People are usually surprised when I tell them I write fiction. Am I not a finance person? Can “good with numbers” and “sometimes creative” coexist? Is it even permitted by the SEC? Are people who wear high heels and suits capable of authoring novels?
I spend a large portion of my day on Investor Relations matters. What does this mean? I’m on the phone. And on the road. A lot. I explain our business model to investors who want to get into the stock or are considering getting out (and the shorts – the blasted shorts!) “Earnings season” is a busy time. We come out of our quiet period to announce how we did during the quarter and give guidance as to the next quarter and full year. Then everyone reacts. The analysts. The investors. And, ultimately the stock.
You can have a kickass quarter, record quarter stacked upon prior record quarter. You can grow like crazy and still the market can sometimes throw up on you and your stock goes like this:
In my line of work you’re limited in what you can say and how wide you can open your coat (not wide; all exposure of the decent sort). But in the end you can’t control the market or who’s buying and who’s selling and at what price. Exactly like being on submission. And, I’d imagine, much like when your book is released and out there in the world.
You can write a book, a kickass book, one you poured every ounce of your soul into, along with months or even years. You’ve ignored your kids. You’ve called your husband by the protagonist’s name and have grouched out at him for things you’ve created on the page that he doesn’t even know about. Your agent (or critique group) might think it’s the best manuscript they’ve ever read. They’re sweaty and feverish with its awesomeness. You’ve done everything right! Every gosh darn thing! Then the reception is like this:
You think, OMG! I cannot possibly do better than this!
But you have to. You have to do better as you wait for the market to turn in your favor. You can’t keep refreshing your email or your stock chart or Publishers Marketplace looking at all the other deals for all the other books that are surely much crappier than yours. Bottom line: you don’t know what’s going to resonate with people, what messages will excite and which will make them run screaming. Is the publisher long on “New Adult” and short on mommy porn? A first page investor on zombies when you write historical romance? And the readers. Who knows what the hell will resonate with readers 1-2 years from now (e.g. time between book deal and publication).
None of this means people (publishers, investors, readers, the dang shorts) are right or wrong or that any of it is a referendum on your work. You can only control what you can control. Not the reaction but the writing. Keep writing. Keep growing the top line. The market will catch on eventually. Or maybe it won’t. You can’t control it but neither can you give up. The only way to get your stock to rise is to keep posting solid quarters. It’s not a guarantee (maybe my book will sell one copy, maybe it will sell ten) but giving up will surely send it all into the tank.
And, believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve so been there. Maybe you should just stick to investor relating, lady. I’ve said to my husband, the same week of my book deal no less, screw this. Just good and screw it because I’m out. Then I remembered, wait, I’m not someone who gives up. I don’t ever give up.
Look, I feel weird pontificating. I only barely know what I’m talking about. My book’s not even out yet. It doesn’t have a cover or even a release date other than a general multi-season time frame. But in the class of writers there is a big long spectrum onto which people fall. So on this blog I’ll offer my two cents, which aren’t worth a lot to a bestseller but might be worth more to someone in my same place. You’re not always going to chat up the CEO for his views on the macro environment in which your company operates. Sometimes the mail room clerk will suffice. We all start somewhere.