A new year is a good time to think about what you wish you could change. One item that immediately came to me was how stressful publishing can be.
I remember decades ago reading a survey about the most stressful occupations. Right after fire fighting, police work, and some medical professions, publishing was listed. Since I was just dipping my toes into publishing, I gasped in surprise. How could a simple love of books have landed me in the midst of Stressville!?
What causes publishing stresses?
In case you wonder what is measured to determine stress, here are the job qualities that were evaluated for the 2017 list:
• Career Growth Potential
• Physical Demands
• Environmental Conditions
• Hazards Encountered
• Meeting the Public
• Risk of Death or Grievous Injury
• Immediate Risk of Another’s Life
• Working in the Public Eye
I’m seeing several aspects of publishing here!
Why is publishing more stressful than ever?
Over the years, the trend in publishing has been for greater stress and more work. With the economic downturn in ’08, everyone in publishing (who still had a job) had to do the work of everyone who lost his or her job. The workload grew for individuals. And while that’s been alleviated some, publishing’s growth each year since the recession remains relatively flat, resulting in little job growth.
The stress to make right decisions about which books to publish has grown as well. I’ve talked to decision-makers at publishing houses who have literally groaned as they’ve agonized over whether to take a project to committee. Too many wrong choices, and the results become dire both for the person backing the wrong titles and for the publishing house that must bear the financial loss.
Add to the mix the rate of change in the industry via electronic publishing, self-publishing, and the Amazon effect; the demise or potential demise of formerly stalwart outlets through which to sell books; and the need to figure out how to promote books in the ever-changing online world, the publishing stresses ratchet up another notch or three.
Writers and publishing stresses
Writers, of course, struggle with the limited chances they can maintain a successful career in publishing. It’s the rare author who makes sufficient money not to have to supplement – or completely rely on – other jobs.
Meeting the public and working in the public eye (via social media, book signings, speaking at writers conferences, having your work publicly evaluated via reviews) certainly add to a writer’s stress. That’s especially true when we consider that most writers are introverts by nature.
Competition comprises a significant aspect of publishing, too. Writers compete to get published; to get noticed by readers; for marketing dollars; to make the best-seller list; for awards… Yeah, competition is a constant.
And, of course, deadlines persist in a writer’s life. Not only writing a manuscript on deadline but also meeting production deadlines once the book is given to the publishing house. That’s followed by meeting the marketing and promoting deadlines, some of which are self-imposed while others are imposed by the publisher.
Then we have launching into writing your next book while still promoting your recent release. Yup, writers’ lives are laced with deadlines.
What’s a person caught in this whirlwind to do?
I deal with publishing stresses by setting aside time throughout the week to concentrate on the big picture rather than spending most of my time on the small stuff (which leads to lots of stress since the larger issues never get addressed). Making the big stuff what I dedicate a good portion of my day to helps because I feel like I’m making progress. But if I spend my day responding to emails, while that work is important, it isn’t satisfying–nor is it necessarily the highest priority for me.
Asking oneself, What is the most important part of my job? helps to focus one’s attention on the top-of-the-stack responsibilities.
For me, that’s making sales. If I don’t make sales, I’m not setting everything else in motion that I do–negotiate contracts, intervene when the publishing process goes awry, help to build writing careers, etc.
I also find it helpful to set aside time each month to dream. For with all the changes in the 21st-century version of publishing, opportunities to succeed reside. I want to take time to dream about how to succeed in ways I might not have thought of before. I don’t want to miss out.