What Do You Do When It All Falls Apart?

Photo from Morguefile.com
Photo from Morguefile.com

What Do You Do When It All Falls Apart?


That’s the whole post.

Okay, not really.

If you stick with this writing gig long enough, sooner or later everything’s going to fall apart around your ears. That’s not pessimism talking—it’s just the way publishing goes. Although, if you’re really, really lucky, maybe it won’t happen. Honestly, I hope it doesn’t. I hope somebody out there gets to have a happy, untroubled writing career.

I do know that person is not me.

I contracted my first novel in 1999, and since then I’ve had more publishers disappear under me than I care to count. Right now, I’m waiting to hear if Samhain Publishing is actually going to disappear or if there’s going to be another solution. I have seven books there. Weirdly, when the initial announcement was made that they were going out of business, I didn’t panic. Instead, I started thinking about options. I had a book out on submissions at the time, and within the next few days, it came back with yet another rejection. Which surprised me, because I really thought this was going to be a book with a wider appeal. Apparently not. But that’s life.

So what do you do when publishers disappear? When nobody wants to buy the manuscript you were sure was going to be your big break into mainstream publishing? When the manuscripts you do sell are selling in single figures on a reliable basis?

Well, you can quit. Or you can not quit.

Thing is, writers are the most stubborn creatures God ever invented. And if writing is your thing above all things, you’re not going to stop. You’re going to keep going. And going, and going, like that stupid bunny with the drum.

But should you keep going on the same path? Maybe, or maybe not. It’s my thought that if you start to feel like you’re slamming your head into a wall, then it might be time to reevaluate.

No, not quit. Reevaluate. There are so many paths to publication nowadays that it’s dizzying. If your quest to crack into traditional publishing is making you want to play in traffic, maybe it’s time to try something else. I’ve been focused on small press publishers, and I’m thinking it might be time to dive really hard off the board into the deep side of the pool of self-publishing. (Was that a good metaphor? It felt a little forced…)

So I’m reevaluating right now. I’m planning something new with the manuscript that was rejected (it’s been rejected several times). And I’ve got a few new projects that I’m thinking about tailoring to a focused self-pub effort. I’m also revamping my websites and trying to build some social media infrastructure to support those efforts when I get the stories finished. I’m also trying really, really hard to rewire my thought processes so I can set my goals according to what publishing is like now instead of what it was ten years ago. It’s a never-ending process.

So what should you do when it all falls apart? Cry if you want—sometimes it helps. Eat chocolate. Take a long, hot bath. And then get back to work.

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Katriena Knights
I am a full-time writer and editor with over three gajillion published novels/novellas/short stories/what have you. My latest book is Summoning Sebastian from Samhain Publishing. I live in the mountains of Colorado with my kids, numerous pets, 4,000 mice and about 9 million voles. Also spiders. Why do I live in Colorado again?

For more about me, my stories, and my dubious life choices, drop by my Patreon site at patreon.com/katrienaknights or my twitter at twitter.com/crazywritinfool or any of the other popular social media destinations listed in this profile.

13 thoughts on “What Do You Do When It All Falls Apart?

  1. A lot of RMFW authors are in the same place you are, Katriena. My publisher, Five Star, just shut down its mystery line and will only be publishing novels in the Frontier Fiction (historicals before 1920) and Western genres. I do have a novel being considered for the Frontier Fiction line, but I’ll have to find a new place to submit the two manuscripts I’m finishing up now. I think we’re all getting closer and closer to that self-publishing option.

    • Self-pub has its challenges, too, but I’ve had intermittent success with it. I just need to make the intermittent a little more regular. In the meantime, there’s always editing…which has been paying several of the bills lately.

  2. Ditto what Pat said. My publisher, Five Star, cancelled my line (Medieval Romance) several years ago. I’ve gone indie and am enjoying more control and involvement in the marketing process. As they say, never a dull moment. I’m sending best wishes for the new window of opportunity that will surely open for you.

  3. The answer for me was easy because I started out in a non-fiction niche that the big esoteric publishers were (and still are) afraid to touch with a ten foot pole. I learned early on, back in 1999, that independent publishing was a lucrative and viable option. Now, no matter what I’m working on I know that if a publisher doesn’t want it, or if that publisher goes under and my rights are returned, I can independently publish. I actually find this knowledge quite freeing. It relieves the anxiety I have about sending a book out and waiting six months to see if someone wants it. I can now write material specifically for other publishers (this is especially true in non-fiction, once you get big enough you will have legit publishers contact you) and not worry that they could go under or change their mind, and that my time and effort writing anything is not wasted. I can now use my traditionally published work as audience building fodder for my indie stuff. The jury is still out if the latter works for fiction, but it most certainly works in non-fiction.

    • “wait six months”–for me it’s been… way longer than that. 🙁 I’ve devoted about 4 years to the book I’m trying to position right now–actually that’s a conservative estimate. The last 2 have been submissions and rejections from first agents and then publishers. One of my previous novels sat for over a year waiting for a response from Kensington and I never heard anything. I know patience is a virtue in this game, but c’mon. Sometimes it’s ridiculous. I’m getting OLD, man! (Okay, not that old yet…) But still!

  4. It’s certainly a difficult situation to be in, especially for writers who’ve just got started and who don’t have the back catalogue that might make self-publishing rewarding. I’m hoping the small presses will multiply, since they seem to be the only viable channel for those of us who aren’t ready to self-publish. You’re right though, Katriena, the only option is to push on.

    • I’ve had a lot of success with small presses, even though a lot of them have disappeared out from under me. I also have a pretty big backlist, so I’ve been trying to leverage that with various levels of success. Best of luck!

  5. Great essay. Yes, things fall apart, and writers stubbornly get back up and dust themselves off and keep going. I find that when I start feeling awful about my career path the best thing to do is get off social media and get back to writing. Everyone is so successful on Facebook, it seems, and I’m always clicking “Like” on great publishing news, great review news, great award news… but Facebook is a highlight reel, not the day-to-day grind. So off I go to do what I love, which is write.

    But also after reading this essay and the comments, I know I’m in a community of other writers who are my friends and my tribe, and will “Like” my great news when I have some!

  6. You’ve touched many hearts with your essay, Katrienia. I’ve had books signed with publishers, and those publishers then went belly-up just before my books went to print. So frustrating. After several years of submitting to the big publishers, I’ve hit the reality that some who are waiting to read my current novel may not be around to read it when it does come out. It’s that cancer thing. So I’ve found a small up-start publisher and my first novel will hit the stands the end of May; my best guess. Now I have to get busy and do almost all the promoting. Doesn’t matter, as you said, we’re a subborn lot. Good luck on your journey.

  7. I thought about you Five-Star guys when I was writing this. Keep on keepin’ on, is I guess the only thing we can do. I’ve got a big new project up my sleeve, but I’m not quite ready to unveil it yet… 😀

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