Yes, it’s a lot. And no, I’m not a writer who is used to creating books in that amount of time. So how am I doing it?
Basically, all three of the books that have come out or will come out in the 15 months since last August have their origins much further back in my writing life. I don’t just mean I had the ideas. I had manuscripts, which, for one reason or another, didn’t make it into book form for years.
How can this happen?
Things change—especially in the publishing industry.
This always sounds like a bit of an excuse when I say it. But it’s true. I still had an agent until 2018. During that time I wrote one complete manuscript that he tried to sell, but couldn’t. That manuscript was The Courtesan’s Daughter. There were some good reasons why it didn’t sell, which I won’t go into here. But it was disappointing.
The Courtesan’s Daughter, coming out on April 25, 2023, is not the only manuscript I wrote years ago and that has found or will find its way into the world. As I’ve said before, I actually started on the first iteration of The Portraitist in about 2015. I was writing it as a YA about the young Elisabeth Vague Le Brun. It didn’t work. I think the book that came out in August is about seven versions away from that one!
As for my next book after The Courteson’s daughter (which will be coming out sometime in October), that’s another story. It was the last book I worked on with my agent. And it’s the manuscript he fired me over. I don’t blame him: agents have to earn a living, and at that time, certain kinds of books were selling, and they weren’t the kind of books I was writing. We parted amicably.
I spent some time looking for another agent.
When Adam was no longer working with me, my first response was to try to get another agent. I got a lot of requests for full manuscripts, but no takers. The refrain was some version of “I don’t know how/where I could sell this.”
I didn’t keep an accurate count of how many agents I pitched, but it was probably a couple dozen. And I was a previously published author, with a small but loyal readership.
That was when I realized that agents and publishers would rather take a chance on someone completely new who might break out than put money and time into a midlist author like me, who—although her books were well reviewed and several nominated for awards—hadn’t sold very well.
And then, I stopped worrying and caring about how my books made it into the world.
Yes, it was demoralizing. I thought I actually was chopped liver. But I think it was a few months after my agent and I parted ways that I realized I was now in control of my own writing and publishing destiny. All those ideas that he’d said “no” to I could now look at again.
I started with the manuscript I’d submitted as my option book for my very first novel, Émilie’s Voice. It was a subject and story I felt very strongly about, but because it didn’t have a marquee name attached to it, my editor deemed it a dead end. And perhaps it would have been in the traditional publishing world. After all, as she said at the time, “No one’s heard of the Albigensian Crusades.” Nonetheless, that manuscript became my Orphans of Tolosa Trilogy (which is being republished as of right now—long story) and led to my discovery of hybrid and self-publishing.
On a roll, I then did something similar with the sequel I’d written to my first YA novel with Bloomsbury, The Mozart Conspiracy—which they also didn’t want, instead asking for something different.
And since there were two of those YA mysteries, why not three and make it a real series? That spawned The Paris Affair—which became a first-place CIBA award winning novel. And it was the first manuscript I wrote completely new.
Making money on my books is not my priority.
My reason for writing and getting my books out in the world is not to make money. It’s to share those stories with readers, to connect with readers in a way that’s only possible through a book.
That was a decision I made for myself. For you as a writer it would entirely depend on your priorities. But for me, with six traditionally published novels under my belt, I suddenly realized I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore.
It felt SO good to have books being read again after seven fallow years.
Perhaps most importantly, I never gave up on my stories.
There were reasons I wrote every one of the books I mention above. Oh I have plenty of other abandoned manuscripts that will probably never see the light of day, but the ones I’ve published between 2019 and now all stuck with me. I cared about the stories, the characters, what I was saying, and I wanted to share those things with readers. I edited and revised and polished them as well as I could—with the help of editors, beta readers, etc.—until I felt they were as good as I could make them.
I also realized when I dug out those manuscripts that I’d grown as a writer in the in-between years. I honed my craft and worked and worked. I went to workshops and read books about writing, revised and revised my own work.
And then, in 2019, I decided to become a book coach. Best decision ever. I learned so much not only about helping other writers, but about my own writing. I’ve got practices that push me and make me more confident about the final product, as well as a network of coaches who support each other in so many ways.
Basically, I now have the career in books that I never knew was possible before. I count myself incredibly fortunate, and I still get a thrill every time I hold one of my new books in my hands—however it’s been published—or whenever one of my clients reaches an important milestone.
Being creative and sharing your creativity with the world is one of life’s greatest joys. Whatever stage you’re at in your creative life, I urge you to keep going. You never know where it will lead you!