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What It’s Like Going Unpublished for Five Years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

Author Announcements

Back to Blogging!

Hey, everyone!

I’m back, but the major change around here will be my posting day. Instead of Mondays, I will post every Saturday. It should be easier to remember. I mean, I’m SAT…and I’ll post on SATurdays. Aside from one exception…

This year I’m a featured author in YASH, a.k.a. The Young Adult Scavenger Hunt. Here is the official announcement. So what does that mean? It’s an awesome blog hop that features over 100 authors, and you get to win a stupid amount of prizes. (Not going to lie, I totally enter this every year as a reader, so I’m super thrilled to be an author this year.) I am on the Purple Team! The blog hop runs between Oct 3 – Oct 8, so be sure to visit this website to enter. If you can’t wait to get involved, you can vote for Minutes Before Sunset on this Goodreads Listopia list. (P.S. The extra I’m providing might be about the never-before-seen prequel.)

This means that my regular posting schedule will start on October 14.

 In other news…

I went on my first writing retreat with SCBWI. We went to a monastery in Northern Missouri, and aside from getting caught in the worst thunderstorm of my life during the drive back, I had a freakin’ blast! I’m currently working on some major revisions (again), but hey, that’s just how an author’s life goes, right?

My first audio book released this past month! If you love to listen to books, check out Bad Bloods: November Rain, now available through Audible. The narrator, Jonathan Johns, is amazing. In fact, in order to get the characters *just* right, he had the opportunity to learn some behind-the-scenes info no one else knows. So I hope you’ll check it out and enjoy it! You can already listen to a sneak peek of the November Snow audio book here. How cool is that? Please leave a review!

Special thanks to everyone who came out to Barnes & Noble in Kansas City for BFest! I really enjoyed meeting you all, and I can’t wait to see you again next year. If you’re in the KC area, you can still pick up a few signed copies at the Zona Rosa store!

A Not-So-Great SAT Update

I am working hard at setting up publications for 2018, I promise, but I have to be honest about something else. I originally talked about this in my newsletter, but I’m having some health issues. I’m not dying or anything, so please don’t worry too much, but I don’t want to share details. That being said, I find out in March if treatments are working. Until then, I’m hanging on. I will let everyone know as soon as I know about more publications, but please understand if 2018 isn’t very exciting. I really need to concentrate on my health. But, hey, I received my author copies of Bad Bloods: July Thunder and Bad Bloods: July Lightning! I hope you’re enjoying the newest duology in the Bad Bloods universe! If you’re curious what happens next in the Bad Bloods series, I have been working on the next books. October Blood and October Bone are told by Ami and Skeleton, and focus largely on the Highlands after a certain (very important) character is killed. But that’s all I’m saying for now. If you love this series, be sure to share it and leave a review. Every review helps me more than I can express. In fact, if you’re a blogger and interested in reviewing Bad Bloods, feel free to e-mail me at shannonathompson@aol.com for a review copy! 

And last but not least…Can you believe my five-year anniversary for blogging happened? Thank you for sticking it out with me these past couple of years. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about writing, reading, and publishing. I know I sure have! You all are the light of my life, and I’m glad to be back.

Thanks for letting me take a break,

~SAT