Tuesday, November 28, 2006

You Can't Always Get What You Want . . .

Jacky, Jessica, and I were having a conversation the other day about how life has a wondrous way of balancing itself. Every time we find ourselves needing to buy a new roof, shelling out cash for taxes, or buying a new engine for our car, we often land some kind of windfall that is just enough to take care of it. And just as predictably, any time we find ourselves the grateful recipients of some sort of monetary gift or lottery, we immediately come up with all sorts of fun shopping we can do, but some kind of bad luck befalls us and sucks that dough right out of our hands. We may not always get that cute little pair of red boots at Bloomingdale's that we wanted, but we always seem to get what we need.

Humming a little Rolling Stones to myself, I got to thinking how often this is the case in the publishing industry. Authors and agents have a LOT of expectations for the books they submit out into the wild blue yonder. Most professional authors think they have a clear idea of the best way to market their book, the type of cover it will get and the way it will be placed on a publishing house’s schedule. In fact, it’s important that our clients do strategize this way, because the publishing industry is a business first and foremost, so it’s important to approach it as a businessperson, not just artistically. Still, with all of the thought we and our clients put into this stuff, circumstances change. We land the windfall—a contract—and we have all sorts of ideas about how the finished book should turn out. But the longer I’m working on this side of the business, the more I’m seeing that there can be some unexpected turns. While we may not welcome them at first, they usually turn out for the best in the end.

For instance, one of my clients thought she’d written a quiet, slightly controversial literary novel that would have a modest hardcover printing and garner some nice reviews. Instead, Bantam is publishing the book next summer at the top of their list as mass-market women’s fiction. The author’s brain had to do a 180-degree turn, but she knows that she’ll reach a lot more readers this way and it’s the best possible opportunity for launching her writing career. The change was jarring, but completely thrilling, too.

Another client published her first book a few months ago, and unfortunately the numbers aren’t what we’d hoped. We’re finding the romance audience just isn’t large enough for the particular time period and setting that the novel covered. Now she’s hard at work on something that’s quite different from that first book, and I’m super excited about it. I have a feeling this will reinvigorate her writing and push her to a whole new level. We don’t know what the payoff will be yet, but I’m confident this turn will grow her career.

And this sort of stuff happens in many aspects of my job. Another agent may have snapped up an author I was interested in, before I could. But the next week, I come across a submission I connect with even more and I sign the author right away. So any time you think a disappointment’s come your way, just cue up the ITunes and hum along with Mick, because it’s all going to work out for the best.



Anonymous said...

This is so true. In life in general, I have always found that when you're at a time distance from any event, and able to look at it in retrospect, it inevitably turns out for the best. Not necessarily how you might want, but for the best all around.

So I am totally not surprised that it works the same way in publishing. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

John Lennon said it best.
Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

Anonymous said...

lol - anonymous beat me to the punch line. I actually was about to post a similar comment. When I clicked on comments it said 0 comments - so I thought I was the first one. But I agree, things turn out the way they are supposed to - that is what I keep telling my other writing friends - although they are kind of stubborn. They have plans and ideas and thoughts of what they want for their books, but I keep telling them that just because they want to be published by a big publishing house, that sometimes that is not the case and in the long run, they will be better off. One of them knows how difficult it is to get with a big publishing house, considering there are really only like what six out there. She used to be an editor and I'm not sure why she's not still working in the industry but she's definitely not happy in the job she is now. She loves to write and I have a feeling and hope that she will be well known. The other one hasn't put much out there yet but she's well on her way. She should be to the querying stage by this time next year so hopefully within a couple of years, she also will be picked up and make it big as a writer. Me on the other hand, I'm not concerned if I never get published, my writing is for pleasure only, something I enjoy doing. I'm not stressing myself to get published or anything but if the demand for the youth book I'm working on now is great enough then I can always got the route of self-publishing on www.lulu.com or go through one of the other vanity presses or whatever they are called nowadays. My goal is just to complete the story and worry about the rest later -

I know that good things come to those who wait and that in the end, the best things happen to good people - E :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. At the time when we are all supposed to be "giving thanks", it's important to remember that we *do* get what we need and that being snarky about not getting what we want sometimes gets in the way of recognizing that!

Kate Douglas said...

I definitely agree with your post, Kim. You've got to adapt, and things will work out for the best. Perfect example--my goal, originally, was to write for Harlequin American romances. Twenty years later I'm writing over-the-top paranormal erotic romances for Kensington. Who'd a'thunk it?

Anonymous said...

Life is either filled with head-ons or near misses. Sometimes good things come when least expected, and other times we have to work for them. It just helps us grow, as writers, as family members and as people.
Great post!

Stacia said...

Yep. My husband always asks me why I don't panic and worry about things--it's because the universe hates a vacuum. Things always work out.

(Which doesn't mean I sit around and do nothing, it just means that after I've done everything I can, I have faith.)

Anonymous said...

Twelve years ago, I was fired from my ad agency job, and thought my life was over. I was humiliated and depressed.

Then I realized that this was my chance to write fiction (something I thought I'd do after I retired).

Today, I work as a freelance writer. I've had several short stories published and I have an agent for my novel. No publishing contract yet (which gives me a lot of heartache), but I'm in a place I never dreamed I would be.

Thanks for the reminder that life is full of wonderful surprises.

Loralee said...

Speaking of disappointments from the writer's side, it really helps to have an agent who refuses to let it get you down. I'm not a Mick fan, Kim, but will Lyle Lovett do just as well? And by the way, thanks for the push.

Anonymous said...

I agree, things normally work themselves out. Although sometimes I hate the answers. But I would like to ask, how many of you are familiar with the gent out in Washington DC who hovers over a computer in some dark gloomy room? The one who watches your accounts, esp. your "put aside money" account. The same one who when you think you're getting ahead, pushes one of his function keys, and POOF! your refridgerator goes out, or the transmission in your car, or even the roof starts leaking? I HATE that guy!

Anonymous said...

If you only knew how close to home this post hit, it would knock you out of your chair (thankfully, however, your fall would be cushioned by that pestering pile of queries!) :)
My husband was injured very badly in an accident 14 months ago (ok, 14 months, 2 weeks and 6 days, but who's counting?). He is lucky to be alive and is still recovering, but will be ok. I won't go into all the 'luck' that we've happened upon since... like how when I thought I wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage, I got a bonus at work, or when we had a sick puppy, an unexpected insurance overage check came in the mail.
Life is just funny that way, I guess. Just when we think there is no hope, BAM! (as Emeril would say), there it is, almost laughing at how we could feel so helpless.
Which brings me to my endeavor as an author. I never had really thought about writing a book before, although I've always loved to write. But, I was inspired and it sparked a story inside of me. With all the stresses life had dealt, it was such a great release and before I knew it, I was writing the last sentence to a book... my very first book.
I sent Kim a query and even though I have not heard back yet, (sing it Mick!) I'm beginning to see that the first book that poured out of me, well, that was life's little way of showing me that I had a passion I didn't even know about. One of those nice little surprises.

One day last week, my husband -being the socialite he is, met an older lady and her husband and struck up a conversation, covering the details of his past year.
She said, 'Wow! You should write a book about that!'.
In all of this craziness, I'd never really even considered a book about him and his story (which IS incredible). His life as a whole is a Lifetime movie in the making... I had just been too busy living in it to see it.

...there it was, another one of those moments.

Anonymous said...

Glad I could throw a little inspiration your way... Yes, Loralee, Lyle's "That's Right, You're Not From Texas" can be quite uplifting as well. And on those days that I'm really needing a jolt, there's always the Man in Black...