Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What do you want to be doing in January?

Had tree surgeons in yesterday to give the garden its annual hack and slash. Hedges got trimmed back, a run-down wooden shed got taken away, and several trees were removed. As a consequence it looks like winter arrived early, lots of empty spaces where foliage and branches used to be. The garden looks a bit naked, denuded, bare. All of which got me thinking about what I want to be doing when the worst of winter hits in January.

If you're a freelance writer, this is the time to be setting up work that will see you through the long, cold months ahead [assuming you aren't commissioned from here until the end of time - that means you, Moran]. Like a squirrel storing nuts for the times when food ain't so plentiful, soon editors will pull up the drawbridge and stop commissioning new work. That's not to say there'll be none around, but it gets a lot harder to find.

For example, the Frankfurt Book Fair happens later this week. It's one of the key events in the publishing calendar, helping to shape what books will see print in 2009 and beyond. When publishers returns they have to process any intelligence and new deals they obtained in Frankfurt. By the time that's done, November brings the pre-Christmas crush of work, parties and organisational nightmares. December is largely a write-off for new commissions.

January sees most people still recovering from Christmas, and that's before the credit card statements come home to roost. There's no shortage of publishing going on - 400 new books a day in Britain alone - but fresh work gets harder to find. Throw the credit crunch into the mix, redundancies, cut-backs and belt-tightening... It all adds up to a tough time if you haven't got a few commissions already lined up, plus some bread and butter jobs.

This month could be your last chance to secure the commissions that will stave off a barren January. It's all very well promising yourself you'll spend the weeks after Christmas writing that spec feature script or starting that special novel you've always wanted to write. But inspiration can be hard to find when bills are mounting and the boiler needs fixing. Get busy or come January you might end up looking like my garden does today.

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