Taking L's As a Published Author
Examples of why the failure and rejection doesn't stop with publication
A very long and unnecessary introduction
Congrats, you’ve achieved a goal that took years, even decades, and now you’re a published author!
You stride through the finish line, spent from the marathon that is writing, querying, and going on submission with a novel. Your agent and editor wait to usher you through. Dozens of your writing friends are cheering. This is it. Never again will you have to brave pitch contests, slush piles, and the awkward, “Want to swap pages?”
With each step closer, you straighten, eventually walking with chest puffed and chin raised. You are an author now. A published author. And today begins a new chapter of success and fortune. Finishing the race, you cross the line and—
Weightlessness sets in and you scream.
Where did the ground go? You’re falling, arms flailing, wondering what happened as you plunge back into the same pit of uncertainty where you began this writing journey. And while you wade in those waters, a shadow emerges, taking shape as they stride onto the shore.
It’s me, I’m standing there with an arm out, and I say, “Welcome, friend. Time to get back to work!”
Now, you may be asking what I’m getting at with the above. The short answer is that publishing a novel doesn’t necessarily make you special. It’s a controversial take, but let me explain with a slightly less short answer…
Obviously, if you know me, you know I sold a children’s novel at auction with HarperCollins (SHAD HADID AND THE ALCHEMISTS OF ALEXANDRIA). All that means is that I got one win. Now, it’s a big win. The kind of thing that many writers work years and years towards. I can rest and sit on this achievement for a very long time. Many writers do end up coasting off their author status after one book and that is completely fine.
BUT if I want to continue selling new pieces, and if you want to sell after you publish a novel, then it’s time to understand that you will once again have to dance with rejection. If it’s not enough for me to tell you this, I will gladly show you with three examples below…
Going on sub again with your agent
The next novel you try and sell may not be as difficult as the first one, but it certainly won’t be a given.
First, the agent will need to approve the manuscript. I just took an L here, having written and worked on a manuscript for months, only to have us come to the conclusion it wasn’t the right project to tackle. You’ll run into this for several reasons. For example, it may not have the right voice, the one that made everyone fall in love with your first project. Or it may not be right for the market. After all, going on submission requires a lot of work upfront from both you and the agent, so why pursue what might not sell in the first place?
Pro tip: don’t be like me. Consult your agent before writing and rewriting the novel, keeping them up to speed on every part of the process. Even ask them to read snippets so they’re vibing as you go.
Getting chosen for events and opportunities
What, did you think that folks will suddenly start begging for your attendance at cons, panels, interviews, and more?
Think again, there are plenty of published authors out there, and you being one of them guarantees nothing. Stick your neck out there and apply for as many as you can. Like me, you’ll get rejected from TONS of those opportunities, but guess what…you’ll also get accepted!
I’ll be a panelist at a couple of upcoming events, and I’ve been blessed with the chance to work with organizations like Flights of Foundry, Middle Ground Bookfest, Pitch Wars, WriteMentor, and more to be announced. But if I told you I got every opportunity I went for, I’d be lying.
Oh geez, this is the one that’s going to be most disappointing, but you will not always be accepted into those author cliques that you were keen on joining before becoming a published author.
If you weren’t aware, humans have always formed tribes, and authors are not above this trend. Cliques are just groups of friends who do stuff together while we marvel on social media and dream of being in those group pictures. Well, I’ve got news for you…the vast majority of us will never be in those pictures.
But that’s fine! While not every interaction I’ve tried to make has led to budding friendships (and some have been downright awkward), the friends I have made were more than worth it. Find your own group and forge your own bonds. More importantly, don’t leave behind the friends you had before just because they haven’t yet been published (I hate that I even have to say this!).
You swim out of the lake at the bottom of the pit, taking my hand as I give you the run-down of all the L’s you’ll continue to take as a published author.
Together, we creep through a dark and winding path, but light eventually appears at the end of the tunnel. Soon we’re out and back in the real world, with all the messiness and excitement that we lived through before.
You realize that you never wanted things to change. That all the obstacles, the highs and the lows…well, they forged you into the person and writer you are today. You aren’t scared of these L’s. In fact, you look forward to it because that means you’re moving forward and taking risks.
That’s what being an author is all about.