I have a super secret pen name--although, it's not that big of a secret. If you dig hard enough, you'll figure it out. In 2015, under this pen name, my agent got me a three-book deal. I'm sure you can imagine my excitement. Shortly after, I began working with my editor to get the book publication ready, and let me tell you: the edits were intense! But I enjoyed the process. I had fun reshaping the book and spending time with my characters. Months of hard work were about to pay off.
Or so I thought.
The book went up on NetGalley to garner some pre-release reviews. IT. BOMBED! I had two dozen one and two star reviews. It was horrible. I questioned every word I wrote. I doubted myself as a writer, big time! I wanted to quit. (Thank God for awesome writer friends who talked me off that ledge.) Together with my editor and publisher, we decided to pull the book from the release schedule and rewrite it. I spent 6 weeks rewriting the book from the ground up. Literally the only thing that stayed the same was the characters and the setting. Everything else changed.
It was once again release time. I held my breath every time I'd visit Amazon or Goodreads. To my relief, the reviews were GOOD! I began to regain a bit of my writerly confidence. My editor and I moved on to work on book two, which as the time of writing this post, hasn't released yet. I will say that the reviews are mixed--equally good and bad.
During all of this, I had pitched my editor FOUR different projects. Every single one of them was rejected!
Granted, a couple of them were books I'd written earlier in my career and aren't as strong as my current stuff. And some of them simply didn't have enough romance for this specific publisher--I knew that was a risk when I submitted. Still, every rejection stings.
Fast forward to my first royalty payment. Exciting, right?
I won't get into specific figures and amounts, but let's say I made way less than $100. For more than a YEAR of my time and effort to write and rewrite this book. If we say it was simply one year--12 months and I had earned an even $100--that means I earned $8.33 per month while writing this book. Let that sink in for a minute...
Still with me? Good. Today, October 10, 2017, six days before my second book is set to release, I get the devastating news that my publisher has decided NOT to publish the third book in my series, which, by the way, has already been written. Why? Because of poor reviews and low sales.
I work in publishing, so I get it. I do. This is a business, and they need to make smart business decisions--decisions that are in the best interest of their company and its bottom line. But for me, IT SUCKS! On so many levels.
My agent, who has been by my side through all of this, consoled me. Encouraged me. (Although, let's be honest, nothing anyone says is going to make me feel better right now. I need to wallow in this for a bit before I can get past it.) She also gave me a hard dose of reality. Because of my low sales and poor reviews and cancellation of my third book, the chances she'll be able to sell anything new under this pen name to another publisher is slim. What publisher would want to take a risk on an author with such a bad track record? Again, this would be a business decision for any publisher--I get that, and I'm not trying to place the blame on anyone. It just is what it is.
But what does this mean for my alter-ego? She's done. Finished. I will never write another book under this name. (Unless I want to self-publish, which I don't want to do. But more on that below.) On the surface, that probably doesn't seem like a big deal, but when I step back and look at the fact that I've spent the last THREE YEARS building this persona... I feel like I've wasted all of that time. I feel like I could've been doing something else, something more productive, something with a higher pay-off.
I have officially hit rock bottom. I'm numb. I'm sad. I'm angry. I'm confused. I feel like a complete failure. And now, more than ever, I want to delete every trace of social media, set my laptop on fire, crawl into a deep hole and hide forever.
You're probably wondering why I chose to share this long, depressing, embarrassing story of failure with the world. Well, because there aren't enough of these types of stories out there. Day after day after day we hear about six-figure deals, movie options, awards, best sellers lists.... And day after day after day, we wonder, why not me?
It can be hard to see all those success stories while you're struggling every day to open your WIP or write a single word or send a single query. I want you to know:
YOU'RE NOT ALONE!
If you take nothing else away from this blog post, please take that. You are not alone. I'm struggling, too, and I'd bet there are dozens if not hundreds of other authors out there who're questioning if they should keep going. And you know what?
It's okay to feel unsure, to wonder if you're cut out for this business, to question the things you write. Don't get angry for doubting yourself. Embrace those feelings. Because it's not the feelings that are bad--It's what you choose to do with them that makes the difference. You can let them beat you down, or you can use them as fuel to come back swinging.
I honestly don't know where to go from here. But I do know I'm re-evaluating everything about my writing career, right down to what genre and age category I want to write from this point forward. I have made a few decisions, though...
- I will no longer be writing adult romance, as Kara or as anyone else. As a result of this decision, I have split with my agent. She reps romance, and if I'm not writing romance... You get the point. I have no ill feelings toward my now former agent. I wish her and the agency all the best.
- Above all else, I'm going to take some time for me. I'm taking the rest of the year off from writing. I'm going to start going back to the gym. I'm going to finally make a dent in my TBR pile. I'm going to enjoy the upcoming holidays with my family without looming deadlines or guilt for not writing any words on a given day.
- When I do come back to writing--and I will--I'm planning to focus on YA. I've written quite a few young adult stories, and I have ideas for a lot more, and it's about time I did something with all of them.
As a very close friend said to me recently: "We can't have talent and passion and get no where with it. I refuse to believe that."
I refuse to believe that, too!