Your Career Goals Should Affect Your Decisions

Monday, January 13, 2014
Recently, a writer friend of mine had several editors and agents ask to read her manuscript after placing high in a writing conference contest. She has been offered a publishing contract from one of the editors, and this, of course, makes her feel great and proud of her work. But she's not so sure about the contract. As she told some of us fellow writers: "I was all set to self-publish this." She was ready to have sole control over her book.

It's not a bad contract, but it has a couple sticking points that she's not sure she's willing to negotiate. When discussing it further amongst writing friends, one said, "So, your goal is not just to be published by a publisher?"

"Exactly," the writing friend said, and so once again I was led to think about writing and career goals.

If her goal was to have a traditional publisher, then she would sign the contract, after trying to negotiate a few points. (Remember, all contracts are negotiable!) But because she has other goals for her career and her work, she might choose a different path that feels better for her--she knows what she wants out of her writing life.

Isn't this important? YES!

Before I signed the contract for my first book in 2007, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (ages 9 to 12, White Mane Kids), I knew my goal was to get a book published because I wanted to do writing workshops and school visits. You really need a book for these types of jobs--at least to get paid--and so I signed this publishing contract. There were not as many options back then to get a book out into the world as there are now. But I still think I would have signed the contract, knowing what I know now about the children's writing genre, libraries, schools, and conferences.

My writing friend has different goals than me, writes in a different genre, and is planning a trilogy. So she has to figure out what fits her career and go from there.

What about you? Would you sign the first contract offered you? Is your genre right for self-publishing? Have you created a career plan and goals?

photo by Celestine Chua

Margo L. Dill is a children's author and writing teacher for WOW! Women On Writing. She's teaching Children's and YA Novel Writing (online) starting on January 31 and Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach, starting on February 7. To sign up or check out the syllabi, please see the classroom page. 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Your post is thought-provoking. I am working on a couple of "major" projects (a picture book and a novel) and I can envision two different paths. One of them (I think) needs a traditional publisher. The other could be self-published, and I think I would be happy. But of course, if one of the big publishers called me, insisting they wanted to publish both of them--and would I consider a multi-million dollar advance?--I would (begrudgingly) agree.

Yeah, right. ;)

Margo Dill said...

Sioux: I think you "hit the nail on the head." If the contract is good enough for a traditional publisher, most people would take that because then you can stay focused on your writing more. Once you self-publish, you have now become a business/publisher, too. Nothing wrong with that and some people who are doing it right are reaping the benefits. But you have to know your goals. :) Keeping my fingers crossed for your multi-million dollar picture book advance contract. You would definitely make the cover of Publisher's Weekly with that one!

MonetteChilson said...

Thank you for posing this question. It helps me put words to why I signed with my publisher. Until I thought about what goals drove my decision, I didn't fully realize how much I was influenced by my desire to be published, rather than to publish myself.

I tend to make decisions based on that gut feeling, but sometimes it's nice to recognize the logical forces at work behind that intuitive. Thanks for the food for thought. Next time around I will word on articulating why I am choosing the publishing path I do.

Unknown said...

I appreciated, very much, reading this as well as the responses. I'm not there, yet, but hope to be at some point in my writing career. The idea of self-publishing and all the business aspects it requires is overwhelming, but having control of the process is appealing. I will need to give this more thought and appreciate the points you brought to the table. said...

Wow, perfect timing as we all head into the new year, probably with new goals. I was just offered a new job, but am worried it will interfere with the work I'm doing on my manuscript. This article was a good way for me to pause and take stock. Thanks!

Margo Dill said...

I'm so glad you all found the sharing of this story/thought process helpful. I found it helpful myself while I was living through it. :)

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