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Take a Day for Your Disappointments

It’s been about 48 hours now since I decided to scrap the launch of book three, which would have been a week from now. The long and the short of it is that I was unable to get a cover made, which, turns out, is really essential for releasing a book despite the adage of not judging books by them. Turns out you can’t send people to a link or gin up any enthusiasm for a book unless there’s a visual representation for it, which is, again, kind of weird. But I’m digressing.

Because I’m here to talk about disappointment and how to deal with it.

Which is, unfortunately, a subject I know a lot about.

This setback is particularly painful because this was the first launch where I actually knew what I was doing. For The Woven Ring, I just sort of threw it out into the wild and then started to explore the fantasy landscape of fans. The Imbued Lockblade came out two weeks after the birth of my son, so I probably did less outreach for that launch than I did for the previous.

But I decided the third book would be different. After two years mapping out the ins and outs of the online fantasy community, I intended to actually do a professional launch. This included reviews from several of the major fantasy blogs, an ARC team, Facebook ads, giveaways and the like. All this was on a schedule, which began the day I finished the rough draft and emailed my designer to lock up the last two covers so I could put up preorders for book four the day three came out. That was five months ago.

I won’t delve into the behind the scenes drama that went on there, but needless to say, I don’t have a cover one week before my intended launch. I will note that he did refund my deposit, which was exceedingly decent of him.

But what really stings on this is that this lack of professionalism is what made me look unprofessional. For the first time in three years I had all my ducks in a row. I did everything right, yet for the want of a nail, the war was lost.

Added to this is that I’ve already changed the cover once, which means I don’t really want to rebrand the whole series again. Which means I need to find a new artist with a similar style to try and keep with the already established visual motif.

Which is exactly what I did. Starting this morning, after a two-day mourning period, that is.

Alas, having come from screenwriting, I’ve got a fair bit of experience dealing with disappointment. Despite over 15 years in the business (and counting), I no longer even have an IMDB page, which I can certainly add to my long list of disappointments. And I’ve come so close so many times, only to have something I had no control over go wrong: One very famous director’s previous movie bombed, so our funding disappeared; producers decided not to pay for a script they commissioned, leaving me a script no one wanted to touch now; the online network set to premier a show we already filmed folded; one director died; the YA author set write the book version of my movie decided to make some changes and wrought a version so bad her publisher refused it, yet my manger didn’t get a contract into place, so she claimed rights to my story.

But the one that still stings the worst was when an up and coming director was attached to a script, the producers flew me out to London for a week to do rewrites, which I spent the next month completing, at which point he quit and ended up getting an Oscar for the film he left us for, leaving me to always wonder if his Oscar could have been for our film instead.

So yeah, I’ve had my share of disappointments, yet I still keep plugging away. Because I fear, much like how Rorschach described being a superhero in Watchmen, we do these things not because we want to but because we are compelled. The fact this sounds like a mental health issue aside, this is what separates the authors/ artists from the amateurs/ dabblers: The fact we continue after we fail. Because failure to us isn’t any single one of these innumerable setbacks, rather the inability to keep going when we hit them.

This is the lesson that 15 years of disappointments in screenwriting has taught me. And I’ve learned it well.

But that is not to say I didn’t take a day to acknowledge this setback. No matter how thick the skin I’ve developed from countless rejections and disappointments, they still sting. And the author has every right to wallow and feel sorry for him/ herself. Because we are emotional beings and need to acknowledge our feelings no matter how self-indulgent they are on occasion. This is where the catharsis comes from, and my particular act of emotional exorcism involved some single barrel bourbon and rewatching my favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard. I bitched to my wife and huffed around the house for 24 hours.

And then I got back to work.

I was about to end this little self-indulgent blog post that was the last act in my emotional exorcism with that line, but then as I was searching for images to attach, I was reminded I'm not the first author have this idea. So I'll leave you with this little word of wisdom from someone with a lot more experience on the matter.

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MD Presley is a screenwriter, blogger and occasional novelist… which basically means he’s a layabout.  He has written two books on fantasy worldbuilding, and teaches worldbuilding techniques, tricks, and tips at Forging Fantasy Realms once a week on YouTube. 

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