During my association with my third agent, I worked on a proposal that I felt was exactly what I should be writing: A comedic urban fantasy series about a struggling actress in New York who stumbles into various supernatural misadventures via her career. I wrote a multi-book proposal, a series overview, and the first few chapters of book one, which I titled Disappearing Nightly.
My then-agent sent it to three houses. They all rejected it. The agent permanently retired the proposal, refusing to send it out again whenever I thereafter raised the subject. (A key reason I eventually ceased working with agents altogether is that, in my own too-consistent experience, they lack persistence; and I can't maintain a writing career without it.)
After I fired that agent, one of the projects I promptly sent out—and sold!—was Disappearing Nightly. Finally, years after I wrote the proposal, I was going to get it under contract and published! After I got the offer on the table, I also made the foolish and very expensive mistake of hiring my fourth agent to "negotiate" the deal. (I said I was persistent, not smart.)
Well, alas, the house did a poor job of publishing Disappearing Nightly, sales were weak, and they cancelled the rest of my contract and dumped me. My fourth agent also shed me then. (Technically, I fired the agent; but that's a lot like saying, "I filed for divorce after I discovered that my spouse had left me.")
No literary agents whom I queried wanted to touch me with a 10-foot pole after that. Whatever else they may have found unattractive about me (my writing, my sales figures, my personality, etc.), they all candidly disliked my plan to resurrect this canceled series by selling book two, Doppelgangster. All of them warned me that this plan wouldn’t work.
But if you want something to happen, then you must make it so.
I quit looking at agents then (permanently, as it turned out) and did a broad submission on my own of Doppelgangster. Happily, my top pick for this project, a longtime sf/f house with a great reputation, saw the material's potential and made a good offer on it. They did a terrific job of relaunching the series with Doppelgangster. They subsequently released the third and fourth books, Unsympathetic Magic (2010) and Vamparazzi (2011), and they signed me for books five and six, Polterheist (2012) and The Misfortune Cookie (2013).
And I'm only at this party because every single time someone told me to go down for the dirt nap, I didn't cooperate. Any other explanation (the material was good, I got lucky, the stars aligned, etc.) is irrelevant compared to the one factor that has made all the difference here: persistence.
Meanwhile, Disappearing Nightly had disappeared overnight. (Sorry. I can never resist that.) With the series relaunched, I soon encountered a lot of complaints from readers because the first book was unavailable.
Many other readers declared they wouldn't even try a series if they couldn't start it with the first book. Foolishly, I hadn't anticipated this. In fact, I had made a deliberate decision early on to structure each novel as a stand-alone story within the series arc precisely because I avoid series that only make sense when read in chronological order. I'm just not organized enough to read that way.
Fortunately, I managed to get the rights back to Disappearing Nightly. I also had to hire a lawyer when that publisher, after reverting all rights, released an e-edition of Disappearing Nightly (also published badly) and then behaved like sulky, recalcitrant teenagers when I advised them of their mistake.
There's always one more wrinkle.
Anyhow, now I finally had the rights back to this out-of-print novel, and I had eliminated the first publisher's unauthorized e-book from the market.... But it turned out that I still couldn't get Disappearing Nightly back into the market. My new publisher wanted to release it, but they were (reasonably) concerned that a reissue would experience lower sales; and (here's a familiar tale) the distribution system of print books is so dysfunctional that they were worried this would hurt subsequent orders on the new books, thus damaging the growth of the series.
This job never gets easier, does it?
Yes, I considered self-publishing the novel as an e-book, but I didn’t want to do that. I really wanted, after all this time and struggle, to get the entire series under one umbrella, with consistent packaging, production, marketing, and distribution for all the titles.
So I did the only thing I could think of: I nagged. I stuck with this strategy for more than a year. I didn't quit. And then something lucky finally happened, at long last: A book dropped out of the release schedule