It was the email you always want from your agent. "I think I sold your book."
This was back in May, the weekend of the Edgar awards. The book in question is one I truly believe in, and one that had been rejected before. But this time – with a new imprint and a new editor charged with bringing in exciting new content – it seemed like a go. All we were waiting on, it appeared, was a conference call with the head office. A few weeks of silence followed. Not unusual. Nothing was a given and my standard operating procedure is to assume it will all fall apart.
Today it did. Exhibit A books has closed down.
But don't feel bad for me. There are other writers whose books had sold. Contacts had been signed. Edits had begun. Immensely talented writers like Matthew Funk, Patti Abbott, Rob Hart, Nik Korpon and a host of other writers I'm not lucky enough to call friends like these folks. Books that had been finished and circulating for years in some cases. These are the people you should feel bad for. I was still in a state of hope, a place all writers seem to float in until the ink is dry on the contract. These people were down off the cloud, looking forward, thinking of things like cover art and book tours. All gone now.
And what of this intrepid new editor? Well, Bryon Quertermous is out of a job. That sucks big time. His enthusiasm for Exhibit A was infectious among the crime writing community. You got the sense this was an imprint on the verge. The verge of what, we were misinformed.
And Dan O'Shea, who was two books into a trilogy. What happens now?
The book business is brutal. This is not news. I'm sure Angry Robot, Exhibit A's parent company, didn't come to the decision lightly. They absolutely wanted to keep it alive. But if the numbers aren't there, they aren't there. Not much to be done. No blame here. I feel bad for them too.
So I go on. Back to square one, a place firmly imprinted with my footsteps. A place I spend so much time I ought to pay rent. After my deal with Guilt Edged Mysteries I felt like I'd climbed the first rung of the ladder. That turned out not to be true. Good folks, great books, but that imprint has fallen victim to a rethinking of what exactly they are all about. My trilogy of books ended at one. (#2 is written and sitting comfortably on my hard drive for 2 years now.)
But all the authors above will keep on writing. Bryon will get another job and he has his own book deal to look forward to. The now homeless books? Right now agents are scrambling to find them new homes. It's not the end of the world, but when hopes are dashed it makes us all into middle schoolers experiencing our first heartbreak. Our date to the dance has stood us up. Mine was still busy making up her mind when I heard through the grapevine that she dropped out of school.
We're alone, but surrounded by the characters we create and the other writers who all have their own version of this story. I've been here many times before throughout my screenwriting career. It is soul crushing and depressing and hurtful and discouraging. But if I haven't quit after all the bullshit up to this point, I'm sure as hell not going to quit now. So don't feel bad for me.