When the Rain Comes Down
A friend whose first book is forthcoming has been unnerved, as I was once unnerved, to learn of other authors whose contracts have been canceled before their debuts ever hit the bookstores. Along with that terrifying possibility are myriad examples of authors being orphaned (this is what it's called when one's editor leaves the publishing house) and then dropped or ignored-into-giving-up by the new administration. Other authors lose their slots because of poor sales numbers or quite inexplicably (to them, because publishers often won't come out and explain why) they can't sell new proposals or even full manuscripts. Everywhere you look, you see bodies by the wayside, and for the new writer, who has focused all of her energies on breaking in with that first sale, this post-apocalyptic reality is freaking scary.
And it should be because it's an incredibly hurtful experience, a scarring experience (and I've been there, so I know) to have your hard-won new world come crashing down. But if you hang with this business long enough, you'll see example after example of disaster-struck authors rising from the ashes and coming back better and stronger and more successful than before. Some of the survivors change their names (as I did) to become born-again publishing virgins. Most change publishers and shift what they're writing by pulling a spark of strength out of their "failures" and blowing it into flame in an area more conducive to success. (I did all of this as well and ended up finding a subgenre I love writing more than ever.)
I know authors, terrific authors, whose careers have seemed dead and who have amassed an avalanche of post-debacle rejections come roaring back to great reviews, awards, and/or huge advances and/or bestseller lists. I have definitely learned to take the long view and not count anybody out as long as they're still writing, still submitting, and still (this is the biggie) trying to adapt. It's especially sweet to see these authors prosper because you know they've really earned success.
I've heard a veteran of the publishing game say if you're in this business long enough, everything will happen to you. Good reviews and bad, accolades and harangues, lines closing, publishers going under, great covers and terrible, sales success and failure. If you want and need stability, go work a nine-to-five gig with benefits, vacation time, sick days, and retirement. Because you aren't going find it here.
But if you simply have to box the octopus, nothing else will do.
Have any of you been through (or know an author who's been through) a dry spell, line closing, loss of agent/editor, or other publishing disaster? What are you doing to overcome it, or how did you manage?