Because I by now believed that if I somehow found the juice to get up again... I would just keep on getting assigned to bad editors or losing good editors (who resigned or got laid off). I would keep seeing my books published in a mediocre-to-inept manner despite all the glittering hints dropped and the unfulfilled promises made to me. Publisher after publisher would just keep dumping me. (And no one can build a career that way; I’d spent my entire professional life just fighting to keep my head above water while various publishers tried to drown me.) I would just keep entering new agency relationships that soon wound up like celebrity marriages: tabloid fodder and 911 calls. I by now believed this would never change. The exact same crap that had been happening to me repeatedly since the start of my career would just keep happening.
I was in a very dark place. Even now, years later and happy in my career, I feel sad remembering it.
Yet despite how unhappy and drained I was back then, I didn’t consider quitting. I had tried twice before to quit writing (precisely because I was sick to death of the publishing industry) and found that I couldn’t. I’m a writer. That’s who I am and what I do. I can’t change; I know, because I tried.
I had also learned that as long as I was going to write, I wanted to be paid for it. This is my full-time selfsupporting profession, not my hobby. I’m proud of it — and it’s also all that I know how to do. I sold my first book when I was 25, and I’d only had a series of odd jobs before that, not a profession.
And six years ago, being paid for writing necessarily meant dealing with publishers. So after spending a few months curled up in a fetal position, I finally got myself up off the mat (once again). I did it by focusing on this guiding principle: Follow your bliss, and take charge of your fate. For me, this necessarily included shedding literary agents from my business model — a decision that was easy to implement, since no agents wanted me, anyhow. It also meant doing a broad submission with the second book of my recently canceled urban fantasy series, despite conventional wisdom (among agents, at least) that the series was now unmarketable.
That submission wasn’t the only iron I planned to stick in the fire, but things happened so fast after that, I never commenced Plan B (or C, or D, or E). Within a few weeks of submission, I had a good offer from DAW Books, a prominent sf/f house. And since they were my top pick (due to their unusual reputation for treating authors and books well), I was back to feeling resilient and full of try.
What’s brand new and completely unprecedented, though, is that six years later... things are still going well for me at DAW Books. This isn’t just the longest good run I’ve ever had at a house; it’s the only good run I’ve ever had at a house. Signing with DAW Books (which my third and fourth agents kept declining to submit my work to, by the way) has created a huge sea change in my career and my professional experiences.
They’ve edited, packaged, and published my books well. They’ve consistently treated my work like a valued professional asset and treated me like a respected partner in the publishing process. They pay me well and promptly, and they’ve kept all their promises to me. The first five books of my urban fantasy series are in print (including book #1, which DAW reissued after I retrieved the rights from the original publisher), the sixth book will be released this year, and I am currently under contract through book #10 — of a series that was previously dumped, unwanted, and characterized to me any number of times as unmarketable.
In working with DAW Books, I am finally building career momentum rather than just trying not to drown.
And I am finally happy in my career, rather than perpetually resigned, resentful, anxious, depressed, demoralized, and stressed. This is also the first time in my career that my income has ever been stable enough for me to buy a home — which I did nine months ago.
In other words... I’ve reached Oz! I’m here! And it really is the Emerald City!
Yeah, sure, this publishing relationship could fall apart and go to hell; the earth was made round, after all, to ensure that we can’t see too far down the road. But I’m grateful that I’ve so far had six good years with DAW — which is at least five good years more than I’ve ever had with any other house. (And, in fact, this wholly unprecedented experience has restored my optimism; so, I feel like this could continue going well for some time.)
So, I want to assure my fellow authors, some of whom may be struggling to stay afloat in the sewageridden swamps where I spent so many years trying not to drown, that Oz really exists, and this is what it looks like: a company that publishes your work well, treats you as a respected professional partner, and keeps its promises to you.