When Your Publisher Closes Their Door you stand there and stare at it.
After the shock wears off, you reach for the handle. Only there’s one problem; it’s locked. Worse? You don’t have the key.
If you’re like me, you might collapse against that door in defeat. You may even cry for a bit.
But then you realize there’s got to be another way. You look around. There’s three other walls, each with a window. There’s also a ceiling and the floor you’re standing on, of course. You’re not Spiderman so scaling walls isn’t your thing. You’re not Rumpelstiltskin, so stomping your way through the floor isn’t an option (although, after that tantrum you threw, you’re pretty sure you’d be strong enough to do it if you didn’t fracture your bones first). You’re not without tools – you’re equipped with a pencil, a pad of paper and your trusted companion.
No, not your dog.
Sunlight pours in through the windows and you begin to realize things aren’t as gloomy as you once thought.
You glance out each window.
One has a literary agent.
The other an editor.
The third window has a glare. You don’t know what’s behind it but you’re convinced it’s a monster.
You stand up, brush yourself off and go to the window with the agent. She smiles. You write something on your pad of paper and press it against the window. The agent holds up a note asking you to open the window. You can’t believe it! An open window! You have a nice conversation with this agent and you realize how much you like her. She’d be a great champion for your work. Unfortunately, she decides she’s not the best person to represent this project.
But, once she steps away, you see there are other agents. They also tell you to leave the window open. For your next project.
So you glance at the editor and head in her direction. Before you even reach her window, she puts up a note. Even from this distance you see what it says. It’s an offer. She wants to publish your book. You stop in your tracks. An offer!
The editor asks you to open the window. And so you do. She hands you the contract and you start to review it. You glance back at the closed door behind you and your heart sinks. You’ve been down this path before. Your editor was great. REALLY great. But the expertise of a literary agent to help you with your contracts (amongst other things) would have been worth her weight in gold. You tell the editor how grateful you are and return to the agent. Unfortunately, she sticks with her decision. So you kindly reject the editor’s generous offer (but not without a huge knot in your stomach and sweaty palms because you question if you’re making a mistake). She tells you to keep the window open and so you do.
But for this book, you’re out of options. Sure, you could shelve it and bring it back out later but you have readers and they’re waiting for this final story in the series. And so you sit in the center of the room, too depressed to write. Heck, you’re too depressed to even talk to your friends.
You turn off social media.
You close the blinds.
You can’t deal with it anymore.
You’re shutting down.
In fact, you’re not even sure if you want to write anymore. The rejection is too hard. The obstacles too cumbersome.
And even as you write this, the pain is still real and raw and you start crying all over again.
But then something stirs in you. Maybe it’s hunger. It’s been a while since you’ve eaten anything. But you feel something else. Something that feels like determination. Either way, you get up. Your legs are wobbly but you gain your footing quickly. You decide you want to go to that window with the glare.
It could be something fantastic on the other side.
Or it could be a monster.
You could find success waiting for you.
Or you could get gobbled up.
Either way, you win.
You’ve still got your pen and paper. If it’s a monster, you can simply write your way out of the belly of the beast.
When you finally reach the window you see a familiar face. It’s one of your friends! She knocks on the glass and waves. You open the window. She urges you to join her. You’re intimidated and overwhelmed but you take her hand and climb out. She promises to show you the ropes – it’s a steep learning curve, but you can do it. And so you embrace your new journey of self-publishing. You do it right though. You hire editors, cover designers, formatters, and submit your book for review.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Because you write more books. And those windows are still open. The editors and agents are waiting. And you definitely want to work with them again.
The point is, even though things got rough, you didn’t give up. You explored your options. And you made the choice that was right for you. And only YOU get to decide how to measure your success.
And just so you know you’re not alone, you do some research and realize there are other children’s authors who succeeded in the face of failure:
Kate DiCamillo faced 473 rejections before finally obtaining a publishing contract.
The story of JK Rowling’s rejections is well known but even she continued to face rejection after the success of Harry Potter.
Madeleine L’engle, Rudyard Kipling, Anne Frank, and Beatrix Potter all faced rejection.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was a self-published serial before being acquired by Feiwel and Friends. It went on to win prestigious awards.
The Secret Zoo is another self-published middle-grade novel that was later acquired by a publisher. School Library Journal called it a “…fast paced mix of mystery and fantasy…”
Author Daniel Kenney is making a living wage with his self published endeavors in middle-grade books.
For the older crowd in children’s literature there’s even more success stories.
Authors of The Fat Boy Chronicles self-published their book. They met success in schools and quickly went on to sign with a traditional publisher.
Christopher Paolini self published Eragon before it was picked up by Knopf books.
Tiger’s Curse was self-published by Colleen Houck, who is now a NYTimes bestselling author.
Amanda Hocking is another successful self published author who sold over nine million copies of her books before signing with St. Martin’s Press.
And this recent article in PW featuring author Intasar Khanani’s book deal reveals the power of great writing, including that of self-published authors.
For the picture book crowd, there’s been success as well.
There’s Pete the Cat
The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep
And let’s not forget about How to Talk to Girls .
So when that door closes in your face, remember success comes in many forms and only you can decide which window you want to climb through.
Amie Borst is the author of the Scarily Ever Laughter series; Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and Snow Fright. She’s a champion of all authors, traditional, indie and everything in between. Because as they sing in High School Musical, We’re All in This Together. You can find her on her website www.amieborst.com