are so many variables in building a writing career. Plus, I find that I get more writing done when I have a busy requires me to focus, rather then spending hours surfing the internet and pretending it's research :)

Eileen said...

Any option to go part time? I sold my book and gave serious thought to quitting the day job- however the pub date was moved back due to scheduling and suddenly I was very glad I hadn't been counting on writing income alone. Part time works for me at the moment- at least until literary diva status kicks in.

btw- I saw someone reading your book on the metro here and I was all excited "I KNOW HER" I squealed and then it occured to me that technically I don't. At any rate- she was loving the book.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Ooh, Eileen- that's so cool! I'm sort of over seeing it on the shelves in stores, but I'm still THRILLED to hear that people are reading it! Thank you!

Kristine said...

I second the thoughts on doing other writing work. I left my full-time job recently to finish the manuscript for my first book (it's nonfiction, so I sold it on a proposal), but my bread and butter is doing grant writing for nonprofit organizations. The stress level is SOOO much lower and I love my life now, but freelancing isn't for the faint of heart.