When I finished All My Holy Mountain in the spring of 2006, it never occurred to me that its release in 2008 would come and go without my having a contract for another book. To be sure, I didn’t know which of my various ideas would be in print or under contract, but I felt pretty confident that something would be. I was published, I had an agent, and it was just a matter of figuring out which direction to go and what book project to pursue.
Now it is 2009, and as I write this I have neither agent nor publisher nor any imminent prospects of either. And, strange as it is to follow that sentence with this one, that’s O.K. I probably won’t feel like it is O.K. if it remains that way for very long, but as of this morning at least, I’m O.K. with it.
I’ve been trying to remember what it was like to contract with the publisher of The Binding of the Blade, P&R, back in 2002. I was a would-be writer with an epic fantasy idea, and there I was holding a contract that said it would get published. If I’d known more about publishing, I might have been more nervous about that contract. My second agent, with whom I parted company quite amicably a few weeks ago, told me that publishing further fantasy was a bit of a longshot for me since although the first book has sold a ‘respectable’ amount, to date, all the books in my series haven’t sold enough to get the attention of a press. Of course, I was a longshot as an unpublished writer when I got my first contract, so I guess I’ll have to go back to being a longshot. I suppose it would have been nice to go from longshot to bigshot, but alas, twas not my fate.
But this is the curious thing. I knew when I contracted with a publisher who had just about one fiction title at the time, and who wasn’t a big publisher with the machinery in place to promote my work, that I wasn’t likely to become a household name overnight. I was just excited to be getting a chance to write the story I wanted to write. Somewhere, since then, that ceased to be enough. I have lost some of the “excited just to be here” feeling of a newly published author and have started to gain the confidence of someone with multiple books in print. I know that I have the ability to do this, to write, and to write well, even if I don’t always live up to that ability. I know that stories flow like blood through my veins, and unless and until that changes, I will seek to tell those stories.
Consequently, standing at the cusp of 2009 without publisher or agent is not as daunting as it might have once been. There are other agents out there, and there are lots of publishers, who even in this economy, need to publish books to keep their business going. What’s more, though they ask, inevitably, the ‘how many books have you sold’ question as a matter of routine, I know there are at those publishers, editors who can see that this is not the only determining factor in whether or not a new idea of mine might sell well if given a chance. Now finding that person, or those people, might be difficult, but I know they have to be out there.
And of course, it is comforting to believe in a sovereign God. I believe he designed me this way, with these stories running like blood through my veins, so I trust he will guide me as I figure out where to go from here, for the future, even when it seems more certain and more sure, is always a destination unknown – we just don’t always admit it.