10 years ago, I was working at Burger King (a really, really crappy Burger King where the fries were cold and the pop was uncarbonated, or at least the flavors anybody cared about were–it shut down just after New Year’s that year) and thinking I was really close to finding an agent and getting published. LOL. (I was nowhere near it.) At some point that fall, I’d gotten a slightly personalized rejection letter from an agent whose name I can’t even remember now. Looking back, it was obviously a form letter, but it had my name on it and was on the agency letterhead. Slightly thicker paper, cream colored. Not the thin, run-of-the-mill printer paper rejections I’d been getting. It basically said I wasn’t ready yet, but that they’d like to see my work again after I’d written another book or three. I was querying my 4th book at the time, if I remember right.
5 years ago, I was working at the ribbon shop (I made award ribbons, mostly for cat shows) and was actually on the verge of getting a publishing contract for the first time. That was The Rise of Renegade X, and it was my 8th or 9th book, depending on how you count them. (The book I’d started before it I would later finish, so technically RRX was my 8th finished book, but if you lined them up in chronological order, it would be the 9th.) I’d finished it about a year and a half before that, had recently fired my first agent, and was getting interest from a publisher on my own. In the next few months, I’d have a new, way better agent, and two offers.
If you’d told me 10 years ago that it would be another 5 years before I got published, I would have been devastated. If you’d told me 5 years ago that at the end of 2013, I still wouldn’t have gotten another publishing contract, again, I would have been devastated. Probably even more devastated than the first one, because at least then something good was coming, I just had to wait for it. (Or work really hard for it. Whatever.) And if you added on the fact that I wasn’t just contractless, but self-publishing–and, okay, not just self-publishing, but republishing my only traditionally published book because it had gone out of print and I’d taken the rights back–I would have been more than devastated. Probably absolutely crushed.
I would have had no idea how happy I was going to be.
To be fair, self-publishing has changed a lot in the past 5 years. But, from where I sit now, it seems ridiculous to me how upset I would have been about the supposed “failures” to come. It’s funny how our expectations of how things “should” go can get in the way of seeing opportunities. 2013 has been my best year in publishing, period. Not that there weren’t exciting moments along my traditional publishing journey, and everything I learned along that journey made me a better writer and publisher. But it wasn’t the only way to be happy, and it certainly wasn’t the only way to be successful.
This year, I got to write what I wanted. Which means Renegade X fans (and me) finally got to have a sequel. This year, I didn’t second guess what editors might buy from me or base what I wrote on what I might be able to sell to them. I wrote for myself, and for my readers. I had more fun writing than I have in a long time (though at least part of that has to do with getting better thyroid meds and not feeling like I was dying all the time, but that’s a different story), I ran a successful kickstarter campaign, and I published two books, which, in the past three months that they’ve been out, have sold more copies than I ever did as a traditionally published author. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ve sold more copies of The Rise of Renegade X in the past 3 months than my publisher did in the past 3 years.
So, yeah. I guess the point of this post is that we don’t always know what will make us happy. I always knew I wanted a career writing books. That hasn’t changed, and it’s just as satisfying as I’d thought it would be. But how I got here, to a point where I even feel comfortable saying I have a writing “career” as opposed to just “a book,” was completely unexpected.