When Your Imprint Shuts Down

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What the First Week Feels Like

 

Sometimes everything falls apart. In a way that all your accomplishments disappear. Like it never even happened.

 

When my agent quit the business in January, I thought that was the worst thing I’d face this year.

 

I was wrong.

 

I got an email from the subrights agent. Harlequin was shutting down the imprint that was going to publish my YA gothic mystery, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts. They won’t be publishing my book.

 

The contract we spent 10 months negotiating. The editorial revisions I worked so hard on. None of it mattered. It was all for nothing.

 

The book won’t be published.

 

I wait for a termination letter. I wait to find out what happens next with my agency. I wait to find out what I can do with this book. This book I’ve never given up on. Not in the eight years it took me to revise it and shop it and get it an agent and a publisher.
Uncertainty. It’s all uncertainty. What comes next. And do I want a next?

 

Why work so hard when it can all be gone in the blink of an eye? Why do this?

 

Today, I don’t know.

 

I’ve been trying to make sense of it. But it doesn’t make sense. None of this makes any sense to me.

 

Today, I hurt. And I don’t have the energy to pretending everything is fine. It’s really not. And I don’t know when it will be again.

 

All I can do is keep working on my indie career. That’s the only thing I have that I can hold onto.

 

****

 

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What Week Two Feels Like

 

Okay, this wallowing is sucking me in too deeply.

 

I tried staying busy. Too busy to think about what this meant. Then curling up in bed for a day.

 

Next I kicked the standing bag so much it moved too close to Mom’s keyboard.

 

I can’t seem to get it out. The anger. The frustration. The sadness. The hopelessness. And the longer I think about it, the worse it feels.

 

Perspective. I need perspective. It’s my interpretation of things that is making me spiral. Reassess. Reassess.

 

Let’s think of the last two years as an experiment. An attempt at traditional publishing. A way to dip my toe in that pool. And a trial run of indie publishing.

 

So far the only bad thing about indie is people’s reaction to it. Everything else has been hard work, but it’s all mine. The awards, the reviews, the sales. They can’t disappear on me.

 

I’m good at being in charge. I like being the captain of my soul.

 

The most rewarding and stable part of my career has been the indie track.

 

Traditional publishing didn’t work out. I’ve learned to trust warning signs and gut feelings. Trust them more than you trust anyone or anything.

 

I still have DM. Right now I’m making that jump through the traditional hoops. See what happens.

 

And there are more books in me.

 

Something will find traction in the traditional world. Maybe it won’t be soon. Maybe it won’t be the next book or the next book.

 

But I can still build a career. I can keep writing. I can keep working on my craft. I can bring novels to market myself.

 

This isn’t over. I’m not over.

 

It’s just another crater in the road.

 

 

 

 

 

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44 Responses to When Your Imprint Shuts Down

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    So sorry to hear that. The frustration must be crippling. Writing requires so much discipline, patience, fortitude, and resilience, doesn’t it? One step forward, two steps back. You have made tremendous strides in your career. Hang in there.

    • Thanks Carrie. It was the feeling that everything I’d worked for was wiped out. It paralyzed me and gave me a ton of self doubt. Yes all of the above and so much confidence too. To believe in yourself when no one else does. Thanks. I think that’s the hardest part. Sticking with it, when it feels like you had your chance and it didn’t happen.

  2. You have only hit some pot holes and bumps in the road. I have falith in your abilities and believe you will find a way to get over this bad patah in the road.

    • You’re right. I’ve had some wonderful opportunities and some great moments and successes too. For some reason the bad stuff always feels so much worse than the best good thing that happened. Aw thank you. I’ll just keep trying. Perseverance seems to be the only way to get ahead.

  3. robbinsrealm says:

    I am sorry that happened to you! I love your spirit of not wanting to give up.

  4. This happens far too often – I’ve heard it from multiple authors – some very successful ones – over the years. Ugly and frustrating,
    Are they returning /releasing your book rights?
    You’ll find it a new home. (and look at all the revising/editing you’ve already done and all the experience in negotiating you’ve gained.) Every experience adds to your tool kit and life.
    Pout and pound a bit then redirect to work on holding all the readers you’ve gained – while you decide which fork to take. You can do this!

    • For me, it felt like the equivalent of Georgetown asking for my degree back. I’ve heard that it happens but man when it happens to you it’s such a horrible feeling. Yes. I am waiting on the termination of rights letter.

      I can always indie publish it. I’m not sure it will find another publisher. It’s like lightning striking. Some authors get publishers lining up to fight over them. Some are lucky to find a publisher once. The experience remains, but the accomplishment is gone.

      I am still working on Six Train’s sequel but that won’t be ready for market until late 2016. I had hoped that I’d have this YA book out in 2015, but that’s all up in the air now.

      • Everyday, it’s a totally new day – without history of past accomplishment. It’s the “what have you done lately” experience.
        It does feel like you have the rug jerked out. Get that letter. Check with some small publishing houses – end of year – but before the crazy no-one-is-doing-anything-serious holiday party rush period.
        Something’s up and you’re supposed to do something. Universe: waiting for a clue here…Universe?
        Hang in there.

        • That’s an interesting approach to things, but I’m afraid I’m too type A. I’m pretty much in a holding pattern until I get that so I’m focusing on Six Train’s sequel. It’s coming along 60k words written in the rough draft. Thanks for the support. 🙂

  5. Kourtney I’m so sorry you’ve had this setback. It must have felt devastating after all the work and excitement. I can only suggest that there is something else out there, some reason why this one didn’t work out. But it doesn’t take away everything you’ve achieved.

    • Thanks Andrea. I have my good days and my bad days. Some days I think I’ll be fine and others I think I can’t believe this happened. I’d like to believe there is a reason for this. But I know sometimes bad things happen and it doesn’t make sense.

  6. diannegray says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this, Kourtney. Self-publish and get rid of all the middle-people. Stay strong and remember why you started writing in the first place. I’m a great believer in things happening for a reason (what the reason is I don’t know). Sending you hugs xxxx

    • Thanks Dianne. LOL. That is always an option. I really wanted to take this book the traditional route because I think it’s my most commercial work. I like to believe that too. And maybe there is a reason. Then again maybe I just have bad luck. 🙂 I’m taking all those hugs and sending you hugs too.

  7. EllaDee says:

    Oh no, bloody bloody hell. Although it feels lost, your accomplishment in getting a contract for The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts remains. The fail is on the part of Harlequin. But if you’ve done it once, you can do it again… even though it’s beyond disappointing to have to do so.
    Hang in there… it was never going to be an easy gig. Sometimes the past and the future are like 2 pieces of bread and we’re stuck in the middle of a sh!t sandwich. Eventually it will resolve and you’ll come out incredibly wiser, probably more than you wished to be, on the other side of the experience.

  8. So sorry about this. But I know you’ll bounce back. Why? Because I’ve been following you for a while and I know you are STRONG and DETERMINED. In fact, I use your “Six Train” experience as an example of how to do it right! So hang in there and know that you have fans and friends and this book WILL find its way into the world.

    • Thanks Audrey. That really helps to hear it. This is definitely one of the worst experiences of my life. I’m trying to focus on Six Train’s sequel. It’s all I have control over right now. And I hope The Girl eventually finds a way to market when all the dust settles.

  9. Gwen Stephens says:

    Oh my gosh, this is absolutely soul crushing. You are one of the strongest people I know, Kourtney. Your gumption and stick-to-it-ness, the way you seek out the positive and command yourself to reassess. People “react” to indie publishing because they don’t have the inside scoop. They don’t know how ruthless traditional can be, that a writer has a better chance of going down in a plane crash than landing a traditional contract. That they can jump you through hoops for years and then hand you a pink slip. I don’t know how you’ve found the will to carry on, because I’m pretty sure this would have been my breaking point. Any idea what you’ll do next for the Girl Who Saw Ghosts?

    • Soul crushing is the right word for it. I can give up. I thought about it. But this is what I want to do. So I am just going to back burner The Girl until things settle down. I can’t make any decisions or take any steps until things are formally over. My hope is that it gets formalized by December. I’ve learned low expectations are the safest way to go. The problem is compounded by people rushing early drafts to market and not worrying about creating a top notch product. I had a reader tell me they read an awful indie book and it turned them off to indie. But then they saw all my reviews and awards and the book was recommended by a close friend and so they gave it a shot. It’s funny in traditional you think once you get an agent, you’re good. Pretty much anything you expect to happen in traditional didn’t happen for me. I couldn’t get a break anywhere. Maybe the universe was telling me something. Maybe I just have awful luck. I’m still trying traditional for DM, but I don’t really expect anything. It hurts to hope and get it constantly dashed.

  10. kathils says:

    Trust yourself. You are a powerhouse, Kourtney, and one little set-back isn’t stopping you. Besides, it may turn out being the right thing. Publishing via either route is full of moguls. Hugs to you. Now, don’t dwell and don’t look back. Rather like writing a first draft. 🙂

    • Thanks for your support. It’s just a mess right now. I can’t do anything until I am officially terminated so I’m in limbo with this book. I’m going to keep on with Six Train’s sequel and see what happens next.

  11. Ally Bean says:

    Best piece of advice ever: “I’ve learned to trust warning signs and gut feelings. Trust them more than you trust anyone or anything.”

    That being said, how can a company back out of a contract that they negotiated in good faith? Don’t they still have to honor it? Consider me, confused.

  12. TBM says:

    Oh wow, but a devastating blow, but you have the right attitude. Keep on trucking. It’s the only thing you can do, after having some ice cream and shouting, Why me!

    • It definitely was. Took me a couple weeks to be able to talk about it. It’s still really fresh. But my options are give up or keep trying. I seriously considered the former and it made me really depressed.

  13. Lori D says:

    Kourtney, first I’m sending you hugs. Second, sheesh, I’m sad, angry and frustrated right along with you. As a writer, I know what you put into that novel. I want to kick and punch things with you. Sigh. Third, I’m glad that once you acknowledge and feel those things, you switch to a new perspective. As more days go by, you’ll find you’ve dusted yourself off and found another outlet for your work that’s working even better. Hang in there. I believe in your work, cause I’ve read it. 🙂

    • Thanks Lori. I’m hording hugs this week.I really appreciate you getting the emotions and being so empathetic. I had to wallow and be a drama queen for a few days. But then I realized this is what I want to do, so I have to keep doing it. And maybe I do it more indie than traditional. Both are great ways to get your work into the world. Aw thank you. Many hugs back!

  14. jmmcdowell says:

    “The experience remains, but the accomplishment is gone.”

    I can understand how the situation must feel that way, especially since you’re still so close to it. Yet, the accomplishment does exist. You did sign a contract with a traditional press. So many writers never reach that point no matter how hard they try. You did it. No one can take that away from you.

    I hope you soon have your rights back and an idea of whether your agency wants to continue shopping the story. You’ll have tough decisions to make about the story and how to publish it. If you go independent, you already have a wealth of experience to draw from. And if you decide to give traditional one more try, you’re now familiar with the process and aware of subtle red flags.

    You’re a fantastic writer, Kourtney, with wonderful stories to share and the skills to bring them to an audience. This imprint’s demise does nothing to change those facts.

    • Thanks. That’s a great perspective. I guess I tend to be very type A when it comes to my career. For me, almosts don’t count as accomplishments. And that may be a very negative view of the world. But it is how I see it.

      Me too. I’d really like to put this behind me and move on.

      Aw thank you. The traditional contract was something that helped when selling Six Train. There is such a stigma to indie publishing, it reassured buyers that I had a traditional contract and agent on another book. It ripples through every aspect of my career. But I’ll get it together. I’ll regroup and figure things out. Just going to take a little time. 🙂

      Big hugs and thanks for your awesome words of encouragement!

  15. Sorry to read your imprint shut down, Kourtney. But they can’t shut down your motivations and I know you will keep writing and reaching for new projects 🙂 I know you’ll get stronger and find another publisher soon!

  16. The story is that Colonel Sanders was in his sixties when he wanted to sell his chicken recipe. He knocked on over 1000 doors and all said no. If he had stopped at 1000, we would never have seen Kentucky Fried Chicken. He kept knocking. Don’t stop.

  17. Aquileana says:

    All is going to be fine…. All is worthwhile at the end… And your previous book was a top one, dear Kourt…
    I truly believe it is okay to avoid pretending that everything is fine, when it is not… But trust me… in this case things will get better and you’ll see it in a whole different perspective within a short time.
    Many hugs my writer friend!, Aquileana 🙂

    • Thanks Aquileana. I think it’s important to recognize when things go wrong and to be upset and feel your way through it. It takes time. Eventually things will work out. Maybe not the way I hope or plan, but they will be okay in the end.

      Hugs,
      K

  18. Gosh, Kourtney, I am so sorry to hear this news. What an ordeal. I completely understand how you feel the way you do. You need to feel that loss, though, before you can move on. Like mourning. I know that you will recover from this and find your way through, whether you continue to try to get the book published traditionally or not. We are all rooting for you. Hugs.

    • Thanks Kate. It’s been quite a rough month. I tend to find my way through things emotionally. It’s going to take some time. More so for things to settle and me to understand my options. Thanks so much for your rooting. It helps to not be alone in this. 🙂

  19. Mayumi-H says:

    Ugh, Kourtney, I’m gutted for you. That’s terrible…but your strength and sense of hope for the future is awesome! ❤ I think it's important to come to grips with the impact of this loss, but I know you'll also come out of it bigger, better, and more bad*** than before, because that's just the kind of warrior queen writer you are!

    • Thanks Mayumi. It’s been an awful month to get through. I’m trying to channel the emotions into my writing. It still hurts and I’m still uncertain about my future, but I’m just working on other stuff for now. Aw thank you. Warrior Queen Writer–I love it!

  20. Kourtney, as sorry as I am to hear about this horrible let down on your end, it was just what I needed to read today. See, I hold onto posts, when I don’t have time to read, and eventually… I get back to them. And today, I needed to read this. This sucks, and I can’t really begin to imagine the depths of that disappointment, but the chutzpah and determination you have, is what I need to harness in myself. I need to stop whining and worrying about a “real publisher” accepting my work, and be my own captain. It’s who I am, too… and I’m not sure why I cling so to the other route! Thanks for making yourself vulnerable, and sharing it with us. You’ll do great! You’ve got the sparkle you need to do it.

    • I’m glad it helped. It’s funny when I tell these horror stories, author buddies email me theirs and we commiserate. 🙂 The most important thing is to put out the best book you can. I definitely will keep trying the traditional route with future books because I do hope to be traditionally published. But as long as you invest time and money and hire professionals to help, self publishing is a great option too. Aw thank you. I don’t know what will come next in my career. Maybe I’ll write a standalone and that will sell to a publisher. As long as I keep trying, the possibility exists.

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