Part 1 of 3 from The Writer’s Workout

This week, I’m celebrating the launch of my friend Christina Katz’s third book for writers. She and I met in 2008 at the Writer’s Digest Books Writers’ Conference in Los Angeles and got to know each other at a dinner hosted by her publisher. Another brilliant workshop instructor, Blake Snyder, sat with us that evening, and we discussed the plans for Christina’s and Blake’s future books, which are in bookstores now. Not for a moment did I doubt that they would carry out their plans, because both of them were focused and passionate about their work.


Christina Katz

Guest blogger: Christina Katz

Writers’ lists of daily professional responsibilities have never been as long, complicated, or as challenging as they are today. The job of The Writer’s Workout (Writer’s Digest Books, 2011) is to encourage writers, just like a good coach would, to go above and beyond what they might otherwise accomplish.

The following sample chapter is the first of three taken from the book, subtitled “366 Tips, Tasks & Techniques” because it offers career advice for every day of the year.

Don’t abandon traditional

What we are experiencing right now is a rapid evolution in publishing where only the fittest will survive. And this applies to writers as much as it does to agents and publishers and bookstores and every other business related to publishing. And if you are going to prosper in this economic landscape, you are going to probably want to get your game face on and give up any fantasies you might be harboring about being chosen by Oprah’s Book Club or becoming discovered, because these are not goals that lend themselves to small actionable steps.

This is not the publishing landscape of bygone days. These are modern times. Exciting times. Rapidly shifting times. Precarious times. And, believe it or not, for some writers who work at a focused, consistent rate, prosperous times.

And, sure, if you want to speak squarely about what is going on in publishing right now, advances are down. Bookstores are in jeopardy while online stores are doing well. E-books are on the rise, and there is a very long way up to go. Niches rule, both for nonfiction writers and nonfiction publishers. Publishers, editors, and agents are hard pressed to make time for their authors, while increasing amounts of responsibility fall on the authors who are traditionally published. Community building, sharing information online for free, and distance learning are hot.

The Writer's WorkoutRegardless of everything going on, I still believe that the traditional book deal is the best thing that can happen to a writer not only for the potential money, because there is still some money to be earned, but also for the increase in visibility and credibility in a writer’s career. I believe that writers still need agents. And I know many publishers wish that agents would simply go away so they could renegotiate the rights they want to get from their authors’ works to stay viable. I believe that there has never been a better time to be a writer, perhaps since the invention of the printing press.

So, if you work well within a structured context with parameters and deadlines set by others, persevere. Publishing opportunities are narrowing, but they will not likely disappear any time soon.

Christina Katz is the author of three books from Writer’s Digest: The Writer’s Workout, Get Known Before the Book Deal, and Writer Mama. Her writing career tips and parenting advice appear regularly in national, regional, and online publications.

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6 Replies to “Part 1 of 3 from The Writer’s Workout

  1. There is a lot of grumbling that it’s a difficult time to be a writer yet was it ever easy? The publishing world is definitely in an evolutionary period and it’s never been a better time for an author to get their word out. No longer does a writer have to be a slave to the whims of what a publisher deems to be good writing. If a story is good, it will sell. If it starts off as independently published and makes a big enough splash, it will attract the attention of publisher. Yet, is that really the direction an author wants to take these days?

    I have been told repeatedly that traditional publishing in not the way to go anymore. Sure, if you are lucky enough to land a plane successfully in the Hudson or run any flavor of presidential campaign- publishers will be lining up at your front door waving money like stock traders and the sell sheets on Wall Street. However, as the yet to be discovered writer, even if a publisher does pick up your work, it will probably be years before your story makes it to book form. Will there even still be book stores by the time the finished published copy is available to the public? The image of your precious story being properly placed at eye level in a store is almost as likely as being signed to play in the NFL.

    The treasured Advance, which is rumored to be shrinking proportionally to the national debt rising, is just a loan on future earnings. More and more, writers are expected to do their own marketing and public relations and with a publishing contract, they are signing their rights away or may feel as if they are selling their souls. Without the right agent, they may have waived their rights for cover designs and even book titles.

    In one sense, it would be great to have a big company taking care of all the little details. It’s like the days of the mighty record companies. The best bands aren’t necessarily the ones that were being played on the radio- those were the ones who were lucky to have someone paying off the record execs for air time. Such is similar with the “Best Seller” lists. Got money (yours or publisher’s)? You too can get on that list even if the book is of little talent. There are enough lemming reader’s who base their entire reading selections from those Best Sellers lists.

    It seems that the “Go Green” and “Buy Local” attitudes that are starting to catch with consumers, have yet to evolve to supporting local writers. There are amazing stories in our midst whatever large or small community we live in. Just because a book doesn’t contain a label from a publishing company doesn’t mean that it’s not worth your time. If the subject is something that you find interesting, take the leap and jump off the lemming train. Support a local writer! It keeps money in your community and may be helping that writer evolve to evenen greater heights.

    I can honestly say that one of my proudest moments was while extricating the first copy of my book Working for Peanuts: The Project Linus Story out of its Createspace packaging. The thrill of seeing it in print and actually holding it for the first time has to be similar to that of cradling one’s precious baby. It didn’t leave my side for the first 24 hours. I was overjoyed to share it with my friends and family. Like raising a child, writing a book, takes a village. There were so many who helped make it all possible and were every bit as as excited as if I had just returned with a cutie from the labor ward. It would still be years, if ever, that I would be able to experience that magical moment if I’d gone through a traditional publisher.

    Until that big call comes from a reputable publishing company, I’m more than happy to put my time, talent, money and name on the line to let the world know about my unique adventure and empowering others to make a positive difference in this world. My baby, Project Linus, has been featured on the likes of Oprah, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams & People Magazine. Publicizing a great story will be anything but a walk in the park but I’m always up for a good challenge. As it’s said- it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. For now, I’m happy to have my story published in my time and in my way. There’s a lot of satisfaction to be had in that.

  2. Thanks for sharing your publishing experience, KLR. When it comes to my website, I share your opinion that DIY is a very satisfying approach. To cut costs, I didn’t engage a web designer when I started my business, but I dream of the day I’ll be able to afford a professional website redesign.

    My clients have been fortunate to have their novels acquired by publishers who design truly beautiful books. First looks at book cover designs have put smiles on our faces for weeks at a time.

    As for book titles, I think publishers and their staff often have well-informed suggestions. The working title of my client Mini Nair’s novel about four women who start a business together was Egg Bhurji for All, a reference to comfort food served by the four friends. The book was published as The Fourth Passenger, an allusion to the custom of making room for an extra person on each seat on Mumbai’s crowded trains, as well as a metaphor for the fourth woman in the novel, who was embraced in friendship without religious prejudice.

    Traditional publishing does required a great deal of patience and willingness to collaborate with a team, in addition to sharing the proceeds. It’s not the right choice for every author. Self-publishing can be the ideal alternative in certain circumstances.

  3. Thanks so much for having me here today, Robin. I’m running around today like a holiday turkey with its head cut off, so I’ll pop in and out as the day rolls on. Looking forward to it!

  4. Hi, Christina. No worries. The discussion is ongoing. It’s a pleasure to be able to do this without needing to be present in the same physical location at a specific time.

  5. Karen, my goodness. This is certainly a spirited and well-thought out reply.

    I like to make predictions. And if I were going to make one, I’d say that you are on your way to a traditional publishing deal, if you want one. I’d be happy to recommend you to my agent, as I imagine, any author would.

    The question is whether or not you would want what publishers are offering at this time. Because, indeed, you have hit the nail on the head, publishing is evolving. Therefore the question becomes: do they have what you need?

    I can’t answer that question for you. But you can. Best of luck. Please contact me if you are interested in that referral.

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