I know that sounds crazy. How could any writer want her book not to sell? And in a lot of ways, I wish it had sold. But now that I’m many months removed and no longer devastated and have some perspective, I see the benefits of that book never hitting shelves.
It was my first book. There’s a lot of appeal to having your first book published because that would mean no “wasted” books, no trunk novels, no dusty manuscripts never to be read. But then, how many writers can say their first book is representative of their style and the types of books they want to write in the future? I know I can’t. That book was a light sci-fi thriller, packed with action, and my new book is a dark historical fantasy (though both are YA).
After I was finally done with that first book (and done with revisions), and considering all my ideas for future books, I realized none of them were at all like my first one. My focus had shifted to fantasy, more dark and atmospheric than non-stop action. If my first book had gotten published, I imagine there would’ve been pressure to write something else like it. If you build a readership with one type of book, you don’t necessarily want to pull the rug out from under your readers and say, “Actually, that’s not what my other writing looks like at all!”
So back in the fall, I took some time to reevaluate and think about how I wanted to be perceived as a writer, what type of books I wanted bearing my name. The answer: the type of book TFH was shaping up to be. I was on the right track, at least.
Another reason I’m glad my first book didn’t sell: it would have been lumped into the dystopian category. I don’t actually consider it dystopian (It didn’t have a post-apocalyptic feel or an entirely new social structure), but I can see how it would seem like that at a glance. It was a near future world and there was an evil company throwing innocent people in jail. I guess that’s enough to call it dystopian.
Anyway, had the book sold, it would probably be coming out in early- to mid-2015. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but many readers seem to be feeling dystopian fatigue right now. There’s the feeling of, been there, done that, I want to read something new. And I get that. I feel it myself and have stayed away from dystopian YA lately. It may not be fair, but a ton of great books are going under the radar because of it. Whether or not my book was good, it probably wouldn’t have sold too great next year. I couldn’t acknowledge that while it was on submission, but it’s pretty clear to me now, and I’m relieved not to have to compete in such a dystopian-saturated market.
And finally, I don’t know how proud I would’ve been to see my first book on shelves. Sure, I was proud I’d written a whole book and revised it into something decent, but I never loved it. I never felt like my heart and soul went into it. But with TFH, I have found love. I’ve found something that I want to put in front of people and say, “Look! I did this!” I’m proud of its originality, I’m proud of its more intricate plot, I’m proud of both protagonists, I’m proud of the tone. I desperately want it to exist in the world as a real, live book. If I had to choose the first book or TFH to break into publishing with, I’d choose TFH every time.
If you’re a writer facing rejection right now, it may seem unbelievable for me to say I appreciate my rejections, but it’s true. It hurts when something you created doesn’t reach the end goal of publication, but it could be for the best. Years down the line, when you have tons of other books on shelves, maybe you’ll be glad how it all worked out. I don’t know where my career will be in a decade, but I can only hope that my struggles now will be worth it, that every stumble will lead me and my writing somewhere better.