Writers don’t talk about failure too much, so I wanted to share mine with you. Failure doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. When I was a new writer, I took it personally. If I got a hundred rejection letters, I kicked myself as a bad writer, even though I got handwritten notes from editors saying, “Loved the story, but it’s not what I’m looking for right now.” Somehow, I missed the “I love” part. I thought they were just being nice, trying to let me down easy. And I concentrated on the “I don’t want it” part. Now, I know I have a talent for writing what’s already glutted or what no one wants. I’m good at that. But rejection still felt personal, like I was a failure. The one thing I took pride in is HOW MANY rejections I got. It meant I gave each story/book a good chance. I didn’t give up without a fight.
Over time, I sold more short stories and eventually, even sold books. And somewhere over the years, rejections became part of the business, not a direct opinion that I should turn off my computer and tend to my garden instead. There were people who liked what I wrote, and people who didn’t.
When Vella went live, I wanted to try it. I thought a serialized novel might work for Muddy River, that I might find some new readers. Not so much. I knew it was a gamble for me. My mysteries sell a lot better than my paranormals. But I didn’t want to try to serialize a mystery, and if Muddy River failed, life happens. I was only going to write 30,000 some words, and I could take those down and publish them on Kindle as a novella.
Unpublishing; however,, is not as easy as it sounds. I had to push the Unpublish button and learned that Vella won’t take down the story for 60 days, in case readers had started it and needed a chance to finish it. That sounded fair. And long. But when I hit the unpublish button, I got a personal e-mail that Vella would make a one-time exception for me because Alex, who is very nice, had looked up my numbers, and only THREE readers had looked at my story. EPIC FAILURE.
There are people who have over a thousand likes on Vella. Some writers are finding success. I’m just not one of them. What did I do wrong? The cover? The blurb? The tags? Beats me. But I have to admit defeat. Am I hanging my head in misery? Not so much. I was curious about it. I gave it a try. It didn’t work. And that’s the thing about writing. Sometimes you write something that you think is your best, and it dies on the vine. Writing isn’t all about what a good writer you are. Plain, old, dumb luck is involved. Hitting the right thing at the right time. Getting good reviews from the right people. And what editors are looking for and buying comes and goes, too. There are so many variables, I could never keep track of them all.
But the most important thing I hope you get from this is: FAILURE ISN’T THE END OF THE WORLD. Sometimes, it’s the start of something new. I wrote one cozy after another for years and got rejections. No one wanted them. So I finally decided to write something else. And I sold a romance. Don’t snicker and say, “I could never write one of those.” Because that’s what I said. And guess what? I could. Just like in horoscopes, timing is important. If you can’t sale one thing, maybe you should try something else. Really pay attention to any comments about why an editor didn’t choose your novel. Try to fix what’s wrong. It might not be your writing. It might be your subject, or the way you told the story. Maybe it’s too much like what’s already out there. Or maybe it’s not enough like what’s already been done.
But failure’s just a no. Keep writing and trying until you get a yes. Mine took a long time, and I thought about giving up. There’s no shame in that. If you don’t enjoy what you’re working on, why do it? But if you’re determined to succeed, use those failures to stand on and push yourself higher.
I’ve unpublished SOLSTICE RETRIBUTION on Vella and I’ve loaded it for Kindle. It might still bomb, but I enjoyed writing it, and I like Muddy River. Failure isn’t the end of the world. A lot of hugely successful people have failed their way to success, so if you’re hooked on writing, hang in there!