“I now believe that, for the rest of my career, I will keep delivering good books into what turn out
Boy, was I depressed when I wrote that on NINClink more than six years ago. Depressed for months, in fact. For a while there, I could barely get out of bed. I couldn’t see anything but gray fog.
That’s what this business had done to me.
After losing yet another publisher in the summer of 2006 and losing yet another agent that autumn, I was really struggling with the all-too-familiar challenge of getting up off the mat again.
This was roughly the sixth time I’d lost a publisher (they either dumped me or folded under me); it was such a frequent occurrence in my career that I was losing count. This publisher had also damaged my previously healthy sales figures in the fantasy genre before dumping me. (Thanks, guys! Nice parting gift.)
This was also the fourth literary agent I’d parted with on sour terms. (One dumped me; I fired three.) Noticeably disengaged even before the publisher dumped me, the agent was thereafter “busy” or “unavailable.” After a couple of months of this, she one day mistakenly thought I’d sold a book without her, and she contacted me to demand that I pay her a commission on it. There was no book deal (no submission, nothing), but take a wild guess at what I decided to do about this agent at that point.
Anyhow, throughout many years of such events, my ability to get back up after taking a hit had always been my most reliable quality. It was the reason I had a career: because I always got back up. It was just what I did.
But in late 2006, I was so winded, I couldn’t do it. I just lay there, depressed, demoralized, and deeply pessimistic.
Prior to that instance, I had always believed, through years of a very rocky, grueling, disheartening career, that I’d eventually get past the bad times and finally be in a stable association with an engaged agent, a capable editor, and a good publisher. For years, I’d survived blow after blow by relying on that gut-level conviction that if I hung in there, stuck it out, kept trying, and kept getting up off the mat, things would eventually change. I’d get to that golden place. I’d reach Oz.
But after losing yet another publisher and being let down by yet another agent, I just couldn’t get up again. Maybe it was because of the force of that double-punch: publisher and agent, each so full of the usual promises when we first met, had done a sharp one-two number on me: Bam, BAM!
Or maybe this had just been one too many blows for me. Over the years, every promising new association, opportunity, or circumstance in my career soon delivered a sucker punch, and I wound up lying on the mat again. Every prince turned into a toad. Every garden turned into a swamp. Every damn time.
I was all out of optimism. All out of try. This industry had finally managed to suck it all out of me, and now I was empty. I didn’t know how to get up and keep going anymore.