So My Book Didn't Sell

9/4/20233 min read

For those not in the traditional publishing world, you may not know the process it takes to get a book published. To sum it up, first, you need to write the book. Then you pitch it to agents through querying, and if you’re lucky and sign with an agent you then send that book out to editors, known as “going on sub.”

For me, I’d been trying to get an agent for eight years before finally signing with one. That was after writing and querying six different books! Landing an agent felt like a breath of fresh air. Finally, I was here, the thing I had spent years trying to achieve. But it was only the first step.

After doing a round of revisions with my agent at the time, we sent my book off on sub. If you’ve read my post on how I got my first agent, you know the book that they signed me with was a very intense and fast experience. Within twenty minutes of sending my first query for that book I had a full request, and within three days of sending that initial query I had an offer of rep.

I was under the very wrong assumption that my experience on sub would be similar. Clearly there was a lot of interest in this story from the agent side of things, surely editors would feel the same.

Nope. Nada. Nothing.

I told my agent early on I didn’t want to hear of the rejections. After all I just came out of years of reading nothing but rejections, I needed a break for my own mental well-being. The only updates my agent would pass along to me is if we were sending out to any new editors. That meant my first experience on sub was one giant pit of silence.

My book was on sub for a year and a half before I decided I wanted to pull it to try sending a different book out to editors. But let me tell you, during that year and a half my motivation and desire to write PLUMMETED. No one warns you how soul sucking being on sub is. In fact, most authors don’t talk about the process of being on sub at all. It’s a very lonely, ostracizing experience, especially when you’re seeing fellow authors who went on sub after you announcing book deals.

It was like being able to see the finish line in the distance but tripping and falling before you’re able to cross it. Here I thought nothing could be worse than the rejections of querying, but sub rejections hit that much harder. You’re SO CLOSE and yet so far away.

It made me question my ability to tell stories, it made me wonder why others were finding success and I wasn’t. It made me want to quit altogether. After all, I had been hustling for years on end and now you’re telling me I’m basically in the same spot I was in.

Everyone always says work on the next thing while you wait, but that’s assuming you can. I wanted to work on the next thing, but now every idea I had didn’t feel like a “debut book” idea. Nothing felt strong enough, nothing felt interesting or different enough.

So, I took a break. I didn’t write for the entirety of 2021. Which is wild to me as I had been consistently pumping out at least one book a year since I started pursuing traditional publishing. I wish I could say I spent that time wisely, picking up a new hobby, spending time with people I love. Instead, I spent all that extra free time beating myself up over the fact I simply couldn’t write. I believed I had no stories left in me.

Rejection can feel like that. The end of a possibility. But let me end this blog post off with some encouragement.

Yes, my first book on sub didn’t sell. But that didn’t mean I was out of stories. A new story eventually found me; one I loved equally if not more than the one I signed my former agent with. It took time, took more energy to write than any story I’d written before it, but I wrote it. Now I’m on sub for the second time with a different book, and while I do not have good news yet to share, this whole experience has taught me that sometimes we need time to wallow. Sometimes we need that rest period to find ourselves again.

You can keep going if you give yourself the space to.