Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Moving Forward After Publishing

Okay, so if you've been around this blog for a while, you might know my journey. For those that don't, a brief outline:

1. I signed with an agent in 2009, and my debut YA novel sold pretty quickly. Possession came out in June, 2011. I only sold one book. My agent sold the sequel in early 2011 and Surrender came out in June 2012.

2. My publisher wouldn't buy the third book in an obvious trilogy until Surrender came out and they could see how it was doing. I think this is an extremely common practice in the industry, as I've heard of it happening to other authors. But it terrified me. What if they didn't buy the third book? What would I do then? Surrender was open-ended, as most middle books in a trilogy are.

3. They ended up buying the third book in July 2012, and Abandon came out in June 2013.

4. My agent and I submitted two more books to my publisher, and they passed on both. We went wide with Elevated, and while it came close at several publishers, ultimately it did not sell.

5. I parted ways with my agent in September 2013. She's lovely, and I still recommend her to other authors. The partnership just wasn't working for me.

6. I self-published Elevated, my futuristic fantasy series, and another novel-in-verse, Something About Love in 2014.

6. I signed with a new agent in November 2013, with a time travel novel. We submitted it widely in the spring of 2014, came close, no sale.

7. This agent didn't like anything else I had in the pipeline, and we parted ways in December 2014. Since last year, I've been moving away from a YA-centric career, focusing on writing clean, contemporary romance.

8. I'm querying again, and while some authors have said it's easier the second or third time around, I'm not finding that to be the case. I still send dozens of queries. I still get lots of requests -- and many rejections.

It's hard for me to feel like a success. I have 10 titles out, and have years of experience in the social media realm. But I still feel like I'm failing.

These feelings make no sense. After all, I just received a large royalty check from the sales of Possession. So my books from 4 years ago are still selling, and I'm still earning money from them -- which means I've earned out my advance. All of that should point to "success."


Then why don't I feel successful?

I'm not sure, but I think it's because I don't have agents or editors snapping up the books I'm writing now. I don't have title after title coming out from the same publisher. There are a myriad of factors that have contributed to this, but this blog post would become a novella if I went into all of them.

Maybe I need to redefine what makes me as an author a success? Maybe I need to re-evaluate what makes a book successful? I don't know, because I don't know what those parameters are. What makes an author successful? A book, or a series?

Maybe you can help me with this.

How do you define success for yourself as an author? For your books?

No matter what, I've learned that even after you've been published, there's no yellow brick road that takes you directly to a land of wonder. I'm still wandering in unknown paths, writing books I love, and hoping there's someone out there who will love them too. I know this isn't the case for every author, but I think more of us are on this path than we know about. We feel alone, unsuccessful, but really, there's a lot of authors in the same situation.


Natalie Aguirre said...

I think you do need to redefine success. You have gotten 2 agents even if it didn't work out ultimately and have learned to be a hybrid author. Getting published is based so much on subjective likes of books by publishers and editors, and it's something we can't control. And it's frustrating. You're not alone in your struggles. I see lots of authors who got a lot of buzz for their first series and can't sell another one to the big 6. So don't beat yourself up. There are other important parts of life too where you're successful-work and family. And that's just as important. I don't beat myself up anymore that I don't have time to even write right now. I'm going through huge life changes and that's the way it is.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I do agree that you might need to redefine success in your own mind. And since I've joined a number of "secret" author FB groups -- where secret means private and unsearchable -- I have learned that many authors who look successful on the outside have the exact same troubles you are describing. And I know someone IRL who left the same house that published your book Possession, swearing never to sub anything there again. So, it's not just you.

As for me, I also moved away from YA, after two more YA manuscripts failed to sell. (One of which I thought was a surefire winner. Wrong!) I moved in the MG direction, although success is not assured there either. I'm coming up on the end of my 3-book contract and wondering what happens next. I have some new projects to submit -- and I would really, really like to stay with Harper if they want me.

And if MG turns out not to be my niche, I'm determined to try something else. Like children's non-fiction. Whatever it takes.

Success is moving forward and only occasionally looking back and saying, "Wow, look at all I've done so far!"

Kelly Hashway said...

This industry is so tough. The highs and lows can be crazy and do really awful things to our confidence. I felt ridiculously unsuccessful in 2014. I'm hoping 2015 is a better year for me, but I've been trying to celebrate little things. Years ago, I thought I'd be happy if I just got that one yes from an agent, and then it was that one yes from a publisher. Now I have both and still don't feel successful. I think the more we learn, the more we want/need to feel successful. But we also can't forget that success doesn't have to mean making the NYT bestseller list or being a household name. There are a lot of other ways to find success in this industry and we need to celebrate those too. Chin up, Elana. You've already accomplished more than many authors can only hope to. Be proud of your successes.

Angela Brown said...

In my IWSG post today, I mention about the dangers of being in the comparison zone. When we slip there, it's pretty easy to see your own successes as a fail when others around you seem to be doing so well. Your path is one with its own twists and turns but I wish you the best with each step you take. I've always admired your approach of being a published author while also helping others as best you can.

LG O'Connor said...

Elana, thanks so much for sharing this post! I've been following your blog since 2012. My first book was published in 2014, but I ended up doing that via a small press. It's just that the industry has shifted and contracted SO much since 2012 that it's getting much harder to get a 'yes.' My current agent took on my book because she loved it even though it wasn't a genre she typically represented. The book is on submission, but we're losing hope of it selling. I just wrote an article for my one year anniversary of the 10 lessons I learned my first year as a hybrid author, and I think the biggest one was exactly what you said - there are no guarantees. I think many of us are struggling to feel successful, but I've since recalibrated by definition of success by writing more books that I love, getting new positive reviews, seeing that a book has sold (for the self-pubbed books), getting a note from someone who has enjoyed my stories... I wish you continued luck! In my book, you're a success.

Mart Ramirez said...

Thank you so much for being so open and sharing your story. It really spoke to me and it made me feel less alone.

You signing on with two agents speaks tremendously and selling your books to a publisher is also a HUGE mountain you climbed. And you did it!

You are the QUERY QUEEN and there's nobody else I know more who can write a killer query like you do.

I often remind myself, it's not the rejections. If I am trying my best and doing all I can and putting my heart and soul into everything I give-then it simply means (for me) that something bigger and better and meant to be is around the corner.

I have a pic of a little girl holding a teddy bear and God is kneeling in front of her. Behind his back he has a HUGE teddy bear for her. She says, "But I love it, God." He says, "Just trust me."

I've learned to let go and just trust that my fate will be as meant to be. Of course I am not going to sit on my butt and wait for it to happen.

You are doing awesome, Elana. We all have learned so much from you. Keep doing what you are doing. Keep growing. This industry is so difficult right now. At times tho I feel it saved me on several different accounts.

When the time is right, it'll be perfect. You are my hero :) <3

Theresa Milstein said...

Elana, I've heard so many stories about people starting in the business, and then having a hard time continuing to get contracts. You're right, you do need to redefine success. And I'm sure you'll have more in the future.

Carissa said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! It makes me feel so much less alone! *Interwebs hug*

I know how you feel. Every step I take forward in this publishing business, there's this tiny (read: LOUD and horrid) voice in my head that compares my "success" to others "success" and it gets me down, every time.

I'm trying not to let it. I give myself a little pity party with plenty of wine and chocolate, and then I take a nice long walk, and just try to forget about it.

Because the farther along I've gotten, the more I realize that the cliche is true. SO much of this business is subjective, and also SO much of it is *timing.* Case in point: I recently had more than one agent form reject my query and then two weeks later request it!?! (All I can think is there was some sort of inbox misfile along the way, as I certainly didn't send two queries!!) anyway, that really floored me how different a different mood and mindset can make the difference btwn YES vs NO ... with the same agent! It's crazy. Truly.

Keep it up! I love your books!

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Unknown said...

I'm not a published writer, so I have no clue how much advice I can offer but I'm with everyone else: you need to redefine success.

I mostly feel like crap these days slogging through my WIP. I don't glamorize the process, posts like your own have sorta forced me to tuck away the rose-tinted glasses.

Right now I do want to go the trad route, but if I hit a wall there I'll have to start to consider self-publishing.

Until then I'm taking it a day at a time, or I suppose a sentence at a time.

Do what makes you comfortable, happy, and keep your chin up. :) Hope you find your answers, Elana!

Write Life said...
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Portlandmermaid said...

Success comes and goes. Every success sets us up for the next one, which may or may not happen, but that doesn't mean the other successes were lesser.

Time and place make a difference as does wind velocity, the position of the moon and stars...

Thank you for telling us that you had great agents and eventually the relationship just no longer worked.

I'm in my first agent relationship and that comment was extremely helpful to me.

Really, all we can do is keep writing.

Unknown said...

You're just human, that's all :) We're irrational creatures. We like to make life hard for ourselves :)

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