A few years ago, I thought my career was over.
Due to slow sales and a changing market, I’d lost both my publisher and agent—and I was devastated. Also, a science fiction/mystery YA that I’d been positive would sell when it went to acquisition meetings at major publishers had ultimately been rejected.
After over 35 published YA and middle grade books, I was on my own.
Here’s what I wrote in my journal:
“I feel so sad when I think back on how high my hopes were but now everything has led to this point of failure. I am so sad…discouraged…mourning the loss of dreams.”
I moped around for a few days, doing things like eating chocolate, reading comfort books and hanging out with my family. But I couldn’t sit around—I had to write.
So instead of giving up—I got busy.
I researched publishers that accepted unagented manuscripts. I polished then submitted my manuscripts—including a few pictures books. This format was new to me since I’d mostly written novels, but I’d sold one picture book–Snow Dog, Sand Dog, illustrated by Jess Golden (Albert Whitman, 2014) and that gave me hope. So I wrote more picture books.
One of these, Cash Kat, seemed like a good fit for my friend Danna Smith’s publisher Arbordale, so I sent it to them. A year later they offered me a contract—and now Cash Kat (2016) is a beautiful hardback picture book, illustrated by Christina Wald! It teaches how to count money and celebrates the special bond kids have with their grandparents.
More books I submitted on my own sold: Never Been Texted (Leap Books, 2015) and Curious Cat Spy Club series to Albert Whitman (2015). The third book in this CCSC series, Kelsey The Spy, comes out April 1—and I can hardly wait.
Also, I got a new agent—Abi Samoun of Red Fox Literary, who recently sold two of my picture books to Little Bee for 2017 publication.
And remember that YA science fiction/mystery I’d tried so hard to sell? Well, it’s coming out in September 2016 from CBAY Publishing under the new title of Memory Girl.
Instead of my career being over, it’s taking a new shape.
Being discouraged is part of the writing game. Most writers deal with the lows of rejections, losing agents or editors, low sales numbers and having books go out of print. A writing career is like riding a roller coaster, going up and down then up again.
Here are some tips to help you ride the painful downs:
- It’s healthy to grieve a disappointment or loss—but then get busy.
- Network! Writer friends give great advice and publishing tips.
- Small publishers can offer big opportunities.
- Keep busy writing: books, articles, reviews. Name recognition counts.
- Try new genres! You never know when magic will happen.
- If you aren’t in a critique group, join one—or start one.
- Don’t give up—as long as you’re writing you are a writer.
See more on Linda Joy Singleton’s books and writing tips.