Spoiler Alert: It’s going to be okay.
For me, or for you.
In August, I got the news I’d kinda sorta been expecting all summer.
The rights to my novel Chicken were being reverted.
Why? Was it something I said? Or something I didn’t do? Like…sell enough books?
Well, I definitely did NOT sell enough books, and perhaps if I, or any of my fellow authors, had become overnight sensations and stuffed their pockets with a million dollars, I might not be writing this thing. But the reason we were given was simple and much less guilt-inducing. The guys in charge were just ready to move on. They were different people in different places now, in some cases, literally. It no longer made sense to continue.
From the beginning, Asymmetrical had primarily been an experiment in alternate forms of publishing. Rather than accepting submissions, the co-founders hand-picked the authors they wanted to work with. They handled the business so we could focus on our art. For a writer like myself, who wasn’t interested in traditional publishing, yet lacked many of the skills required for self-publishing, it was an ideal marriage, equal parts convenience and passion.
But as any YA author knows, not every first love is meant to last. Some only come into our lives to instigate a character arc, to teach us what we need to know become successful adults, either on our own or in new relationships. I will always be grateful for the time I spent with Asymmetrical Press, for the encouragement I received, and the opportunities I was given, but when the “Dear John” letter came, I have to admit that after the initial wave of panic crashed, it felt right. I’m a different person now too.
So Chicken has come home to roost. In what I have affectionately come to think of as our “uncoupling agreement,” I was given the chance to keep my former partner’s last name, so to speak, if I chose to self-publish. As a proud and loving co-parent, I decided this would make the transition easiest on our book baby, so Chicken will retain the Asymmetrical branding, though I now bear sole responsibility for its future.
So what now?
Chicken turned two in July. It gets great reviews when people actually read it, but honestly, it barely sells. I made more on an author visit to my alma mater than I did from sales in its first year. This has obviously been frustrating and disheartening. Many times have I gone back to Dahlia Adler’s amazing essay It’s Not Just You for encouragement. I told the best story I knew how to tell, but I had no idea how to make it matter to anyone else. It sucks to create people and then somehow let them down.
There was a dark moment, in the days after the letter came, when I wondered if I shouldn’t just pull the plug. Why invest any more time, energy, or money into something the market had made clear wasn’t in high demand? Not to mention, there was a temptation to finally put an end to the paranoia that someone in my extremely conservative hometown will discover my double life and react… poorly. I had the power to make my book go away. I mean, seriously, knowing how it goes, why even bother?
But I re-read my reviews. I re-read the handful of messages in my various inboxes. And then I re-read my novel for the first time since I published it. I believed in this story enough to spend three years writing it. I owed it to myself, and everyone who suffered because of my obsession, to believe in it again. I owed Casper and Brant a second chance for someone, anyone, to draw them into some adorable fanart.
First things first, I reached out to some successful self-published authors for advice. They were very honest. About my cover, about my synopsis, about my prospects. They recommended total relaunch.
Second things second, I snagged a copy of Chris Fox’s Relaunch Your Novel.
Third things third, I re-assessed my novel, based on Fox’s checklist, and made a plan.
Fourth things fourth, I’m now launching a blog series on relaunching my novel. I’m going to take you step by step through the process as I “breathe life into my backlist.”
In the next few posts, I’ll take you behind the scenes as I prepare my book for its brand new life. We’ll explore the reasons for choices I made before and the choices I’m making now regarding genre, cover, title, blurb, and more!
If you want to follow me on this journey, you can subscribe to these posts in the sidebar. I’m working on setting up an email newsletter, but I have historically been very bad at maintaining one, so I’m going to be studying up on that before I make another attempt. One fresh start at a time, okay?