Every Writer Needs A Safety Net

By Terry Whalin 

Every summer, Peru, Indiana has a local circus to celebrate the history of the town. Students train all year for these performances. That summer one student walked the high wire on stilts. Each time the crowd gasped because he performed without a safety net. As an intern at the Peru Daily Tribune, I wrote most of the material in the annual circus edition.

As writers, I know the importance of having a safety net and in this article, I want to give you several reasons for this added protection. Because of my role as an editor, I’ve met numerous writers at conferences. I recall one writer boldly telling me that she had quit her day job and was writing her novel full-time. Yes, she was all-in for the publishing world—and I only listened but recognized her potential danger and folly.

Publishing Is Unpredictable

This week a New York Times bestselling novelist was telling me about how several of her publishers have gone out of business. No one could have predicted the challenges to the supply chain or a worldwide pandemic or many other factors inside publishing. There are many decision points where despite your best intentions, the projections for book sales do not happen.

Life Is Unpredictable

While it happened decades ago, I clearly recall the details. I had been out to lunch with a major Christian magazine editor and was telling her that my publishing company was “part of a revolution.” A few hours later, I sat at a conference table with my editorial director, and he began, “I’ve got to let you go.”  I’ve faced unexpected job changes, divorce, illness, death of a family member and even a costly lawsuit. No one has a crystal ball to forecast the events in our future. As a Christian, I understand God has numbered our days and knows the shortness of our lives.

How to Keep Moving Forward

While publishing and life can be unpredictable, I want to give you several action steps to take to help your writing life to continue to move ahead.

1.  Don’t quit your day job. Many well-known authors have written in their off times and kept their day jobs. Several years ago, the New York Public Library published an article about 10 Famous Writers who kept their day jobs. I encourage you to read this article and learn about authors like Kurt Vonnegut and Margaret Atwood. These authors show us the value of their day jobs and how they continued publishing and writing.  

2. Diversify Your Writing. There are many ways to get published and when one aspect slows or folds, you can tackle another type of writing. In the first chapter of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. I have a fairly extensive list of various types of writing. Follow this link to download the chapter.

3. Keep working to expand your personal network and relationships and look for the open doors. Who you know is almost as important in publishing as what you know. I continue to expand my connections with editors, agents and others. As you help them, they will help you. You never know when a relationship from the past can become an important one. 

While publishing has challenges there are also many opportunities—if you are actively looking for the right one. Make your plans and get knocking on those doors to see which one will open for your writing. It’s the active role I’m taking for my own safety net.   


Do you have a writer’s safety net? This prolific writer and editor details the reasons every writer needs a safety net. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Billy Graham. Get Terry’s recent book, 10 Publishing Myths for only $10, free shipping and bonuses worth over $200. To help writers catch the attention of editors and agents, Terry wrote his bestselling Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Check out his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Connect with Terry on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, thanks for this essential article. Writers need to be aware that there are no guarantees even if it seems you are standing on a firm foundation. And thanks for the action steps that all writers can use to help in case that foundation shakes or even crumbles.

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for this feedback and the encouragement. Our lives are in constant flux and change so we need that safety net to help us.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I love the way you tell stories, @TerryWhalin! The first edition of my "The Frugal Editor" was traditionally published. Right after its release that publishing house lost it contract with its distributor and nearly went out of business. I had to buy books from the distributor to keep from having them burned (4000 of them!) and still some were burned (or shredded!). So that's my story behind this great advice. Without my old job I wouldn't have been able to buy. them back. Without my job, I wouldn't have been able to persist and self publish. The great lesson behind this story is that persistence paid off. "The Frugal Editor" is now once again traditionally published (in its 3rd edition!) and now the winningest book in my #HowToDoItFrugally Series of book for writer. This story reminds me of the maxim "trust and verify;" its cousin is"Protect and Persist." And, by the way, selling 4,000 books was very good practice for honing a promotion campaign for a book! Ahem!
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for the feedback on my storytelling. I also like your stories--amazing experiences we both have had in the publishing world. Persistence is critical for any writer to succeed.


Margot Conor said...

Thank you for this, Carolyn, so true!

Linda Wilson said...

Terry, your post hit a chord with me. The advice you offer is very helpful in helping writers find the balance needed to be a success both professionally and personally. Thank you, as always, for your terrific advice.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

@Margot Conor, what, persistence? It’s my middle name. 💕📚📚📚📚
Hugs, Carolyn

Terry DB said...

Change is the watch word in writing/publishing. The Peru, Ind. newspaper where Whalin was once an intern is now down to publishing two days per week and has closed its downtown main office....

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