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In the beginning, there was getting an agent. Two years of querying, of rewrites and Revise and Resubmits. Of watching emails, and watching Twitter feeds and checking response times on Querytracker. Of guessing and second guessing until, at last, an agent came along and took me under their wing, called me ‘ingenious’ and worked to find my book a good home.

My writing future was secured. I had someone in my corner. I had a writing career.

My expectations were realistic, I thought. My first book might not sell. It happens to a lot of authors. But I’m a career writer, I hope, my next book was well under away, my trilogy was down to the very last stage of an open window (which had been 18 exhausting months of checking emails, and forum updates and working out stats and dreaming of what-might-bes), and things were looking good.

The open window didn’t work out – I was rejected in the last 3% of the 5000 or so subs. But I didn’t let it get me down. I dusted myself off and found a home for my trilogy (and a very good home it is, with Gary at Tickety boo press.) And I pushed on with rewrites and edits for the agent, until at last we were on sub.

Submission! The great excitement for all writers. On the desk of editors, and what a list of editors it was. My agent thought the book was great, the betas thought it was great, it had a fresh idea, I was all buzz.

The book didn’t sell. Which was fine! Happens all the time to first books. So I subbed book two to my agent, and was promptly let go. And I blinked and wondered how on Earth that had happened, and how I’d ended up facing the nightmare of all writers – getting close to the dream, working hard to put yourself in the position of having-a-chance, and then losing it.

Anyway, all that was a while ago. Since then I’ve self-published that book (Inish Carraig) and it’s getting the sort of reviews, at least, that were in my what-might-be musings. I’m in the process of getting book two of my trilogy geared up and ready to go. I’m establishing myself as a writer, and I’m doing not too bad at it all.

Which means, when I came to put my latest book into an Open Window, I decided to reassess where I was. All the above had been hugely stressful. Drainingly so. All the waiting, the watching, the hoping, the dreaming. The checking for emails that might have arrived in the night when I opened my eyes (because publishing works all year round.) It might not be something I should do again. I might need to put my health first and avoid such stress.

My reassessment went something like this:

None of my hoping, worrying, checking of emails etc had changed any outcome. Talking about it on forums, guessing what was happening – none of it had mattered. All it had done was stress me.

The worst had happened to me, by writing standards. And yet, I still have a great book come out of it. I’m still the same writer I was. In fact, the book is better for having not sold as I was able to publish it as it should be, not what a market wanted.

Therefore, this was just a vehicle I was subbing to. Yes, a dream vehicle with red paint and a dancing horse on the bonnet, but still a vehicle. If the book doesn’t sell I have lost nothing. I have nothing to worry about – because a home will still be out there for the book. I just have to change my expectations of what a home can look like, and what’s the best.

As a result, I’m pretty chilled out about what’s happening with the book. I’m aware, at this stage, most people who subbed on the same day (the first of the window) that I did have had their Rejection. In the past, I’d have been sure that meant I’d get an email asking for a full, and I’d have checked and checked for it, and turned in circles. This time, it might be a slow reader, or that my contact details have gone awry, or just that gmail ate the email. I’m not waiting for an outcome, except in the sort of interested arena of I’d like to know.

That’s because, for me, it’s the only way to stay sane. To change the goalposts to my own. To make the focus the book and whether I’m proud of it, and not if it meets someone else’s invisible needs. I wish I’d been able to look at submissions this way in the past – I hope I continue to be able to in the future. J

Here they are – the book wot got me an agent and ended up self-published:

And the book wot was in the window and is now in a three-book deal: -

and there they are.


Thanks for this post, Jo. :) Damn... Thank you. :)
Joanne Zebedee said…
Yay, glad you liked it!
Laura Lam said…
I had a similarly weirdly bumpy journey. I managed to get through the AR door and get an agent, but then my series was cancelled after two books before the imprint folded. I managed to have a happy ending, selling those books and some new ones to Tor, but at the time, it felt like I'd achieved the dream only to lose it again. It was rough.

That is the right way to go about it. I've tried to relax, but I still seem to stress. I'm hoping the next time for me will be easier as it'll be going to the same publisher I have a relationship with, and with luck I'll be working with them for a long time! At least they're unlikely to go bankrupt ;-)
Joanne Zebedee said…
I remember you having an utterly torrid time. When we're famous and huge and headlining WFC we can cackle and say we remember the days.... ;)