When I first started this blog I thought I understood the publishing process. Write a book, get an agent, sell that book, and then repeat the process over and over until you’re a giant success.
Um, yeah, it doesn’t work that way.
The process is grueling just to write a good book. And the journey to get an agent? Even harder. But what happens if you get lucky enough to write a good book, get that agent, and then, GASP! that book doesn’t sell? It’s not an easy topic to think about, much less talk about, but I think it’s important to understand every aspect of publishing so you go into it with your eyes WIDE OPEN!
Today author, Amy Zhang, has agreed to share with us, in her own words, what it’s like to write a book, have an agent love it, and then have it not sell. I appreciate her honesty in this post and her bravery for pushing past this pitfall. For most of us, I think it’d be soul-shattering, but Amy was strong enough to move on and write yet another book that eventually sold to Greenwillow/Harper Collins. Amy is the perfect example of persistence and perseverance and I’m so grateful she agreed to share her experience with us.
Sometimes Books Don’t Sell
A Guest Post by Amy Zhang
Sometimes books don’t sell.
We don’t like talking about it. We don’t like thinking about it. At least, I didn’t, as though the act of not-thinking would ward off the dreaded possibility that the book that landed me an agent would never find a publishing house.
…It didn’t work.
I was cautious when my YA fantasy, WILDFLOWER, went out on subs as the first of a planned trilogy. When it went to acquisitions a week later, my caution evolved into optimism. When a second senior editor jumped in to present it to the board, I decided that I could start celebrating early by treating myself to some mustachioed duct tape.
Which made the actual rejection hurt a lot more, but at least I had mustachioed duct tape.
So what happens when your book doesn’t sell? You buy yourself some pie. You wallow. You question your ability as a writer. You briefly entertain the idea of becoming an alpaca trainer. And then you move on.
I was in the middle of outlining a new project when WILDFLOWER went to acquisitions, and when the rejection came, I poured this new batch of blood, sweat, tears, hopes, fears, dreams into characters whose story I had promised to tell. While WILDFLOWER was very much a result of everything I had loved as a child—swordfights, sacrifice, magic, general badassery—this new project was everything I feared. Loss of innocence. Failure. Drugs. Suicide. I finished it within the month and sent it to my agent, who saw enough potential in it that she wanted to start submitting it right away.
At the time, WILDFLOWER was still on submissions and garnering a steady stream of rejections, and I was hesitant to stop it because submitting my new manuscript almost certainly meant that I would be trunking the old one. Yes, it was painful. Yes, I cried a little. Yes, I ate more pie. I had worked on WILDFLOWER and loved the characters for as long as I had been writing, and in many ways, shelving it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
But in other ways, it wasn’t hard at all. I had more faith in the new manuscript, and I felt more confident in almost every one of its aspects. The most terrifying and wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a next. Something else to write. Something else to worry about. Something else to wait for (and waiting never gets easier).
There’s always another story to tell. Tell it.
Amy Zhang lives in Sheboygan, WI, a teensy town on Lake Michigan that probably has more cows than people. Her as-of-yet untitled debut about imaginary friends and suicide and Newton’s Laws of Motion comes out in fall of 2014 from Greenwillow/HarperCollins. She loves fancy cheeses, writing on her walls, and singing in the shower. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or at her blog.