When Your Worst Fear Comes True

I’ve heard this a lot lately:

“What was your latest book again?”

If I Forget You.

“Oh, yeah! I remember now! That one sounded good!” Lowers eyes. “I haven’t read it yet.”

Not that I expect anyone in close proximity to read my books right away (or at all if they aren’t interested in them) because I seriously don’t, but I think I kind of cursed myself when I titled and based a book on forgetting stuff.

When I put out my novel IF I FORGET YOU, I had high hopes for it, but many great fears, as well … all of which have come true so far, and I’m pretty sure most of it is my own error. I made some pretty massively huge mistakes, the biggest one being that I didn’t market it one bit at all outside of announcing that it was published and out there. Why did I not market it? First of all, I was afraid for people to actually read it because the main character is a lot like me and I didn’t want to have to stumble upon reviews that tore it apart. Secondly, I think I released it too soon after OUT OF TUNE. Thirdly, I wanted to see if not marketing a book at all makes any sort of difference in sales. A big duh to that answer, right? It’s because I happen to know several authors who don’t market at all and their books sell just dandy. But they aren’t me, and they don’t write in a genre that doesn’t fit anywhere (i.e. clean new adult with no steamy erotic sex). At least I like to blame it on those two things, but who knows? Other people write clean new adult and do fine, but again, they aren’t me.

If I’ve learned anything in this business, it’s that there is no magical formula to selling books, and while there is a lot of luck involved in financial success, it’s also a matter of putting yourself in good situations to create that luck. It doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere (even thought it seems that way sometimes when you’re getting green with envy over another person’s success).

The thing is, folks, I’ve reached my worst fear: a novel I put out there completely 100% bombed on pretty much every level outside of the fact that I think it’s well-written, some people I highly respect who have read it say they loved it, and I’m proud of it. But a book failing the way this one has sales-wise, and after losing my publisher and feeling very alone this past year, I’ve felt at the bottom of the barrel emotionally, financially, etc. I’ve reached a point where I’ve spent way too much money on this publishing thing and dug myself too large a hole to climb out of with just selling books. So. Worst Fear Come True right there. I’ve had to attain a part-time job now that has nothing to do with writing, so now I have less time to write, and if I look at it with the bleak vision I usually look at everything (pessimist by nature here), I’d have a good mind to quit writing altogether.

Expectations are killer!

But I’m not going to quit. I’m still writing. I’ve shifted my goals, let go of some hefty dreams that have weighed me down over the past four years, and turned my eyes to different horizons. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the goals I’ve set. I’m halfway through a novel I believe in wholeheartedly, and I’m not stupid enough to believe I’m a bad writer or anything, but when I look back on the path I’ve traveled, I wonder if I’d set out on it again if I were to start all over. At this point in time, I’m not sure I would because this is just a tad bit soul sucking and it’s hard not to ask WHY AM I PUTTING MYSELF THROUGH THIS?

But like a friend of mine told me the other day after she read a blog post about what writing and publishing is like, sometimes you’re simply in the middle of a mountain meadow and you have no idea where you are, no idea if you even have a peak to climb after the ones you already reached and fell from, no idea which direction to turn. But you have to keep wandering, even if it feels aimless. Because eventually you’ll make your way out of the meadow if you don’t sit down and give up. And eventually you’ll find another peak to climb and you’ll think you’ve reached the top, but in reality there’s just another peak to climb. The trick is you usually have to go down first, and cross more meadows, then climb that peak just to find another one. There is no final destination.

So, it seems I’m in a meadow right now. A rather large one. With no flowers. But hey, I’m still writing and that has to account for something. I’m in the process of beginning to market my failed book and my other books, and I’m planning on being involved in many authorly things next year, like, gasp! conferences. All of that means I’m wandering, not sitting stagnant. One day I’ve got to make it to a spot I can at least see another peak, right?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

12 comments

Emily Davidson

Michelle, you are an amazing writer! I absolutely love your books and I recommend them every chance I get! Keep pushing forward, ignore the doubts, and you will do amazing!

Mich, why do you keep beating yourself up? Do you get some sort of perverted pleasure out of it? Because I know I do, LOL! I get into those kick-myself moods periodically. But the main issue is, there are too many writers out there. Not enough readers. I get very depressed when I go to a bookstore and I see so many books just sitting there. And so few people between the shelves.

PS – I also have a job that has nothing to do with writing. Always have, always will. Most of us do. I have 5 (soon to be 6) books with small publishers, and I loathe the idea of having to do so much marketing.

Sweetie, your books are never failures to me! I adore If I Forget You, and going on about it got a friend reading your books. You touch more than just 1 reader’s heart (and of course your number 1 fangirl is me, naturally). God just wants you to get a job, maybe to experience something which you can’t at home. Maybe after that you’ll find the path in the meadow. We’ll hold up signs for you!

I keep telling myself that I’m in this to learn and have fun, not just to sell books. (Believe me, I have not sold that many books). I try to look at every challenge as a learning opportunity. Even the challenges that just piss me right the hell off.

If I concentrate on that particular pearl and repeat it to myself (which I do, a lot) than I usually start to believe it.

I hope that helps.

There are so many ways we are alike, and a few where we are so vastly different. But that’s a conversation we can have privately some time.

For now:

“I had high hopes for it, but many great fears, as well … all of which have come true so far, and I’m pretty sure most of it is my own error.” Sounds familiar. There are times I go into something very important to me full of fears, see them become reality, and only when looking back do I realize how I unconsciously acted for the failures to be nearly inevitable. Frustrating, especially when I think about times other major events in my life were approached with hope-filled expectations and optimistic determination which were successful as a result.

“when I look back on the path I’ve traveled, I wonder if I’d set out on it again if I were to start all over.” I felt this way about my greatest dream less than four months ago. It was so bad, I told my sister that if I had known beforehand what was in store that I wouldn’t have been pursuing it. But I had made a commitment I couldn’t hand off and thankfully got enough help to pull me through until the situation evolved beyond the bog of despair into a place where I could literally and metaphorically see the sun again enough to continue my dream with renewed joy. Then I went back and told my sister that I had changed my mind and would still have gone forward if I had known beforehand what was ahead.

“I’m still writing and that has to account for something.” To which I say: Ole! You are doing – and being – good, Michelle. May you look upwards to the sun and know warming love, even when the path beneath your feet is monotonous and undesired. *hug*

PS I am looking forward to reading what story your fashionable job experience inspires.

I don’t know what to say, friend. I haven’t been anywhere close to where you are now so I don’t have any insight or experience to pass back. I can see why you feel so bleak though. It made me feel bleak reading it. I think it’s my worst fear too. I’m glad you know you’re a good writer. That’s a comforting feeling. That’s something I have recognized in myself lately, and that helps a lot, doesn’t it?

I took a break for a while this year and that was helpful. It wasn’t like, “Stop writing,” just, “Only do what you want to do,” which involved some writing.

Just know that though we’re not trudging in quite the same meadow as yours, we are trudging, many of us out here, with no reward for our work but the kind words of a handful of friends and strangers. And we go on. I don’t know why.

We hope in the next book…

Haneen Ibrahim

“I’m not stupid enough to believe I’m a bad writer or anything” I loved this, this matters so very much that you have no doubts about your skill itself. I feel like I’m in a meadow too these days, for years actually, the only thing that never changed for me is that I knew I wanted to write. It takes great courage to write a post like this yet again this has always been you, and you know what; I’m happy now have a job other than writing, I seriously believe you need it and something good will come out of it. Michelle be Strong!

Jenn Hubbard

This has been a tough year or two for me also, and I find that the biggest and best reward is the writing itself. We really do have so little control over how our work is received. We keep trying to find ways to control that, but I think it takes a combination of talent and hard work and luck, in which luck is a very big factor.
If you love what you’re writing, you’re ahead of the game. Hugs.

“…I think it’s well-written, some people I highly respect who have read it say they loved it, and I’m proud of it.”

Then you have’t failed.

Chin up. This will pass, and you will be stronger for it, my friend.

Oh, my dear Michelle!! I feel, feel, feel your pain. Despite the very different paths we’ve chosen to pursue with our writing, I feel exactly like I’m in that same, slowly sinking boat with you. But it’s only sinking when I focus on the “publishing” aspect of my writing. Like– why, why, why don’t editors like my voice? Why, why, why do they all want something edgy? Why can’t someone, anyone, dig my humor? Okay, enough of the boohooing! When I focus on just writing for me, what I want with no thought to what editors want or what’s popular right now, then that boat feels like it’s floating just fine.

You’re still writing, I’m still writing (well, I’ve got to kick my writing self in shape!), and like you said, that’s all that matters!! Love ya!

Beth Overmyer

(((hugs)) for the Glamorous One.