So you've been working at publisher X for the last ten years and the axe just fell. They're sorry to have to let you go, but your job has been made redundant through mergers and downsizing. The number of titles is growing but the bookstore business is stagnant and anybody who keeps a job at a large trade in the future will really be working for Amazon. Well, here's your chance to leave the dark side and join forces with the children of the light working in independent and self publishing.
I've known some really competent people who worked for trade publishers and I've known some real clowns, but one thing stands out. You can develop valuable job skills during a career in trade publishing, but unfortunately, most of them are essentially corporate get-along skills. Out here in the non-corporate world, dressing to impress, yessing to say "yes", making a great pot of coffee and giving good meetings are non-marketable skills. Wait, I take it back about the coffee. Mastery of spreadsheets can only get you in trouble and a fine appreciation of "the right way to do things" means you're a dinosaur, and not one of the scary ones.
But if you've watched your laid-off editor friends drop out of the industry one-by-one as they bang up against the invisible age ceiling, or if you're tired of going home to live with your parents every few years, it's time to get off the trade publishing merry-go-round. While I'm fond of pointing out to new authors and publishers that it's a tough business, that's where you have an advantage coming from the trade world. You already know that publishing is a business where only the strong make money, and you probably know quite a bit about market research. Let's face it, trade publishers excel at market research, if they were also good at acquiring and producing and marketing books that met that demand, you wouldn't be looking for a job right now.
As part of my outreach program to former developmental and acquisitions editors, I want to stress two points. First, you can't plan to replicate the business model that you're used to, but on a smaller scale. It's employees that are easy to downsize, not business models. You've rewritten or finished enough books for deadbeat authors, it's time to write one yourself. The great thing about being laid-off in America (so I hear) is collecting unemployment, so don't waste the chance by sitting on the couch and watching TV, or by blowing the money playing at being in business. Launch your publishing website today, and figure it out as you go along. Nobody is looking over your shoulder anymore, you can mess up all you want. But it's time to get out of corporate gear and shift up to self-employed gear, and if you can do it without coffee, you'll live longer.