The Importance of Staying Flexible in a Changing Industry

A couple of weekends ago, we re-arranged my kids’ bedrooms. When my five kids were all younger, my daughters shared one bedroom and my sons shared another. But now that my oldest will be a sophomore in high school and my twins are moving into eighth grade, they have later bed times, need more privacy, and have different interests than my youngest children.

Even though I didn’t particularly want to go to the trouble of switching all the rooms, the kids kept bugging me about it. Besides, we’re blessed to have a house with five bedrooms. Even if I’d have to give up the office I’d made in one of the bedrooms, I decided I was willing to do that in order to give the kids more space.

So . . . for two days straight we hauled books, bookshelves, desks, beds, dressers, etc. We have a TON of books in every room (surprise-surprise!). In order to clear out my office, we had to transport four bookshelves and all the books down two flights of stairs to the family room in our basement.

Not only did we have to shift books, but I also had to empty closets filled with miscellaneous things so that we could hang clothes, etc. Of course, then I had to clean basement shelves to make space for the displaced items.

In the middle of the back-breaking work, I couldn’t keep from asking myself, why in the world we’d decided to rearrange all the bedrooms. It was just too much work. I was tired. The kids were cranky. And the house was chaotic. Besides, I’d LIKED things the way they were. I wasn’t particularly fond of the change (since I was losing my office). If I’d had my way, I would have kept things the same.

The fact is, change is HARD. Very few of us like having to turn our worlds upside down to make changes. We tend to shy away from plunging into things that require too much effort. The fear of the unknown holds us back too. What if things don’t work out the way we envision?

Instead of moving forward and changing, many of us get entrenched in the familiar, easy way of doing things. We’d rather avoid the difficult unknowns.

I see this a lot with writers and publishers. We get comfortable with the way things are. We tend to think, if something’s working, then why worry about changing?

But . . . since the publishing industry is evolving and shifting and rearranging, then it seems only logical that we need to stay flexible and willing to change too.

Here are three crucial areas where I see writers and publishers needing to be willing to adapt:

1.  Social Media: Obviously, some social media sites come and go. But if something becomes the newest rave, then writers and publishers need to seriously think about being there.

For example, Pinterest is the newest craze (it reached 11.7 million users in March of 2012). I read another infographic last week that said, “Studies show that all ages like Pinterest, but middle aged women like it best.” (So, if your target audience is middle-aged women—like mine is—why aren’t you on Pinterest?)

Writers and publishers have to move quickly, can’t drag their feet, and can’t have the mindset of “maybe I’ll try it someday.” We can’t get too comfortable in one particular social media, but have to be willing to continually shift and stretch ourselves with the new. (Think of it as rearranging your bedrooms!)

2.  Publishing options: Yes, I’m traditionally published. But I’d be a fool if I didn’t keep my eyes on all that’s going on in the self-publishing world. And I’d also be narrow-minded if I didn’t look at how self-publishing is going to play a role in my long term writing career.

Writers and publishers alike need to consider how to utilize all the publishing options to reach the most readers possible. Exclusivity is the mark of inflexibility.

3.  Reader needs: No matter what we like to write, no matter how much we love our genre, and no matter our brand, we have to pay attention to what readers want. Their needs shift. And if their needs change, then that may require us to adjust the direction of our stories.

I don’t anticipate that I’ll ever want to stop writing historical romances. I absolutely adore what I write. But, I have to remain flexible to the style and tastes of readers. I have to keep evaluating how I can best meet the needs of modern readers.

Yes, change is hard. Transitions are painful and chaotic. But the payoff is usually well-worth the effort. This pin I saw on Pinterest last week sums it up well:  All great changes are preceded by chaos.

My kids are now all happily settled. They love their new bedrooms. And I love the sense of independence it’s given my older children. I even have a pretty “office” in a corner of my bedroom. In the end, the work of rearranging was worth it.

How flexible are you in this rapidly changing industry? Are you adapting or are you entrenched in what’s easy and familiar for you? In what areas is it hardest for you to make changes?

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