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Taking the Long View

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Former regular WU contributor and New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch has a new book out today! THE REWIND, her ninth novel, was acquired in a five-way auction and has been otherwise receiving some significant buzz–it’s on Amazon’s Best Books of the Month list for November, and was named a Barnes & Noble Bookseller Favorite selection, and a Library Reads pick for November for starters. And just yesterday, a deal with Netflix was announced for a film based on THE REWIND (#confetti)! But book releases haven’t always been so rosy for Allison, and so we invited her to share with us the long-view of her career–where she’s been, the peaks and valleys, and what she’s learned along the way.

“Scotch’s latest is a second-chance rom-com set on a snowbound New England college campus at the turn of the millennium and told mainly through the internal monologues of the protagonists.” — Booklist, starred review

Learn more about Allison and her books on her website, and follow her on Instagram.

My ninth book is out today, and I’m having a wholly unique experience with its release. So I thought it might be valuable to talk about the peaks and valleys of a two-decade career with the benefit of some hindsight and perspective.

This book, THE REWIND, is my first book in a long time that is getting all those shiny bells and whistles that every author covets. Let me reiterate – this is my ninth book – and I’m only getting these now. It’s landed on a bunch of Editor’s Best of the Month, it has big splashy Hollywood interest, it’s getting viral buzz in a way that we all need these days. I tell you all this not because I’m boastful rather to say that for many years and for many books, it wasn’t this way, and I think it’s really important to discuss.

Let me go back in time to explain what I mean. Two decades ago, I wrote a novel. It probably wasn’t very good (ok it definitely wasn’t very good), but it got me an agent, and we shopped it around. And no one bought it. So I wrote another novel, and my then-agent (that’s foreshadowing), having read it, told me that she didn’t want to take it out, that she thought “it would do my career more harm than good” to do so. I fired her. So already off to a rocky start of this career, right? I found a new agent, and she believed in the book, and we sold it at a four-way auction. Hooray, no?

Well, wait.

The book sold fine. Fine. Not great, not abysmal, just…fine. (I think it may have hit the USA TODAY bestseller list, but it was a long time ago, and I could be wrong.)

The imprint offered on my next one, but for significantly less money, and I decided to take my chances and walk away. We were lucky enough to place my second book at my dream imprint (still for less money than my first advance), and by pure good fortune, that book took off and hit several bestseller lists. Hooray, no?

Well, wait.

I was under contract for another book, which wasn’t coming easily and basically was excruciating to write. By the time I filed it, my imprint had shuttered, my editor – who was already new to me between books two and three – had left, and I was drifting. I had three editors for three books, not ideal. The book did fine. Not great. Not abysmal.

In the midst of trying to figure out if I should stay at my imprint-less publisher, I got an offer – a big juicy offer – to jump to another house. Hooray, no?

Well, wait.

That book, my fourth, was an absolute disaster, sales-wise. Due to a million things that were out of control, as is nearly always the case when things go wrong – the author has so little control — it just…did not sell. I was devastated. I was furious. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to keep writing or at least publishing books. It took me a really long time – at least a year – to get over it.

When I finally did, no one wanted to publish me. I was told to change my name. I was told write a different genre. I was told no, A LOT. This only made me angrier. That due to things that I had no control over, my career was essentially dead.  I used this anger to write a fifth book and decided to self-publish it. This was years back when indie publishing was still looked down upon, but I didn’t have much to lose, and the process of having that control back – over marketing, over my cover, over editorial – was thrilling. I LOVED it. That book sold very well, well enough that publishing decided that maybe I shouldn’t be dead in the water after all.

I wrote three more novels, all of which had healthy sales, though some of which were indeed career rebuilding. I had moved to Lake Union by then, mostly because I did not want to have to think about how to sell my book, and I knew that Amazon Publishing did. They have amazing algorithms to sell the shit out of your book, and after being so weary and beaten down, that was all I wanted. For someone to just say: we got this.

This brings me to now, my ninth, THE REWIND. I’m back at Berkley, an imprint at Penguin RandomHouse, and am having the time of my life. But I wanted to share my publishing history so that struggling authors understand that they are not alone. And that every time you think your career could be over, you might still find a pulse. I wrote my heart out on this book, and I am enormously proud of it. It was challenging and thrilling, and I genuinely love the plot and the characters. But…that holds true for almost all of my books, and, well, I’ve taken you through the peaks and valleys. Getting recognition for your work is undeniably satisfying, and maybe even more satisfying at this point in my career, when I know how to appreciate it, and I know how precious it can be.

So many beautiful, brilliant books drift quietly into the night without the bells and whistles, without the accolades, and those lower sales say nothing, nothing!, about what you wrote or how wonderful it was. It can be so hard to see that in the thick of it, and it can be so difficult and painful to realize that this work you devoted yourself to so completely is going to sputter out and die.

So please remember that so many authors whose success is public have had books sputter out and die. Please know that your break-out book could be right around the corner. Please be kind to yourself if you are frustrated or angry. All we can do is write the very best book we are capable of. The rest is up to luck and placement and the team you have behind you. And the best thing you can do – in both success and failure – is remember that each may be temporary. And then, keep going.

Over to you, WU Community. What’s your long view? How far have you come? Where are you headed? What helps you to persevere? Write on.

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