Sunday, January 21, 2007

Getting My Game Face On, and Career Thoughts

I ended up in the labor & delivery unit a week ago with pre-term labor contractions, but nothing came of it, thank goodness. They pumped me full of IV fluids and told me I was probably dehydrated and that I should keep my feet up and drink a ton of water. So I am.

But I'm also having panic attacks. It's been about 10 months now since I've been off my panic medication, and I did so beautifully for the first 8 months. I really began thinking I might just never need those meds again, and maybe my brain has finally corrected itself. But then I had a run of a few days in a row where I had attacks, starting at a funeral. The ones since then haven't been as bad, but they're there, shadowing me.

That really messes with my confidence about childbirth. These past two weeks have been filled with thoughts like, "Why did I ever think I could do this?" and bargains with God for ways to get through labor without actually... you know... going into labor. (By the way, someone asked in the comments and I realized I never said it here: she's due on March 10th.)

I'm using a hypnosis program called Hypnobabies to help change my negative thoughts, but so far I'm too cynical for it to really work. I get to a certain part in the CDs where the woman says things like, "Your eyelids are so limp and lazy now that they just won't work. Test them and see that they just won't work." So I do, and my eyelids snap open, and I think, "You liar!" Then I don't believe anything else she says.

But I have to get back into a decent frame of mind somehow. Mostly, I'm trying to do that by not thinking about it too much. I've started working again, albeit not like I normally do. Right now, I'm working on this little pet project that's exactly what I said I didn't want to do again-- a niche book for writers. Not that I have anything against books for writers. It's just that they have a limited market, which means small advances and royalties, no chance of real bestsellerdom.

One of my editors asked me why I'd do such a thing now. I'm beyond that level. And the truth is that I'm wondering if it's a dumb career move...

Novelists have to worry about the "death spiral," where bookstores won't order any more copies of an author's current book than they sold of the author's last book-- which typically leads to smaller and smaller numbers, smaller print runs, smaller advances. It becomes very difficult for a midlist novelist to sustain a career if they don't pick up major steam in those first two or three books.

With nonfiction authors, it's not quite as cut and dried, but I honestly don't know how much of an effect past sales have. What I believe, but haven't set out to prove yet, is that bookstore buyers look at the numbers of the last book you wrote in that category when determining what quantity to order-- but not necessarily your overall book sales. So, for example, I've written books in the following categories: self-help, health, writing reference, children's picture book, biography, memoir, and language. I believe that when a chain buyer is figuring out how to stock my next book for writers, what he'll look at mostly is how my last book for writers sold-- not how my health books and memoirs have sold.

It becomes worrisome to me if that's not the case, for the reverse reason. I don't want them using my niche book sales against me when I write books with more mass appeal. If I write a book on a broader topic, like beating procrastination, I don't want the bookstore buyer to say, "Well, her last book [for writers] sold 5,000 copies through us, so we won't take more than 5,000 of this book."

But I'm already about 16,000 words into this new book, and it's meant to be a short book, so that's about a quarter of the way finished. I want to write the rest. I'm considering doing it under a pseudonym to avoid this whole concern, though that would mean giving up some sales, too... having more than one book in a category sitting on a shelf next to each other means better sales for both books. I guess readers think your books must be pretty good if the bookstore has more than one of them. Maybe I'll just use a pseudonym that's one letter off. Jenna Glatzen. Yeah, that'll throw the chain buyers off my trail!