As writers just starting out, I think we all fantasize about what our publishing journey will look like. Some of us dream of the traditional book deal: querying agents and receiving multiple offers, followed by a fast and lucrative auction with all the major publishers. Movie rights. Accolades. The works. Others of us dream of self-publishing and retaining control over the creative process, using our entrepreneurial spirit to find just the right cover and marketing tactic to become an overnight sensation. The money rolls in.
The thing is, those fantasies are just that. No one’s publishing journey follows the exact trajectory of someone else’s. There’s no “one” way, and there are no guarantees. There are a million ways to fail in this business. Disappointment is much more common than delight. Which, yeah I know, super depressing.
But that’s where I’m going with this…failure doesn’t have to be depressing. In publishing – okay, probably in life too, but let’s not get too philosophical – failure often turns into opportunity. Here are a few examples of when a failure changed my publishing life for the better:
- My first novel – a NaNoWriMo gem – received its very first personalized feedback from an agent who rejected a partial manuscript. Yup, he rejected it. But he gave me actionable. He took the time to share his thoughts, and they led to a major revision. Less than a month later, I received three offers of representation on the manuscript.
- One agent, three books, all no. I thought finding an agent would be the hardest part. Boy was I wrong. I wrote three books that didn’t sell. Three books I believed in, that I loved. No one wanted them. My agent and I finally parted ways. But, because that door closed…I decided to self-publish. And I LOVED IT.
- I self-published all three of my novels. I loved the process, the control, the excitement when a new review came in. I felt my confidence returning, after so many years toiling towards an industry that didn’t seem to want me. But my sales were pathetic. Nearly nonexistent. From every financial perspective, self-publishing had failed for me. Except I was having fun. And that’s when I got a call from Alloy Entertainment. That’s when I met this incredible editorial team and was offered a book deal. I never would have gotten a chance to work with this team if I’d sold to a traditional publisher five years ago.
Without these failures, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. My skin would be a little thinner. My writing a little less personal. I have so much pride, knowing how much I overcame to reach this point, and how much of my success I earned by working hard at my craft. It makes the successes that much sweeter and sustains me through the insane deadlines that come with working with a publisher.
What failures have led to exciting new opportunities for you? What moments do you feel were turning points in your career? Share now, and I’ll pick one random commenter to receive a kindle copy of my scifi YA adventure, Rebel Wing (which, incidentally, was the third book I wrote…and the one that Alloy Entertainment snagged from the indie slush pile.) Best of luck on your publishing journeys, and may you find the fortitude to embrace your failures along with your successes!
Award-winning author, Army wife, and mom Tracy Banghart has an MA in Publishing and an unhealthy affection for cupcakes. Her quiet childhood led to a reading addiction, writing obsession, and several serious book boyfriends. She’s the author of the Rebel Wing series, released by Alloy Entertainment.