Not always rosy…

So let me preface this by saying I am not going to complain (exactly) but these next two posts are going to be about the less golden aspects of writing for a living.
(This one is about having my first book published. The next will be about the search for an agent).
I am grateful to be able to write and get paid for it. It has always been my dream and I know how many people wish they could do it and never get the opportunity.
I also think there is a certain expectation that once you are published, you give up the right to ever complain again. It comes across as whiny and brattish.
And within the publishing world, writers who publicly complain are often labeled as troublesome and difficult to work with, and publishing houses are considered above criticism.
However sometimes the dreams we have as aspiring writers fall flat. Sometimes instead of happily-ever-after, it’s more akin to feeling trapped and helpless.
There is so much excitement in finding an agent, and making your first sale. I remember jumping around and shouting and calling absolutely everyone I knew. I remember the bubble of happiness that grew inside me until it seemed as if I would float off the ground.
No one thinks clearly at these times. All you can think about is a) someone loves my writing and my book enough to devote countless hours to it and b) someone wants to buy, print and sell it.

This article just came out in Canadian Literary Magazine QUILL & QUIRE.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

Yup, I am one of those writers. My first book came out in 2006 and this has been going on for years. I’ve had no communication from them regarding my sales for over 2 years, and I had pretty much given up.

I grieved for my book but I had moved on. After a depressed period which lasted longer than it should have, I picked myself up and started writing again. I remember my cousin telling me that “the one thing I could control was my writing, and that instead of giving this awful experience power over the rest of my career, I should take it back.”

My second book (Ashes, Ashes) came out in June and the experience with Scholastic has far exceeded my expectations.

It is important to note that I was un-agented when I signed the contract, although I did have a few friends in the business look it over for me. But truth to be told, I was so excited I would probably have signed anything.

And as the article mentions, I was not the only one. Fortunately I was only contracted for 1 book. Many of the other writers I know had multi-book deals and it is unlikely they will get their rights back without a long and stressful fight.
When the article came out, I felt relieved. Relieved that finally we, the writers and illustrators, could talk about it without being labeled argumentative, problematic or whiny.

I’m still not going to talk about it much because I have moved on, but it’s nice to have it out in the open. And in a weird way, I am glad to have learned this lesson and happy that it happened early in my career rather than later.

I know how hard it is to calm down and let rationale intercede in the midst of excitement, but we all have to keep our eyes open. It’s our careers and it’s our names on the covers of those books, and really that’s all we have.

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4 Responses to Not always rosy…

  1. Lynn says:

    How absolutely frustrating that must be to you and the other writers, especially after the euphoria of having a work published. The Q&Q article is vindicating, in exposing that publishing house, and it acts as a warning and a reminder that it’s a business not without problems and unprofessionalism.

    Good for you for moving on and getting Ashes, Ashes written and taken on by Scholastic, a house with a fantastic reputation.

    There is so much more to the business of being a writer than putting words on paper.

    • Jo says:

      Thanks Lynn! Let’s just say it took me many years to be able to move on from this. My first book was conceived as a series and I thought I would happily be writing about my main character for a long time. In hindsight I am grateful the 2 sequels remained unpublished but at the time I was so reluctant to let that world go and write something else.
      It’s so not about the money. It’s about being treated fairly and with respect and having your work valued.
      I’ve got to say the business of writing can be quite a depressing endeavor sometimes, and I try to concentrate on words and inspiration as much as I can.

  2. Deb Marshall says:

    I know a few authors who have experienced what you have, the not so happily ever after. And I so, so appreciate that you share your stories, because it removes some of the rose in my glasses…and adds some 20/20! Very glad you kept on with it-ASHES, ASHES is with us now. Here is to a less bumpy road for you now…cheers~!

    • Jo says:

      Thanks Deb!
      I hope this is helpful. I know that complaining can come across as ‘oh poor me’-ish but that is not my intention at all.
      I just wanted to add some perspective to the experience.