Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Publication--One Year Later

My debut novel At Yellow Lake was published in the UK just over a year ago.

And what a year it has been--magnificent launch party, school and festival events, a nomination for the Carnegie Medal as well Waterstones Prize and Branford Boase longlistings--heady stuff! In many ways, my life has changed immeasurably. I'm proud of At Yellow Lake's reception into the world, and will never forget this wonderful "debut" year!

Let's have yet another look at that amazing US launch cake...

The memory of this (and other) launch cakes has seen me through my darkest moments...

Of course, there have been a few disappointments, too.

As most people who follow children's publishing in the UK know, my publisher, Frances Lincoln, was taken over by another company and their children's fiction list pulled. I've blogged about this before, as have others who were affected--many of them more adversely than me--by this decision. This meant that the book I'd hoped would be my follow-up to At Yellow Lake wasn't going to be published by Frances Lincoln.

Nor by anyone else, as it turned out...

Bryony Pearce in the SCBWI Words and Pictures magazine wrote about her own post-debut disappointments. Happily, she has just published her second novel with a new publisher, and I'm sure it will be a great success--and worth waiting for!

But, as she points out in that honest and insighful post, it's pretty disheartening when things don't quite go to plan. When the natural follow-on to publication--further publication--doesn't happen straight away, or even at all, it's demoralising to say the least. If you suffer from nagging self-doubt, and want to boost your levels up to "crippling", this is a good way to do it.

But still....this is the way it is. Even if you're published, disappointments can (OK, will, eventually) occur.

Maybe you're published by a major publisher but aren't "lead title". Your book may not get the attention you know it deserves. Your sales may suffer. You may feel like a bridesmaid, instead of a bride--and at your own wedding! Or, maybe your sales have slipped and you've had the last two books of a series contract pulled. Or, maybe you finished the books in your contract, and no others are asked for.

Maybe, maybe...

I had a wonderful lunch with some of my fellow 2010 Undiscovered Voices in London last month.  Between jokes and stories and opinions (not to mention mouthfuls of delicious foods and the occasion glug of wine) we talked about these things. The near-miss at acquisitions, the lost agent, the fear of being published only once (or never at all), the gnawing insecurities we all feel and all face as writers.

In the end, there are no guarantees. Some of us may never get published or signed with an agent. Some of us may be one hit wonders (although "hit" would probably closer to the mark in my case!)

Again, this is part of the game, par for the course. In a creative industry where the sellers vastly outnumber the buyers, this will always be the case, and even moreso in today's turbulent climate.  

So, what advice can I give based on my debut year experience?

1) Relish the good stuff! Celebrate and enjoy any success that comes your way, and never take it for granted.

2) Be thankful for the support of family and friends as well as writing and publishing colleagues. Meeting new people and making new friends has been one of the best things to come out of my writing and publishing experience.

3) Be appreciative of those who champion your book, whether they are events organisers, school librarians, book shop owners, or your (many, I hope) readers. We owe these people so much!

4) In the end, it's the work, the writing itself, that is the best, most lasting and most important thing, so never give in to the disappointments and fear.



  1. Crippling self-doubt? I don't know what you mean! (wait a minute, what will people think of that comment? Was it too glib? Maybe I should just delete it right now to avoid the thousand-to-one risk of upsetting the only person in publishing who likes my book).


  2. If your self-doubt was truly crippling, Nick, you wouldn't have been able to imagine even one person liking your book. Lightweight!

    1. Well, thanks for obliterating the last remaining atom of my self-confidence!


  3. Oh everything you said is so true! I would add number 5 ... Be proud you wrote a great book that someone wanted to publish and people are continuing to read and love!

  4. Thanks, Candy. No, I can't forget that, and all the amazing support I've had from the likes of you!

  5. Great post, Jane. Thanks for such a positive take on what was in so many ways a difficult year. Those of us who’ve read and loved At Yellow Lake can’t wait for what comes next, so keep on tapping - we expect nothing less!

  6. Thanks, Chris. Should also have mentioned what a privilege it was to work with Emily and Maurice and how life is made easier with a wonderful agent like Sallyanne...

  7. Such a great post, Jane. So full of wisdom. Thank you!

  8. I only read At Yellow Lake a couple of weeks ago (I have a long SCBWI BI book list I'm working my way through) and loved it. So I know that this will not be a one off. You have just a bit of bad luck and I'm sure you'll be picked up again. Thanks for sharing what happened. It's good to have a clear understanding of what can happen in this industry.

  9. Thanks, Maureen. I know what you mean about that book list! I know that I've been lucky in so many ways. There are many similar stories that could be told, I'm sure. Not an easy gig!