Publish or Perish: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Two sides of the same coin...or, travel mug.
Two sides of the same coin…or, travel mug.

I was a competitive gymnast growing up and the vault one of my best events. At least until this one competition, when my teammate fumbled her vault by running right into it instead of hand springing over it. As I watched her try again – running into it again – two things occurred to me:

1) Our coach was going to FREAK OUT.

2) Vaulting was impossible.

I mean, how could I possibly get my body into the right position, with one jump? And even though I’d vaulted hundreds of times before – without issue – I was nearly disqualified that meet because when it was my turn in front of the judges, I ran toward the vault and…ran right past it. Twice. Luckily my third try was successful, but the vault was never the same for me after that — I had lost my confidence.

It sucks until it doesn’t.

The same thing happened when I was querying. That was the one and only time I half threatened to quit and work at the Starbucks inside our local bookstore (I love coffee, I love books, so, perfect match?), until my husband suggested I was romanticizing and should probably just get back to writing. Up to that point I was handling the waves of rejection pretty well – it was all part of the process. It sucks until it doesn’t. It only takes one. This business is subjective.

And then came this one rejection. An agent I was excited about read the query, asked for pages, then requested the full manuscript. I was pumped. About two weeks later I received a rejection email that closed like this: “…I just found the material lacking in the sort of overall drama that I was hoping for to make a novel like this really stand out…”

I can’t explain why this feedback sucked the confidence away more than the others – but for whatever reason, it did. And I fumbled. And I started thinking (a lot) about green aprons and grande skinny vanilla soy lattes with extra whip. For about three weeks I waffled with my writing. I couldn’t find traction; I couldn’t find the words. I wondered if maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a novelist. Sure, I’d always be a writer — my day job was as a freelance journalist — but of 1,000 word articles, not 90,000 novels.

Publish or Perish.

And then I thought about how many hours I had invested in writing books. How many times I told my daughter I needed five more minutes to finish a chapter. Or how often my husband took her to the park with the dog so I could revise in peace. And I decided that time wasn’t going to be wasted. I would keep writing books until I wrote one that was agent-worthy. That was book deal worthy. Plus, I had written “get a book published” on my bucket list, and I don’t mess around when it comes to the items on that list.

A month later I got another rejection on my manuscript. That one hurt less, but was still disheartening. However, that very same evening I received an email from Carolyn – the (my) agent who had asked for the full manuscript only 24 hours earlier — asking if we could chat the next day…and it was THE CALL. We didn’t sell that book, but the one I was writing while trying to query? We sold that one, and one more. And that, my friends, was when I let go of the Starbucks/bookstore fall back plan and started calling myself an author.




Author: Karma Brown

Karma Brown is the author of COME AWAY WITH ME (MIRA/Harlequin, September 2015), an emotional story of one woman’s discovery that life is still worth living, even if it’s not the life you planned. Karma is also a National Magazine award-winning journalist, and lives outside Toronto, Canada, with her family and their mischievous labradoodle puppy, Fred.

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