Cody Sisco: Working With the Local Writing Community

Catherine Royalty, Principal Librarian, Collections,
Indie Author Day 2019

Cody Sisco is the author of the Resonant Earth series and the Managing Editor of BookSwell, a literary calendar and community hub for Los Angeles. Cody will be one of the presenters at Indie Author Day, discussing the top challenges facing LA indie authors. We chatted with him about his ongoing efforts working with the local writing community.

Author Cody Sisco
Author Cody Sisco

You recently launched a survey of LA writers to get a sense of the business challenges they face—can you tell us a bit about that project?

Yes. It grew out my interactions with writers who have many places to learn and practice their writing craft but who say they struggle to understand how to manage the business side of their careers, such as marketing, networking, negotiating contracts, managing finances, and more. As the publishing landscape has shifted, there is a lot of obsolete advice leading writers down paths that are financially unrewarding, artistically unsatisfying, or just may not be suited for them. My goal is to investigate what it takes to succeed in a writing career based on current, lived experience, and share that information broadly.

Did you see many commonalities in the responses?

Results are just starting to come in. One area that stands out as both an opportunity and a frustration is social media and online presence. Writers have so many tools now for communicating with audiences who want to hear from us, there’s a temptation to be everywhere and do everything online, and we risk spreading ourselves too thin. We also risk wasting our time and not showing up to the events that can truly make a difference for us. Writing itself is a time management challenge, the business side even more so. I want to use the survey as a starting point to understand and share information about what’s effective.

Do you have any ideas about how the local writing community can work together to address these challenges?

We’ve got to acknowledge that the status quo is unsustainable. Writers are not paid enough for their work and often they are expected to work for free. I’d like to see more focus on and collaboration around changing the economics of publishing to benefit writers. Part of that involves grappling with the legacy of consolidation in the industry and the influence of the Big 5 in setting the rules—I’m optimistic though. With its indie presses, DIY spirit, and deeply engaged and diverse communities, Los Angeles is a perfect platform for creating new models. Over the past five years, it’s been a real eye-opener for me to learn how vast, diverse, and energetic the literary community is in L.A. and throughout Southern California. There’s a power and potential for change here if we can band together.