This blog post was inspired by the awesome hashtag on Twitter: #keepgoing. It was truly amazing to read some of the tweets from writers of many different walks. Inspiring and emotional, to say the least. So I thought I’d share my story.
Last December, I had three book deals for a total of five books from three different publishers. Yet, even with that accomplishment under my belt, I still doubt myself, sometimes on a daily basis. We all have our low moments where it may seem that nothing is going the way it should. After all, we are only human. Sometimes we need a push, and whether that encouragement comes in the form of a few words offered by an empathetic friend or stranger on Twitter, it makes little difference. Listen and take them to heart.
DON’T GIVE UP.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAM.
I don’t have all the answers. I almost gave up so many times over the course of my journey to date. My debut novel Bloodspell, which was published in 2011, received eight offers of representation from agents within two days. EIGHT. I was happy dancing like a spider monkey on crack. Then I chose an agent. Who couldn’t sell the manuscript no matter how hard she tried, despite being a “highly recommended” agent and an all round lovely person.
Back to square one.
Agentless, with a soon-to-be-shelved manuscript that had been so promising, I have to admit that I was depressed. And mad at the world. And extremely sorry for myself. But most of all, I felt heart-stopping regret. I’d blown my one chance. I’d chosen the wrong agent. And I had no one to blame but myself. I can’t count how many times I wished I had a re-do. But the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side, and I needed to understand that. Choosing a different agent may not have guaranteed a different outcome. Still, my feelings had to run their course.
The thing is, when shit happens, negative feelings are normal. They are valid feelings. Feel them, then let them go. Don’t wallow. It’s the worst thing you can do for yourself.
So I focused on writing a new novel, and unwilling to give up, I also started shopping Bloodspell around on my own to small presses. Unfortunately, back then, the publishing landscape was not in the dynamic state it is now. Self-publishing was not viewed the same way it’s viewed now. Neither were small presses. But I persevered and I didn’t give up. Bloodspell was eventually published by a small press that prided itself on straddling the traditional and the burgeoning new world of publishing. The CEO of Hillcrest is a friend of mine, and someone I’ve always considered somewhat of a visionary. Put it this way–a few years ago at BEA, big six publishers were approaching him for advice on navigating the quickly evolving publishing landscape. Brave new world, indeed.
Being published didn’t mean that my dreams had been achieved. That was just the first step of my book being available and distributed. Next came marketing and promotion, social media, book tours, blog tours … and basically doing everything that a big six press would do for their NYT bestselling authors. It was a lot of WORK. And sometimes, yes, I got discouraged. Let’s not even talk about my emotional crises arising from negative reviews (every writer has them) where the rule of thumb is to never engage. NEVER. ENGAGE. Recognize that it’s not personal and respect that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And if you can’t, go read this brilliant post by Beth Revis. Her post put a lot into perspective for me.
Then keep writing. KEEP GOING.
Eventually, I realized that I needed a new agent. My literary lawyer had negotiated my previous contract for Bloodspell, but I needed someone actively selling other things like foreign rights, media rights, etc. So I queried my new novel, ALPHA GODDESS. A high-profile agent who shall not be named from a top shelf literary agency asked me to do edits for several months. Suffice it to say that no offer was made after months of effort, a decision made by a two-week old assistant. I was upset and disheartened by the whole process, especially when said stellar agent agreed that it was “an imperfect system.”
I moved on. Again.
I polished my reworked manuscript and queried four carefully selected agents. All requested the full. Finally, I secured my third (and hopefully last) agent. Liza Fleissig of The Liza Royce Agency, if you’re wondering. Liza was new in the business, and TRUST ME, if you’ve read any of my posts on agent querying and agent selection, you know how I feel about sales track record. But there was this spark and I had no doubt that Liza was going to be a force to be reckoned with in the literary agent world. Sure enough, in 2012 she was named one of Publishers Marketplace Top 100 Dealmakers. AND she sold ALL of the novels I had written (WATERFELL in a two-book deal to Harlequin TEEN, THE ALMOST GIRL in a two-book deal to Strange Chemistry, and ALPHA GODDESS to Sky Pony Press) all within three weeks of each other.
Everyone’s path is different. Sure, I may look at Veronica Roth and say, darn it, I wish that were me … huge book deals, press coverage, movies in the works. And all at age twenty-two. But the truth is, my journey is mine. No one else’s. I got here through my trial and tribulation, through my sweat and effort, through my tears and determination. All mine. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Because it is worth something to me.
So don’t give up. Keep going. Even when you think you can’t … when so many doors have swung shut in your face … when someone else tells you that your work isn’t for them … when it seems like you can’t catch a single break … when all you hear is no. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–no one gets to decide whether you are good enough. YOU DO. So carve your own path. Something amazing is waiting right around the corner for you.
Visualize it. Believe it. Now, go get it.