Friday, May 16, 2008

The Road Not Taken

Maven Jackie BarbosaEarlier this week, I got a call that gave me a moment's pause, wondering if I'd made a poor career decision last summer. You see, it was an editor calling to offer me a contract for Carnally Ever After, which I'd long-since contracted to Cobblestone Press. I submitted the story to said publisher back in April of 2007 (ed: not 2006; I'm chronologically-challenged!), and when I didn't hear one way or the other for a few months, I got antsy and submitted it to Cobblestone, never dreaming I'd get a contract offer from them within hours of submission. I figured I had plenty of time to wait for BOTH publishers to get back to me. When I hadn't heard anything from the other publisher after a full six months had elapsed, I figured the rejection dropped into my Spam folder and I'd failed to rescue it.

Anyway, my initial response to this call was to want to kick myself in the head. The publisher in question is a "big name" publisher, and there's no doubt I could have earned more money on the story if I'd contracted with them. Why, oh why, didn't I wait longer? Have more patience?

And then I kicked myself again because, duh, if I hadn't contracted that story with Cobblestone, I'd never have bothered to write the sequel. I'd never have met Deanna Lee and Emma Petersen and Amie Stuart, all of whom were instrumental in my decision to submit that sequel to Kensington Books.

So, as it turns out, what was objectively a "wrong" decision (to go with a lesser-known, smaller publisher without waiting to hear from the larger one) was actually the right one. I couldn't have known any of this back in June, though, and none of these possibilities factored into my decision. I simply decided that I'd found a reputable publisher who loved my story, and I was willing to forego the chance of hooking the "bigger fish" when I already had a solid bite on my line.

Wow, am I glad I did! If I had waited, there's no telling what would have happened, of course. It's possible I'd have written something instead of Wickedly Ever After that would have hooked an agent or editor. Or not. It's impossible to know.

As writers, I think we angst a lot over our decisions. Do I write this story or that one? Should I submit to this agent or that one? Should I sign with this agent or not? And so on.

But I think maybe we worry too much. Even if you make the "wrong" decision, chances are good it'll be a learning experience. It will probably lead you places you'd never have tried to go otherwise. And that, in the long run, it will contribute to your success in ways you can't even dream of when you make your choice.

YOUR TURN: What was the hardest career decision you ever had to make? Did you make the "right" one or the "wrong" one? Or are you still trying to figure that out?


Carrie Ryan said...

Man this post has me thinking! I tend to always find the positives in any decision. Writing wise, in November 2006 I'd started a chick lit YA for NaNoWriMo that I was excited about. And then this dark YA jumped into my head. I felt like I'd flipped around a lot between book ideas for the past 2 years and I'd promised JP that I'd finish a book and stop jumping around. But I couldn't get the new idea out of my head and I finally decided to set aside the chick lit YA. That meant not finishing NaNo which had been an important goal.

The dark YA was FHT -- I'm glad I gave it a chance :)

Amie Stuart said...

awwwwwwww thansk babe. I'm a firm believer in everything happening for a reason, even if that reason is just to learn something

Beverley Kendall said...

First of all, that's one of my most favourite poems ever. And yes, I would say in most cases, things do work out for the best.

I decided to move to IL with my job years back. Left NJ. Then went back to NJ and then moved to GA. Best bunch of decisions I could ever have made and don't regret them for a second.

Amie Stuart said...

PS Hardest career decision was firing my first agent. Did I make the right choice? Yes. Sadly I'm a huge fan of one of her authors and it galls me every time I buy her books that I'm putting money in her pocket.

Bill Clark said...

Great post, Jackie! I had to mull it over for a day, and even now I'm not sure what I want to say or how to say it.

First, I think you made absolutely the right decision to go with Cobblestone. If Mr. Big-Name Publisher takes over two years to get back to you, with no intervening expressions of interest, that to me is not a good sign. Common courtesy dictates otherwise.

Second, you have indeed written a sequel and set your life on a new path. The alternative, as I understand it, would have been to wait, and wait, and wait some more for lightning to strike from Mr. Big-Name. That's kinda like quitting your day job because you think you'll win the lottery next week...or maybe the week after...or maybe the week after that....

Even if you make the "wrong" decision, chances are good it'll be a learning experience. It will probably lead you places you'd never have tried to go otherwise. And that, in the long run, it will contribute to your success in ways you can't even dream of when you make your choice.

This is a beautiful paragraph. And it's one you would not have written had you not made the choice you did. So there's your validation right there.

I once resigned a vice presidency at a major educational institution in NYC over a point of honor. I'd made a job offer to someone, and was overruled by the Acting President who thought I should have hired someone else. It was scary to give up a luxurious four-bedroom, four-bathroom apartment with a paneled library (first and only I've ever had), not to mention a comfortable salary; but I still had to live with myself, and you can't put a price on your own self-regard.

And yes, it was the right decision to make. My self-esteem is still intact; the person the Acting Pres hired in place of my candidate flamed out within a matter of weeks (and the institution has been struggling ever since); but best of all, I took the opportunity to reexamine what I wanted in life and to reinvent myself as a writer.

Thanks for one of the best - and best-written - posts ever on Manuscript Mavens!

Anonymous said...

Hugs! MLYLT! :)

lacey kaye said...

I am *so* one of those people who never looks back. I believe there is no such thing as a truly wrong decision. You made the right choice and more -- you are reaping the benefits of it! Go, intuition!

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