Publishing Advice · Writing Tips

What It’s Like Going Unpublished for Five Years

My last published novel – Bad Bloods: July Lightning – released on July 24, 2017. Five years ago. 

That fact can feel pretty staggering some days. Obviously, more so when the anniversary comes up than other times of the year. But alas, here we are, standing at a time of reflection. 

Back in 2017, I really enjoyed July Lightning’s book release, but it felt like it was time for a change. After a little research and some time off, I decided I wanted to pursue traditional publication. First step, get an agent. (Okay, so actually, the first step was to write a book I could query, but you know what I mean.) 

I set off with high hopes. I queried a young adult fantasy in 2018, resulting in 15 fulls but no offers of rep, and then I queried a young adult sci-fi/fantasy mashup in 2019, resulting in representation. I worked with that agent for two years, before she left the industry. Now I’m searching for representation again. And just like that, five years have passed me by. 

Some days, I don’t know how I feel about that. 

I’ve had my days where I wonder if I made a huge mistake. Maybe I should’ve continued to indie publish or pursue self-publishing instead. But I remind myself of the successes I’ve had, too. 

Since my last book release, I was invited to be a featured author at three different Barnes & Nobles for the Teen Book Fest. I spoke at Wizard World Comic Com and the first-ever LitUP Festival in Kansas City. I was later featured in a Local Author Fair for Mid-Continent Public Library. I had two audiobooks that released in 2018. I was invited to speak at Johnson County Library, the MLA conference, Ray County Public Library, Dearborn Library, Northern Hills Christian Academy, and Kearney High School. I was interviewed for Space and Time Magazine and SIMPLYkc Magazine. I also taught numerous classes. (I now teach Starting a Writing Project for The Story Center twice a year.) I also had the utmost joy of teaching How to Write a Series for the SCBWI KS/MO Middle of the Map Conference and at the Midwest Romance Writers’ meetup. I blogged for Jane Friedman.

Somehow, over time, I went from applying as a mentee in Pitch Wars to becoming a mentor twice in a row–one of our mentees got a six-figure book deal and the other just signed with an agent. I am currently mentoring for SCBWI KS/MO. I was also lucky enough to score a mentorship myself, with Parker Peevyhouse through Science Fiction Writers of America.

I’ve learned a lot over these past five years, and though I didn’t get a book deal out of the hard work I put in, I learned invaluable lessons that I’ve taken with me into the future. 

When I look at my writing today, I see growth. I’ve tried new age categories and genres that I never thought I’d pursue, and I love the work that came out of it. Most importantly, I’ve made friends. (I even went on a writing retreat, where we picked apples!) With all my new connections and friendships, I’ve beta read and edited numerous books that have now gone on to get traditionally published. A few of my indie clients have won amazing awards. I love to celebrate their success. 

Somewhere in all of that, I learned the most important truth about publishing: 

Not everything is about getting an agent or landing a book deal. 

Sometimes, the journey is about joy. That was one of the reasons I released the Tomo trilogy on Wattpad for fun. I hated to see it just sitting on my laptop doing nothing since it lost its publisher. Now it’s fun to hear from old readers catching up and new readers just now discovering it. 

More than ever, I truly enjoy writing my next pieces and sharing them with my beta readers (and sometimes my newsletter subscribers)! It’s very encouraging that I’m still asked when my next novel will come out. I wish I could tell everyone that date. But I don’t know. 

Five years is a long time. That said, I often forget the fact that 2 years of this has been in the midst of a pandemic. I also put a lot more energy into my day job, and worked my way up through three different positions in the library. Now I work in storytelling all day and have a consistent, steady paycheck that allowed me to get out of student loan debt, buy a safer car and a house, get married, and, most recently, begin a family with my husband. 

My life has flourished in many ways. 

But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t depressing when I see folks talk about how long they had to query before they got a book deal (and it was only 2-3 years). I’ve been out here writing seriously for over a decade. My first novel came out in 2007, but my first modern book released in 2013. I’m coming up on the ten-year anniversary of Minutes Before Sunset, and that hurts some days. 

I still love that sword-yielding, Midwest paranormal romance more than I can say. 

Sometimes I pick it up just to remind myself of what I’m capable of producing.   

The truth is, though, I may never get another agent, let alone a book deal. 

But what else would I be doing with my freetime? 

I love writing. I (mostly) enjoy the pursuit of publication, and when I don’t, I put it down for a few days, weeks, or even months. And that’s okay, too. 

I could give up. Or I could keep trying and enjoy the ride. 

Right now, I currently have a few fulls of my middle grade verse novel out with agents who are giving me a shot, I am *this* close to querying my historical fantasy–the same novel that won the Authoress’s Secret Agent contest–and I have two other novels completely written that I’ve never queried either. Not to mention a handful of outlines and half-written projects that I could tackle any day. 

If I decide to self-publish or indie publish one day, those manuscripts will be there. But I’m not ready to give up. 

I want to keep trying, so I will–even if it takes another five (or more) years.

~SAT

Writing Tips

Authors Who Give Up

As writers, we discuss lots of ups and downs. Writer’s block, in particular. But what about something stronger than writer’s block?

What about feeling like you want to give up?

“Giving up” is hard to define. Quite frankly, the definition will be different for every writer. One author might feel like giving up writing altogether, while another writer might only want to give up pursuing publication. These two versions of “giving up” are very different, but could appear similar to those on the outside.

This is why defining what you want to “give up” is important.

By considering what, exactly, you are giving up, you might realize what is actually making you so miserable.

For instance, I’ve talked to a lot of authors who feel like giving up because marketing is so difficult, or getting an agent feels impossible, or self-publishing is too expensive. But all of these issues have solutions that don’t involve giving up everything. If marketing is difficult, reevaluate what and where you’re marketing. Consider posting less. (Your readers will understand, trust me.) If querying agents/publishers is putting you down, slide that goal aside for a while. Write something new instead. If self-publishing is too expensive, save up or consider options like Patreon. This list goes on and on. Many writing issues that cause the “giving up” bug have solutions. Sometimes stepping away and taking a break will help clear your mind so you can sort things out.

But what about actually wanting to give up writing?

Who knows what caused it. Maybe it was one major disappointment that took place on one horrible afternoon. Maybe it was a million disappointments all compounded together over time. Either way, feeling like you want to give up is valid. It’s okay. And if you choose to give up, that’s okay, too. One of my recent writer friends actually took this path—not because they couldn’t handle the stress of a writing career, but because they no longer felt joy while writing their last two books. Until they get that joy back, they don’t want to write anymore. That is their choice.

I know I won’t give up. Not right now. Not any time soon. Hopefully, never. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt this way sometimes. It happens every now and then—more than I’d like to admit—but many authors have felt this way, and we either overcome it, or we move on to a new dream.

In the end, I will never judge an author for shelving their manuscripts. It’s their life. I will support their decision to leave, and I will welcome them back with open arms—both as a reader and a fellow writer—if they ever choose to return.

Just because a writer gives up on writing, doesn’t mean the community has to give up on the writer. 

But I hope no one gives up on their dreams,

~SAT

P.S. My first audiobook is going on tour! You can listen to free review copies and interview the narrator and me by signing up here.

Miscellaneous

June’s Ketchup

June’s Ketchup

Eek! June is coming to a sunny end, and July is approaching as fast as a bottle rocket. (Fourth of July references are fun.) We are SO close to the release of Minutes Before Sunset. In fact, we’re officially less than a month away. (Eek again!) I’m undeniably excited, and I cannot thank you all enough for the continued cheers of encouragement as we inch closer to the release date—where you can win even MORE prizes and goodies. But I’ll talk more about that in this month’s Ketchup post.

For those of you just now checking in this month, Ketchup actually means “catch up”. At the end of every month, I write these posts describing what goes on behind the scenes at ShannonAThompson.com. Some of the topics I cover include my big moments, top blog posts, my top referrer, #1 SEO term, YouTube videos, Members of the Week, and more in order to show insights that will hopefully help fellow bloggers see what was popular. I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website.

Thank you for being a part of my life this June!

Big Moments:

We are less than a month away from the release of Minutes Before Sunset, and excitement has filled every Dark night. (Dark as in the Dark from The Timely Death Trilogy. Not dark as in depressing.) It’s been electric! Clean Teen Publishing even gave away three paperbacks on Goodreads, and since almost 2,000 people signed up, Clean Teen Publishing decided to giveaway a paperback EVERY week up until the release. Join the current giveaway right now by clicking this link, because you definitely deserve to win. You made this happen, after all.

On another note, Seconds Before Sunrise is officially up for pre-order as well! (Eek!) Seconds Before Sunrise releases August 25, so these releases are going to happen fast!

Who else can’t wait?

#TheDarkisComing and the Dark brings prizes and smiles.

Stay Dark,

~SAT

My #1 clicked item was pre-ordering Minutes Before Sunset! Thank you!!!
My #1 clicked item was pre-ordering Minutes Before Sunset! Thank you!!!

Top Three Blog Posts:

  • Judging an Author’s Life: Someone judged my life as an author from the photos I posted, and I wrote a letter in response. Authors are human too. We are not perfect, and we do not sit around all day writing and reading to our heart’s content. But I do share my positive moments more than my negative ones, and I share why in this emotionally driven post.
  • 6 Must-Have Tools/Apps For All Writers and Editors Out There by Ashley Sanford: A great list for all writers out there, provided by a fantastic guest blogger (who has confirmed is planning on returning with another article shortly)! Get excited.
  • Finding Your Style as a Writer: There is no reason to fear your “voice” and “style” discussions. It’s different for everyone, and it always will be. What matters is doing what is right for you and being aware of yourself as you grow into yourself.

Other Blog Posts:

 

#1 SEO Term
#1 SEO Term

YouTube Channel:

The Fifth Wave and Survival Things (06.02.15)

At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. I also like to specially thank the Members of the Dark. Every week, I award one member a “Member of Week” badge, and out of those monthly members, one of them will win an eBook of their choosing as well as more prizes. If you would like to be a member or review my novels or interview me, please send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! And I will share your post on all of my websites.

Dark Members of the Week: The Acid Oasis, Chris Pavesic, and Endless Reading.

Reviewers:

Seconds Before Sunrise: The Book Forums

sun-day-4