Would You Rather Be the Passenger, or the Pilot?
You are always in control of your story—of making it the best it can be, of making it so good that several publishers want it, so good that it finds a home in a few readers' hearts, so good that sales take off by sheer word of mouth, so good that its unexpected success makes reviewers want to talk about it, that a film is made, and a merchandising empire is spawned. From your book. It can be done. It has been done. It will be done again. And it could happen to you, if you write a good enough story.
Then there's the other side of control. You are always in control of your rights, until you sign them away. While writers continue to accept unfavourable deals out of desperation for publication, they will continue to suffer. No one can make you a victim without your written consent. If you write a good enough story—one that several people want—then you can negotiate better terms.
So I'd like to encourage you, in this, my last post with the Muses, to remind yourself—each time you sit down to write, and each time you sign a contract—that the power to forge a fulfilling writing life, both creatively and financially, lies with you.
Don't be a passenger. Get up in the pilot's seat and take command of your career. Don't follow the market. Write what you want to write. Don't rely solely on talent. Train. Learn how to navigate the business side. Consult an intellectual property rights lawyer before signing. Map out your own flight plan. Remember that, as the pilot, you bear the weight of responsibility for the safety of all the talented editors, agents, publicists, assistants, production staff, librarians, booksellers—and their families—who have bought a ticket on your flight, believing in your skill to ensure them a safe landing.
And enjoy the flight. Journeys are a chance to make the kind of serendipitous new friendships which can endure long after you've arrived, all the stronger for having shared the ups and downs of a little turbulence along the way.
May the force be with you.
A British expat, she's currently finishing a fantasy adventure for young adults. You can find links to her online haunts on her website.
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