Since 2009 or so, the so-called midlist at traditional publishing houses has dried up faster than a mud patch in the Serengeti. The bleached bones of writers who did not earn out are scattered around in random configuration. On the parched ground near a scorched femur can be seen a message scratched in the dirt, a last call from a thirsty scribe: Help! My numbers suck!
I’ve heard from many friends and colleagues about traditionally published writers––some who have had relationships with a house for a decade or more––seeing their advances drop to record lows, or not being offered another contract at all.
And then what? What happens to these foundering careers?
Two writers give us answers. The first is Eileen Goudge, a New York Times bestselling author. She had a soaring career in the 1990s, and even a power marriage to super agent Al Zuckerman. That’s how I became aware of her. Zuckerman wrote a good book on writing blockbusters where he recommended reading Goudge’s Garden of Lies. I did and loved it, and read another of hers a bit later on.
So I was gobsmacked last month when I read a post by Goudge about her travails as a casualty of commerce. She describes what happened to her and many other writers this way: