Have I mentioned that rejection is part of the writing life? That it never goes away, no matter how much success you’ve had? Of course I have. But these days I’m feeling it big time myself. I’ve landed in that literary niche of “great reviews but doesn’t sell books.” That latter part is relative of course; “doesn’t sell books like Stephanie Meyer or Gary Paulsen,” I would add.
Still, my Motor Novels trilogy with Farrar, Straus & Giroux is struggling to pay back its advance (it looks unlikely unless lightning* strikes). Teachers and librarians who struggle to get boys to read love the books. And I get badly written but sweet emails every week from boys who “finally read a hole book”, and ask me if I’m writing another in the series. But boys don’t go to malls and buy books, nor talk about them on social media. I am, as my dear FSG editor Wes described, “doing God’s work” with these little stock car novels.
And one more detail of my current literary doldrums: my agent of twenty years went off the rails, imploded, I had to sue (it was messy but is now resolved), and so today I am “available” and looking for a new agent. I’m finding this is not easy even though I’ve published a dozen YA novels, and have a fairly good ‘brand,’ may I ‘umbly say. One agent said that my recent submission (a new YA novel) has “undistinguished writing.” Okay, f**k you. Two other agencies have not replied after four weeks.
In short, I am reminding myself daily that it’s probably not me. That it’s the publishing industry that’s back on its heels. I need to keep the faith that good writing will out, but not necessarily sit back and depend upon the old paradigm of Big Six publisher, advance on completion of the manuscript, and eventual royalties. It might well be time for e-publishing along with other forms of literary life re-boot and re-invention. Stay tuned.
*There is some interest from television for a possible tv series about my stock car novels. Nothing firm, and a long way to go. Still, there’s talk.
P.S.: Writers who’ve had great success can be really annoying when they start bitching about their lives. This isn’t meant to be that kind of post. The goal here is to talk about recognizing when we need to make strategic moves, career pivots, and/or new approaches. And of course to keep faith in ourselves.