(Since tomorrow is Turkey Day, and many of you will be offline, I’m publishing my Thursday post early)
I saw this photo online a while back and it made me laugh.
We go through life with the old “if life shuts a door, open a window” adage – which I get. I understand that it means to look for another solution, another path. And that’s valid.
But this sentiment also resonates. Don’t just accept that the door is closed. Open the damned thing. It’s okay to change the rules!
Is the door locked? Then look for a key or a lockpick.
I want to apply this analogy to writing–specifically, my own career (such as it is.)
Soooo many times, the door got shut in my face as I shopped Matters of the Blood around to various agents. Some read my letter, synopsis and sample chapters and basically Just Said No. Some asked for a full manuscript (and this was in the days of actual paper manuscripts), so after the initial OMG YES! reaction, I had to scramble, print out a copy and snail mail it to said agent. After reading said manuscript, they pretty much all said, thanks, but no thanks (in varying degrees of well, it’s okay, but…)
It was a slog, sure. I’m actually grateful, because the first version of the book that I shopped wasn’t right–at all. It needed tightening, editing, and fleshing out…which I did, and ended up with a better story.
Then I went back to try to reopen that door–which I did. And I set off submitting to agents and directly to publishing houses.
Still, doors continued to be shut in my face.
Eventually, discouraged, the door reopened: at least, there was a knock and I answered it.
I’d worked with a particular micropress before, with the Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter anthology. We had great service, books came out in time for a fabulous kickoff signing at Mystery Loves Company in Baltimore, so when the owner showed up and offered to read my manuscript, I gladly sent it to him (electronically, even!). He offered me a contract and I happily signed. It was before urban fantasy was a thing, and most publishers just did not know what to do with this genre, so I figured, what the heck. The contract got signed, I never really got much in the way of editing, but I was new, and didn’t realize this was a red flag. My cover art…well, let’s just say it wasn’t completely awful, but it was close. The book came out, and it got some decent reviews…but then…the door closed.
Only, this door didn’t just shut, it VANISHED.
Micropress guy overextended himself (as they do), and before my book really got off the ground, he disappeared and stopped responding to emails and phone calls. Yeah, not a new story, sadly. Same thing happened to too many authors. What sucked is that I though I had done my due diligence. I’d had an excellent experience with the anthology, and figured this experience would at least match that. And I wasn’t afraid of self-promotion: it’s not like if I signed with a Big House, that I’d be free of that.
So, I couldn’t reopen that door, not even with a sledgehammer.
This time, I ended up finding another door.
Just when I was thisclose to giving up this damned writing lark, the door opened back up.
This time, a reputable small press was interested in reprinting Matters, and possibly doing more books. At first, I was leery…another small press? But, turns out, this one had been in business for a looong time, and I figured, okay, dooo eeeet.
And I did.
That small door opened MUCH wider when said press made a deal with Pocket Books and my series ended up at a Big Five house after all.
The path: crooked af, but eventually, my determination in re-opening that door paid off.
Now, the door is slightly ajar, as I try to balance my chronic illness/lack of energy with writing, but I’ve not closed and locked it.