- by Laura Resnick
My new urban fantasy novel, Doppelgangster, is a good example of why I always say that perseverance is the single most important quality a professional writer needs. It took me over a decade to get this novel into print. (I was, meanwhile, selling and writing other books.)
I first wrote the proposal for this fantasy series in the 1990s. My then-agent sent it to three houses. They all rejected it. The agent retired the proposal, refusing to send it elsewhere or to discuss the matter further. Urban fantasy was a dead subgenre, the agent said, and that was that.
As urban fantasy subsequently became more popular on television and then in fiction, I broached the subject of my series several times with this agent—who either ignored me or else bit my head off. So the Esther Diamond series gathered dust in my trunk (figuratively speaking) while I continued writing other books.
For many reasons, I finally left that agent. I soon thereafter started submitting the Esther Diamond series. It picked up several rejections, but got a good multi-book offer from a major house within a couple of months. In a decision which I now regard as ill-advised, but which seemed to make sense at the time, I hired another agent (my fourth), who negotiated the on-the-table deal.
My editor was wonderfully upbeat about the first book, which was very gratifying, since getting this series under contract had been a long haul. Unfortunately, though, the book was published with a very weak cover, no marketing or promotional support, and was released in paperback in mid-December—the worst time of year for a paperback novel aimed primarily at women (who are buying for everyone but themselves in the 2-3 weeks before Christmas). The book, called Disappearing Nightly, disappeared overnight.
Publishing is a highly competitive and largely unforgiving business. The poor sales figures which naturally resulted from the publishing factors described above ensured that the publisher canceled my contract while I was working on the second book, Doppelgangster.
So the series had lasted all of one book. (However, I thought that, given the circumstances, being dumped after just one book was for the best. I believed this series could be salvaged with just one “failed” book on its rap sheet; but I knew that it couldn’t possibly be saved if the same publisher had poorly published the second book, too. Esther Diamond would have died permanently, in that case.)
Meanwhile, my (fourth) agent now all-too-clearly viewed me as a guest who had overstayed her welcome, so that association ended soon after my contract was canceled.
Despite the weak sales figures on the first book and the spiraling condition of the publishing market, I still believed in the Esther Diamond series. Unfortunately, none of the literary agents whom I now queried believed in it (or in any of the other work that I showed to them).
Finally, I gave up on agents (permanently, as it turned out) and started working on selling the next Esther Diamond book, Doppelgangster, by myself. I researched the market, and I came up with a list of names for my first round of submissions, which I sent out.
In less than a month, I got a multi-book offer from a major house for slightly better money than my (fourth) literary agent had gotten me back when this series was shiny and new, rather than dragging around weak sales figures from a badly-published first book.
The new publisher, DAW Books, a respected fantasy house which has been around for years (and which is part of the Penguin USA publishing behemoth) was tremendously enthused upon acquisition and has consistently maintained that high level of enthusiasm for Esther Diamond throughout the publishing process for Doppelgangster, which was released about ten days ago. They’ve done a terrific job of packaging this book, and they’ve given it tremendous marketing support and attention.
The next Esther Diamond book, Unsympathetic Magic, will be released in summer, and Esther’s fourth adventure, Vamparazzi, will be published next year. DAW will also reissue the first book in the series, Disappearing Nightly, with a new cover (publication date TBA).
So that’s all it takes. Stick with a project through multiple agents who don’t want to handle it, multiple publishers that reject it, a badly-published first release, a canceled contract, and more submissions and rejections… and you, too, can be “lucky” enough to have a book published!