Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Count on Change

By Amy MacKinnon

Many of you may have read award-winning author Jenny Crusie's post last summer, one that left the industry gasping just a bit. In it, she detailed the luncheon when her agent "broke-up" with her. I know, the mere mention of such a thing is verboten in writing circles, but there it is.

And did you read about the cancellation of various imprints? Imagine if your book, the one you spent months, if not years, writing and revising, was plucked from the slush pile by your dream agent -- oh, happy day! -- sold to an enthusiastic editor -- life is good! -- only to have the publishing house shutter the imprint? Oh dear dog.

Then there are the books publishers expect to be blockbusters, usually the works of untested debut novelists. The writer enjoys a ginormous advance that's widely publicized; the marketing team at the publishing house is eager to push the book out into the world with a six figure campaign; and every one in the industry is certain this is the break-out book of the season -- even the reviews are good. But for some reason the book doesn't quite take off and no one knows why exactly. The poor writer thought he was on path only to learn his journey was terribly off course. It happens.

Last week, though it seems much longer ago, my editor, my beloved editor, called to tell me she'd taken a position with another house. I was devastated -- though not entirely surprised.

Welcome to publishing where life can turn on a dime. Expect change. Never say never. There is no arriving in this business. And that's okay. That's just how it is. Have you read Jenny Crusie's post yet? She took the news with aplomb because she knows getting a book published isn't about happily-ever-after-the-end. It's more an erratic continum.

Enough sob stories. Are you ready for a happy "change" story now? Well, there's this author who sold a novel, trade paperback, to a great publisher. Her book earned a starred review and was well-received by readers. She wrote another, but the editor outright rejected it, asked for a sequel to the first. The sequel, also trade paperback, did well, too. The writer was building a solid career. But that writer couldn't stop thinking about her second book. She took it out, worked on it some more, and tried again. Her agent believed in the book, too. Months and months later, that book her first editor rejected is still on the New York Times' bestseller list.

One more? The day after my editor broke the news, my publisher called. Shaye Areheart is a woman whose career I've followed for years, not with any expectation that I would ever be on her list, but because I so admired the writers whose careers she personally guided. I even managed to interview her once for story I was preparing on the publishing industry. I was giddy when she agreed and utterly charmed by our conversation. She was gracious, funny, generous with her insights, and told me some of the most memorable stories about her career in publishing. Well, I'm thrilled to say Shaye will personally be taking on my book.

So remember, don't be surprised when everything changes. It will. But be assured that there's one thing that never has to and that's your joy for writing. Love your words, stay true to your story. Don't waver in your desire for writing the best book you're capable of. Be passionate.

Never allow that to change.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, Amy, as I read this my heart was in my throat for you--I've been in a similar spot and you just think, "oh my goodness, this can't be happening, not now, not to me" but then you look around, see how many other people have not only survived but thrived through such situations, and you figure, "I've gotten this far; I'll land on my feet, somehow, someway." And, my dear, you not only landed on your feet, you landed a few big steps ahead of where you were. Yeah!

Lisa Marnell said...


A very wise writer once said: "..." That's because you really can't see the future and what's the point in speculating.

Another very wise writer, Linda Sue Parks at the SCBWI conference in the Big Apple last year said: "It's about the story, stupid." I reviewed those notes yesterday when tidying my study; I had forgotten that quote. It sure hit home, though.

Shauna Roberts said...

I'm glad everything turned out all right in the end for you—or even better than before. I have my fingers crossed for you that you'll have no more upsets.

Carleen Brice said...

Ain't it the truth, Ruth! Fantabulous post. And congrats on getting to work directly with your publisher!

Larramie said...

Wow, Amy, one apartment door closed on you only to have the penthouse golden gates swing wide
open. TETHERED must be even beyond my incredible expectations. ;) Change is good and you deserve it all!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Jud, and you wormked through the change so well! Good for you. As long as my children are well, I figure I can get through anything.

Lisa, you know so many wise writers...luckily, I do too.

Shauna, that's a very kind thing to say. Thank you and I wish for you the same.

Carleen, you are the beans! Thanks. Are you holding up okay with Orange Mint & Honey set to debut within days?!

Larramie! You've been such a beacon of hope, thank you. I truly hope my book doesn't disappoint.


Lisa said...

Counting on change is a wise strategy. It is rare to find much continuity anywhere these days -- business partners change jobs, your favorite hair stylist moves on, your neighbors up and move, your bank sells your mortgage, your phone company gets bought out -- and via my subscription to PW, I can see that there is a ton of movement in the publishing industry. I am so glad this change hasn't upset anything for you. I think it's just a reaffirmation that we shouldn't count on anything staying the same -- except change.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

That's right, Lisa. Consider your post today, talk about change.


Eileen said...

This is the strangest business I know. Huge congrats on how things worked out.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Eileen, isn'tit crazy? That's why we need to be our own port in the storm, though I have to say I like a good storm.

BTW, I received my Amazon alert the other day notifying me UNPREDICTABLE is available to order. Huge congratutions!!


Patry Francis said...

Amy, I remember talking to you after this happened to me--and feeling sure it wouldn't repeat itself in your case. So glad you greeted the news with an open heart and mind, and were rewarded in such a magnificent way.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Patry, gosh, I remember that. It's aq terrifying prospect when the future of your book feels as though it's been placed in limbo, but in both of our cases it worked out well. And very soon the trade paperback edition of THE LIAR'S DIARY will be on sale -- just days away. See how far you've come? And so many miles to go...