word craft


Ready to Move Forward

Grand Canyon Arizona

After a month or so of dither­ing — try­ing out this notion, that notion — I’ve com­mit­ted myself to the book I intend to write next. Indeed, I’ve already rewrit­ten it twen­ty times. I’m try­ing to define my voice. I am try­ing to define my main char­ac­ter. Try­ing to grasp a sense of what I’ll be writ­ing. Indeed, try­ing to shape (in my head) the plot. All stan­dard for me.

I’m ready to move for­ward. Sort of.

You might think with some eighty-sev­en pub­li­ca­tions on my resume, this should be a stroll in the park. You might think I have had so much expe­ri­ence — good expe­ri­ence — that I should be able to slide right along. 

Not so.

I can think of many rea­sons for my unease.

The world of pub­lish­ing — at least as I have known it — has changed a great deal.

I’m being told that mid­dle school books are hav­ing trou­ble in the mar­ket. One rea­son offered: the way books are sold has changed dras­ti­cal­ly. I have heard one insid­er say, “Pub­lish­ing no longer knows how to sell books. They have been flat­tened by the steam­roller that is Amazon.”

The old ways of mar­ket­ing — in per­son — have giv­en way to social media, with authors being asked to lead the way — and do the work. That requires whole new skills, which I’m not sure I have. Or want to have.

I know of a six­teen-year-old girl who has been hired to track down “influ­encers” as a means to sell books.

A long-time pub­lish­er recent­ly wrote to me: “Peo­ple [in pub­lish­ing] are total­ly on edge! There’s an envi­ron­ment where there is no mar­gin for error and all the talk is of opti­miza­tion and stream­lin­ing, which are all ter­ri­ble things for cre­ativ­i­ty and occu­pa­tions that need rela­tion­ships, con­nec­tion, and time.”

Anoth­er busi­ness insid­er (not a writer) with years of pub­lish­ing expe­ri­ence tells me that “The edi­tors are all over­worked. They have no time for ……”

This has giv­en rise to cau­tion about tak­ing risks — one of the things that used to give pub­lish­ers the capac­i­ty to unearth and devel­op new talent.

Indeed, the whole process of pub­lish­ing — at least in chil­dren’s book pub­lish­ing — has slowed down, evi­dence of that caution.

And I do not doubt that the recent polit­i­cal attacks on books, schools, and libraries (includ­ing teach­ers and librar­i­ans) have made these buy­ers of books for insti­tu­tions very cau­tious, per­haps timid.

Then too, as else­where in soci­ety, the pan­dem­ic caused all kinds of shifts, ways of work­ing, and ways of being. Writ­ing and pub­lish­ing are not immune. One result: There doesn’t seem to be (look­ing in from the out­side), the bond­ing col­le­gial­i­ty in pub­lish­ing hous­es that there once was.

Beyond all that, there is the sim­ple truth that it is always hard — for me any­way — to start a new book. 

It’s a lit­tle like walk­ing along the edge of the Grand Canyon, know­ing I have to get across to the oth­er side. I have to find a trail and then fol­low it to the bot­tom, then up the oth­er side.

Or I can sim­ply ignore all of the above—maybe these are just excus­es, and I need to just set­tle down and write the best book I can. Maybe it’s that simple.

Wish me well and luck. Writ­ers need it.

3 thoughts on “Ready to Move Forward”

  1. Avi, those are valid insights and I think we are all still try­ing to han­dle the over­whelm­ing shift into social media. How this tool has expand­ed our friend­ships, but lim­it­ed our close friends. Who are the peo­ple we still need to talk to in per­son or on the phone and phys­i­cal­ly see. To feel their energy. 

    This is the inter­ac­tion and ener­gy that does not come from tex­ting or zoom meet­ings. This is the miss­ing piece I feel we lost with Covid. We know what it was like, but our young gen­er­a­tion don’t know what they are missing.

    I do feel it will come back, but patience and not giv­ing up what we love and the tal­ent we bring to this rela­tion­ship will win in the end.

    So keep writ­ing. We need your sto­ries. We still have our per­son­al audi­ence to share the books we read who in turn con­tin­ue the cycle of real­ly pro­mot­ing the love of read­ing. We have a duty to pass on the love of books to the next generation.

  2. Thank you, Stan. “To feel their ener­gy,” is exact­ly right and a key to the whole process. Your thought­ful note brought me some this AM.

  3. Avi, I have been wrestling with the same ques­tions, but here’s a ques­tion for you: has the envi­ron­ment ever been favor­able to writ­ers? If so, when? I’ve had suc­cess in the last sev­er­al years pub­lish­ing with small pub­lish­ers. For­tu­nate­ly I have oth­er sources of income. Best wish­es, Steve Weiner


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