Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Surviving the Ups and Downs

Gerri Russell returns to the Lair today. She's an award-winning author known for her adventurous and emotionally intense novels set in 13th and 14th Century Scottish Highlands. Her most notable series to date is that of the Brotherhood of the Scottish Templars. She is a two-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart award and winner of the American Title II competition sponsored by Dorchester Publishing and Romantic Times BookReviews Magazine.

Today's visit, though, will be a little different, as Gerri will explain.


Welcome, Gerri!


No matter how successful fiction novelists are, they will always have ups and downs in their careers. Sometimes the downs come because of a changing market, a change in technology, or in my case lately, a change within my own publishing house. It’s no secret that Dorchester Publishing has been going through some difficult times, as have their authors. But being the “glass is half full” kind of person that I am, I’m choosing to look upon what’s happened to me and my books over the past year as an opportunity for change.

You will not find my book in any brick and mortar book store, and very soon you will not find them in electronic form either, because the rights for all of my books, five published and two yet-to-be-published works, will revert to me by the end of this month. Personally, it will be a moment of great celebration and the beginning of something new and wonderful.

I love being in the lair with the Romance Bandits. I’ve visited here before when I’ve had new releases and great things to share. But I wanted to slip into the lair today to share something else that I’ve learned over the past year, and that is how to ride the highs and lows of a writing career without losing balance or momentum. Whether you’re just getting started in your career, you’re an experienced writer in or out of a slump, or a reader who wonders why their favorite authors are not publishing new books at the moment, I hope the following tips will help.

1. Diversify your writing. Every writer, fiction or otherwise, must always look for new writing opportunities. This way, if you do stumble into a slump with one publisher or one specific genre, you’ll have another area to develop.

2. Maintain a blog or a website. Having a place to regularly write not only validates you as a writer, it’s a great place to explore your interests, allow for visiting “experts”, and allows you to grow as a writer in your own skills and in educating/entertaining your audience.

3. Do some sort of work that is not writing-related. Do something for yourself that either feeds your passion or your pocketbook. Finding ways to get away from your writing helps with the insecurities that come with our chosen profession by generating new ideas, writing inspiration, character developments, plot twists, etc. By leaving the writing behind, it truly helps keep the creative juices flowing, and sometimes helps deal with the financial droughts that come with the job as well.

4. Network with other writers and other professionals. Spend time with other writers in groups such as Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, etc. But also explore opportunities to be with other professionals as well. Find other organizations that cater to entrepreneurs where you can network and share ideas and energy with people who are building and maintaining their own businesses. Learn how they cope with the highs and lows of success.

5. Share your knowledge.
Even if you are not publishing at the moment, you have a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be shared. You can keep your name out there in publishing circles by writing regular columns for magazines, guest blog on popular blogging sites, or write for trade publications that will still help you keep your writing skills sharp.

6. Never lose faith in yourself or your dreams.
It always comes back to this. You decided to be a writer for some reason. You had something to say…a story to tell…a need to communicate with others. It’s a gift. Don’t take it lightly. Highs and lows are normal in any occupation. The trick is to learn how to ride them out, to keep your focus, and celebrate making it through the low times.

For more about Gerri and her work, visit her website.

Do you have any other tips to share? How have you made it through a difficult time in your life or your career?

61 comments:

Slush said...

Bwahhhhhhhh!
Sorry, I am on a sugar high.

Slush said...

Gerri what a great post! I am excited and fearful for you at the same time. What strange changes and new paths you are about to embark on.

Thank you for sharing a little of that gracious, hard-learned knowledge from your years of writing. I will put it to good use.

FYI: Can anyone send me some TimTams?

Anna Campbell said...

Slush, your bwaaahhhhh elicited a Bwoccckkkkkkk from the rooster that I heard in Australia. I hope you enjoy his company today. He's brimming with mischief after his lazy day with me yesterday.

Gerri, lovely to see you here. You're one of our favorite regulars. Wow, you have been on the rollercoaster, haven't you? I think we're all going through strange times in the publishing industry right now. I think it will settle eventually much as the music industry settled but it's going to be a wild ride until then. I wish you all the best in your future career!!!!

Anna Campbell said...

Slush, sadly because of the bombs in the mail incident at the end of last year, mail into the U.S. has become really restricted lately. Extra fees. Restrictions on what we can send. It's all rather draconian. I can send you a PICTURE of a Tim Tam. Does that count?

Slush said...

I will settle for the picture. Maybe I can find some backward little store that sells them...

Yes, picture me a TimTam! Lol.

Christine Wells said...

Gerri, so lovely to see you back in the lair--welcome! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I'm inspired by your wonderfully positive attitude.

My husband and I were marveling the other night at the way the universe seems to reward a positive outlook and conversely, it sends more and more bad stuff to you when you feel negative about everything.

There are so many things you can do with those books now you have the rights back. So many possibilities. The best of luck on your journey! I'm sure with an attitude like yours, you'll go far.

Congrats, Slush! It sounds like you're going to give that rooster a run for his money:)

Anna Campbell said...

Slush, just to torment you:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Tam

Jane said...

Hi Gerri,
Happy to hear that you'll get the rights to your books. It's definitely great that you can look at this situation as a way to change and improve.

Jane said...

Tim Tams are available at Target from October to April every year. I read that they're also at Walmart.

Helen said...

Well done Slush I wish I could send some Tim Tams your way they do tend to settle him down.

Gerri

I am sending positive wishes your way I am sure we will see your books in print again very soon.

I find for me that to get through tough times I talk a lot LOL and I have a few wonderful friends that will sit and listen to me which is great I would never be able to write but yes I can talk and it helps.

Have Fun
Helen

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I know of one author who has the rights to two of her three book series and the publishers won't let her have the third, they do a small printing everytime the time is running out, I think that is just evil. Her work and it has been quite a few years and she can't control it. That just isn't right.

EilisFlynn said...

Keep writing, Gerri. And that's all you can do sometimes when fate hands you a joker (to mangle two metaphors). Good luck!

Nancy said...

Slush, congrats on the rooster! He loves Tim Tams, but he sometimes behaves better when they're not around. He tends to steal them.

Target stocks them, though, or used to, if you have the yen.

Nancy said...

Anna, bombs in the mail? I somehow missed all that.

Sorry mailing things to the US has become such a pain.

Nancy said...

Jane, thanks for the Tim Tams info. I wonder why it's just October to April. It's not like Tim Tams are suitable for trick or treat prizes.

Nancy said...

Christine, I think keeping a positive outlook during negative times is really difficult. Those among us who use visualization seem to be better at it than most.

Nancy said...

Helen, talking to friends really is a big help, isn't it?

Nancy said...

Dianna, that really does seem pretty unfair.

Nancy said...

Eilis, thanks for stopping by. :-) We're looking forward to your visit later in the month.

Gerri Russell said...

Good morning everyone!

Slush, Thank you so much for your kind wishes. I truly believe these are exciting times in the publishing industry. I've learned not to fear change over the past meany years.

Good things can happen!

Gerri Russell said...

Anna,

Lovely to "see" you! I think you are right. The changes in the industry right now are very similar to what happened with the music industry years back. It will be interesting to not only watch, but be an activie part in how our future as writers is shaped.

Gerri Russell said...

Christine, The power of positive thinking is huge! It's hard sometimes to find the positive in a bad situation, but if you look hard enough, or give it time, it's there.

Here's to the future and all the great things it holds for all of us!

Gerri Russell said...

Jane,

Anna got me hooked on Tim Tams, too! I love that I can get them at Target now.

The real deal is great, but the picture (if only it included smell) is far easier on the waistline.

Slush said...

Yum! TimTams. I think I may be addicted to them now. Checking Target in my lunch hour!

Thanks Anna and Jane, am now armed with the appropriate knowledge.

Gerri Russell said...

Helen,

Thank you for the kind wishes!

And you are spot on with how women deal with the downs of life. We talk them out. I know for me, if I talk to a friend about what's bothering me, it allows me the opportunity to reframe it in a new light and move on.

Gerri Russell said...

Dianna, I'm so sorry for your friend. It doesn't seem right for a publisher to do that, but then again, they are protecting themselves and their rights.

Publishing is changing in a way that will allow authors to control their future as never before. I hope your friend benefits from what is coming in a big way!

Gerri Russell said...

Eilis,

Thanks for the encouragement! It's important to remember to control the things we (as writers) can control--the writing is most important!

Nancy said...

Slush, I hope you find the Tim Tams.

Gina Robinson said...

Gerri--You always have such a positive attitude! I really admire you for that. I know this is just the beginning of another great success for you!

Slush--Pepperidge Farm makes Tim Tams. I think they're pretty widely available in the grocery store. I know here in the Seattle area I've seen them in quite a few stores.

Nancy said...

Gina, you have Tim Tams in the grocery store? You lucky! I have yet to see them in a regular store here.

Of course, my grocery store doesn't stock 2-liter Cherry Coke, but I've been in stores that do. Maybe my store is just backward. :-/

jo robertson said...

Hi, Gerri, welcome back to the Lair. It's always a pleasure to have you visit.

Slush, WTG on capturing the rooster. Your sugar high is cool, but be wary of the rooster on a sugar high. He's very unpredictable LOL.

jo robertson said...

Gerri, a quick question. Once your rights revert back to you, what are your plans for publishing?

jo robertson said...

Slush, one word: TARGET!! My local Target store carries Tim Tams! I KNOW!! It's a miracle, right?

MsHellion said...

Great writing tips--I've done (or am doing) 2-6. :) I'm not very good at diversifying, but I'm sure that comes with practice.

I'm sure this goes with networking--which makes me think of conferences--but having a tribe of your writing peers online helps too. You can kinda bolster yourself up with people who understand the struggle.

Nancy said...

Jo, I think it may be hit or miss with Target and Tim Tams. I would bet some of the smaller stores don't have them. It's always worth a try, though.

Like my grocery store and Cherry Coke.

Nancy said...

MsHellion, I think having your tribe is immensely helpful and especially so for moral support.

Gerri Russell said...

Gina, You are so very kind. I appreciate your support and positive thoughts. Thanks for stopping by!

Gerri Russell said...

Jo,

Thanks for asking what up next for me. I am taking my own advice and diversifying my writing. A current project that I'm working on is paranormal in nature.

As for the already published works, I might give self-publishing in e-format a try.

The two unpublished works...I've had nibbles from other publishers. I have to wait until the rights revert at the end of this month before I am free to explore anything.

The future is filled with possibilities. :-)

Gerri Russell said...

MsHellion,

So glad you stopped by!

At the risk of sounding old...when I joined RWA many moons ago, we had no Internet. I remember being desperate to go to meetings and hear the latest news and visit with other authors.

I still enjoy the meetings, but it is so much nicer to have the immediate contact with "my tribe".

It's another reminder that change can be good. What would we do without the Internet now? I shudder to think if it!

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, I may have the details mixed up but I think they were DHL shipments from Somalia to synagogues in Chicago. Towards the end of last year. Anyway, as a result, they've hit us with a horrendous new fee if we post stuff to the US so that you guys can X ray anything that comes in. Makes it all just TOO expensive, especially as the airmail wasn't exactly cheap to begin with.

Wendy Delaney said...

Gerri, thanks for the great advice. Ups and downs are part of "life" so it only makes sense we would see them in our writing lives.

Like you, I believe that there is power in positive thinking. And I'm quite positive that the road you're on will lead you to great success. No one I know deserves it more!

Gerri Russell said...

Hi Wendy! Thanks for stopping by today. I know you've expereinced some ups and downs this last year, too. Here's to moving on for both of us!

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Gerri - Good to see you back in the lair. I feel so sorry for the Dorchester authors suddenly left in the cold. However, as you know, you learn with every book you write. You are far more experienced now than when you first sold. I have no doubt your work will be picked up by another publisher.

Do you have an agent? Has she/he given any advice? If one isn't agented I think I would add that search to your list of things to do in a slump.

I particularly think having a life outside of writing is a must to help get through the hard times both for published and unpublished. It fills the well and helps keep things in perspective.

Donna MacMeans said...

On the other hand, Anna, they let us send anything to Australia without extra fees (grin).

Pat Cochran said...

There have been one or two low points in my life. To get past the lows, I turned to volunteer work.
It was one of the best moves in my life. It was good for me by raising my spirits, but it also allowed me to give aid to others. Volunteering in our schools, com- munity, and church raised my self-
esteem and carried me on a life- long high!

Pat Cochran

Ann Charles said...

Gerri,

You have always been such an inspiration and role model for me. Once again, you come through with advice that motivates me to keep pushing forward no matter what falls on my shoulders, and to find the rays of sunshine even when it seems there are none. I'm looking forward to watching you spread your wings and fly a new exciting route to success.

Ann Charles

Gerri Russell said...

Hi Donna, I absolutely agree with you about adding "find an agent" to the list! I have been so fortunate to have a terrific agent at my side through out this whole process. You know you have a special agent when during the best of times thay are great, but during the worst of times they are fabulous!

Gerri Russell said...

Ann, What a sweetie you are! I feel the same way about you. Once again it goes back to MsHellions comment about having a "tribe". We are there for each other with encouragement and support and sometimes a rope if we aren't getting ourselves out of the mire.

Nancy said...

Anna, thanks for the update. I had no idea about any of that.

Nancy said...

Wendy, thanks for stopping by!

Nancy said...

Donna, I think having a life outside of whatever professional goals we profess is very important. Children and pets, in particular, have a way of setting priorities.

Nancy said...

Pat, I find that getting out and doing something is always a help. Sounds like you found some great opportunities.

Nancy said...

Ann, nice meeting you at National. Thanks for stopping by!

April Rickard said...

Gerri, there are people in our lives who are rare, uplifting examples. In a world where "downs" are a given, being able to lean on your example is truly a life line. You survived the industry "downs" with dreams in tact and a stronger vision of success. Thank you for being that rare uplifting force in my life!

Nancy said...

April, nice to "see" you again. Thanks for stopping by!

Gerri Russell said...

April, You brighten my life, too, in so many ways. :-) It goes right back to the necessity of surrounding yourself with people who understand and sometimes think a little differently than you do to help you gain forward momentum.

Here's to lots of "ups" for everyone in the future!

Louisa Cornell said...

Slush !! You just think you are on a sugar high! Wait until you take a bite of your first tim tam!! BLISS!

La Campbell, I think posting a photo of a Tim Tam MIGHT be seen as chocolate pornography!!


Gerri,

Thank you so much for your insight and tips on making it on the roller coaster ride that is publishing. I am AYUP (as yet unpublished) and every new development in this industry sort of knocks me back a bit. I do have a great agent who is determined to get me in with a great publishing house.

Still, there are days it can really get to a girl! I just keep reminding myself that I waited a long time to get this close and I love writing too much to give it up now.

Like Thomas Edison said :

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

I LOVE your Templar series and I just know another house is going to pick them up. And I can't wait to see what you come out with next!

Thanks for the inspirational and helpful post!

Gerri Russell said...

Louisa, Continue to believe in your future success and it will happen. You have a fabulous attitude that ~will~ carry you through. And when the day does come and you cross over to the published side, we will all heartily celebrate your success!

Wishing you all the success in the world!

Gerri Russell said...

Thank you to all who stopped by today, and a very special thank you to Nancy for inviting me to be here! Nancy, I appreciate you as part of my "tribe" of supporters each and every day.

Wishing everyone a year filled with downs that are not so low and ups that take you to new places!

All the best,
Gerri

Nancy said...

Louisa, I love your Edison quote! I think you and I are in similar rowboats.

Nancy said...

Gerri, you're always a pleasure to have and a great part of our "tribe."