Trunk Books and Markets and Dreams, oh my!


By Dame Devon

Let’s start this post with an invitation for reader questions. You can ask general writerly-type questions, or can ask a question for a specific Dame.  We’ll do our best to answer the questions in comments, or in a separate blog post.

I was on Twitter this morning and asked for a question for today’s post. The wonderful Sandy Williams (she’s @brimfire on Twitter) asked me if I had any books that didn’t sell that I’d like to dust off and try to get published now that I’ve made it.

Oh, the juiciness!  There are actually two terrific things I’d like to address in that question.

1. My books that haven’t sold.
2. The idea that I’ve “made it.”

Here we go:

I have seven unpublished books. Five of them will never see the light of day.  They were practice books–and I’m not saying I wrote them thinking they were practice books–I thought each and every one of them was good enough to sell. I rewrote many of them multiple times.  I changed the tense and point of view and genre of one book three separate times.  I submitted all my books to agents and editors with every intention of seeing them get published.

I got my first bite from an agent with one of those trunk novels. At the time, I would have given my front teeth for one of those novels to sell.

But I am here to tell you I am SO GRATEFUL those five books were rejected.  They weren’t ready. They would have tanked if they hit the shelves, and I probably would have given up on this whole crazy novel dream thing and gone back to short stories for a decade or two.

I do have two unpublished books that are good.  Good enough they got me Dame Agent.  Good enough there will be a third in that series, not soon, but not never.  Dame Agent and I have a feeling they’re going to get their  chance at publication one of these days.

I love these books. They’re not exactly urban fantasy, but they are quirky and fun, and yet somehow still serious and emotionally true. People who’ve read them, in bits or in whole, love them.

I know what you’re thinking–if they’re so good, how come they didn’t sell?

Timing of the market. We happened to go on submission just when a big name author’s novel came out with a similar concept.  Big Name author had a different market (mainstream, instead of genre) and perhaps because of that, the concept didn’t fair as well as hoped.  The general consensus among publishers was that if Big Name’s treatment of the concept hadn’t gone over with fireworks and rockets, then how would an untested debut author’s work do any better?

This happens, ladies, and gents.  There are many things in publishing that are outside of a writer’s control.  The one thing that is always in the writer’s control is to write another book. Which is exactly what I did.

At this point, I’m waiting for the market to shift a little before putting those books back out there.  But they will go back out there. And when they sell (crosses fingers), you will hear me screaming from the rooftops.

Which brings up the second part of Sandy’s question.  Am I going to dust them off and try to publish them now that I’ve made it?

When I first started writing, I thought if I could just sell one story, I’d be a real writer.  I would have made it.  Over the next fifteen years or so, writers, editors, agents, public speakers, friends, family, and complete strangers took me to the side and would tell me in one way or another, “You’re not a real writer.  You haven’t made it.”

It went like this:

Me: I finished my first short story.  I made it!
Them: What? You haven’t sold it, you haven’t made it.

Me: Look, I sold my first short story!
Them: To that inferior market?  How cute.  You haven’t made it.

Me: I sold three short stories to respected print markets with industry-standard pay rates!
Them: Not the top print markets though, is it?  You haven’t made it.

Me: Here–I sold to one of the top genre print markets, half a dozen times.  Happy?
Them: But that’s not an invitation anthology.  Real writers get invitations to anthologies. You haven’t made it.

Me: Now that I’ve sold to invitation anthologies, half a dozen times, PLUS had a story reprinted in a Year’s Best Fantasy anthology, have I made it?
Them: Let’s see.  Won any awards lately?  Do you even have a MFA?  Oh, and genre doesn’t count anyway.  If you’re not writing mainstream or “literature” you haven’t made it.  Plus, you’re not writing novels.  You haven’t made it until you write novels.

Me: Oh for the love of–  Fine!  I finished seven novels.
Them: Chump change.  You don’t have an agent.   Still haven’t made it.

Me: Guess what? Found an agent.  We’re on submission with the novel.
Them: Too bad it didn’t sell–what was the problem? “market timing?” Right.  You haven’t made it.

Me: I wrote another novel and sold it in a six book deal.
Them: So? You aren’t on the New York Times Best Seller list, you aren’t getting movie deals, TV deals, or advances like Rowling, King, and Brown.  You don’t have Oprah on speed dial do you?  No, I didn’t think so.  Sorry, you haven’t made it.

I could go on.  My point is that there will always, always be someone out there telling you in direct or indirect ways, that you are not a “real” writer and haven’t “made it.”

I hereby give you official Dame Devon permission to tell them to shut the hell up and f*ck the hell off.

If you’re writing, you’ve made it. If you’re dreaming of writing, rolling it around in your soul and wondering if that’s the path for you, you’ve made itWhether you approach your dreams on soft feet or in a breathless run, just so long as you acknowledge that your dreams are valuable and worthy of pursuing, then you’ve made it.

And now, for anyone who made it to the end of this rather long post, I am giving away THREE copies of MAGIC IN THE SHADOWS. Just leave a comment or question, and I’ll use a random number generator to choose a winner.  Winners will be announced Sunday, November 1st.


  1. says

    Great post! As far as I’m concerned, you have officially “made it.”

    For me, the question of whether I’ve “made it” or not never seems to come from other people–it’s all from within myself. If anyone knows a sure-fire cure to compare-myself-to-others syndrome, please do share! Because there will always, always be someone doing better, and in my low moments, I can always make myself feel inferior by comparing. I suspect I’m not the only writer out there who does that. LOL

  2. Michelle says

    Wow. Love the post. You are right that there will always be someone out there to tell you you haven’t made it. In my heart if I feel like I have made it then I have becuase I made the goal I set for myself. Thanks for all the great insite.

  3. says

    I’m not a writer but a store owner. I think everyone has self doubts. Especially when you compare yourself to others in the business.

    I dream of problems happening.
    No one will buy from me anymore. I can’t find inventory. My storage unit caught on fire.
    lol It’s terrible.
    No one can be harsher on me then myself.

  4. says

    Ooh, count me in! I’d love to win Magic In The Shadows! :)
    My comment is about the I’ve made it/No you haven’t part of your post. For all of those people who said you haven’t made it? Well, if your novels out there, where people can find and read it, then you’ve made it. It doesn’t really matter who publishes it or how many copies were sold. If it got published then you made it. At least in my eyes, anyway!

    Robyn :)

  5. says

    I think you both made it, at least in my calendar with the release dates of your next books. That does count in my world! =)
    There are always people who want to talk down what you achieved and they really should just shut the f*#ck up and find something to do besides crushing down people’s dream.

    Love this post!

  6. Dawn Y. says


    As far as I’m concerned, you’ve ‘Made It.’ Don’t listen to all those other people! In life, I’ve always found there are several someones out there who have done more, gone farther and think they are better. So what?! You are doing excellent.

    And, oh please, please, please – book! Even if I don’t win it, that’s okay. I’ve got it marked on my calendar to go buy it the day it’s released.

    Questions? Just so happens I have a couple. First, I went to an RWA meeting a couple weeks ago where the main topic of discussion was author websites and the importance of having one, even if you are not yet published. What is the Dames’ opinion on this? What does an unpublished writer put on their site that is relevant and keeps it interesting? I talked with another writer about this, and they phoo-phooed the whole concept – I don’t agree with them, but they are allowed their opinion. Who maintains the Dames’ website? Do you do the upkeep on your personal sites yourself, or have someone take care of that for you?

    Second question: Laptops. Do you have any recommendations on parameters when considering purchasing one?

    Thanks! Can’t wait to read your next book!!!

  7. says

    Haha! What a fantastic post! It makes me want to put on my butt-kicking boots and stomp all over everybody that tries to rain on our parades.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like “I’ve made it”, although I certainly hope so. But I’m trying very hard to enjoy each step in the process. So each little step feels like a victory. :)

  8. Jessica S. says

    Have you ever had an idea that you really liked and wanted to write about, but “they” said no? Or did “they” end up helping you by pointing you in another direction that was similar–a give and take kind of thing?

  9. Saffie says

    “If you’re writing, you’ve made it. If you’re dreaming of writing, rolling it around in your soul and wondering if that’s the path for you, you’ve made it. Whether you approach your dreams on soft feet or in a breathless run, just so long as you acknowledge that your dreams are valuable and worthy of pursuing, then you’ve made it.”

    I love it. This should be shouted from the rooftops and at the snobbys out there.

  10. Dragonkat says

    Thank you for that post! It makes it clear to me that I will never ‘make it’ by other people’s standards; I have to make it by my own. I stopped writing for years because too many people were saying, condescendingly, that writing fantasy/urban fantasy/sci-fi fiction wasn’t ‘real’ writing. Even now I get it; taking a cont ed course on short story writing and the prof commented on a piece I presented saying it was a “good example of ‘genre’ fiction; something we haven’t addressed in this class.” Yep, again I wasn’t ever going to ‘make it’ by her standards. (A short story is a short story, no matter what it is about. Sheesh!).

    Thank you for reminding us that only you can determine if you’ve ‘made it’, because everyone else will be too busy moving the goal line back further and further, undercutting any and all of your achievements.

    Well, in my opinion you have MADE IT! Love your stories; they are brash, inventive, evocative and just downright cool. Keep up the great work!

  11. says

    great post, I really want the third book, the first two on my shelf look a little lonely 😉

    my question: was the series orginally planned out as six volumes, plot and pacing wise? I notice a lot of authors have series planned, which I love with the right writer(which you are!)


  12. says

    Definitely count me in for Magic in the Shadows! *crosses fingers*

    Question: How did find a schedule/time management/thingy so you could manage juggling life and writing?

  13. says

    I personally think you’ve “made it” as an author once you’ve finished writing a piece, because it’s a lot harder than most people think. I’ve started and stopped on a couple projects becasue I get stuck in the middle… I get a good premise going, but just can’t come up with the story arc. I’m hoping NaNoWriMo (this year is my first time) will help me just blunder through and get something finished.

    So my question for the Dames is, are any of you doing NaNoWriMo this year? And has anyone done it in previous years?

    And I’d love to win a copy of Magic in the Shadows! I love Allie.

  14. MariaSweet says

    Everytime one of those people told you hey look you haven’t made it did you feel dejected or angry to the point of saying “hey have you published a book either genre or mainstream?! No? Well then you really should shut the hell up cause you’re not one to talk!”?

  15. Bella says

    Good for you Dame Devon! Very inspiring, plus a much-appreciated look at the inside of the publishing world. Can’t wait to hear more about the trunk books that will see daylight someday!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  16. Irena says

    Do you have any idea what you would be writing if you weren’t writing the “Magic” books? Do you have another idea that is begging to be written?

  17. Cathy says

    You know I think you’ve made it. I love your books and hope the 2 unpublished ones (and 1 yet to be written) get published soon. Can’t wait for the rest of the Allie books.

  18. Linda D. says

    Thanks for the wonderful post! Very inspiring and I believe just taking the steps towards your dream is “making” it!

    And, as always, I’d love a chance to win one of your novels Devon!

    I also have a question to all of the Dames: When you all write your series, do you only continue to write them under contract? Or do you plot out an entire say 6-book series regardless of whether it sells? I’m working on a series myself, but I just wonder if I should attempt to sell the first novel first before I complete the rest of the (7!) novels.

    Thing is, I love writing them so much, I don’t want to stop! I just wonder if and when you’re published, do you continue to write something you love whether or not you sell it…particularly an entire series.

    Also, are agents more receptive to a stand alone book as a debut (even if you plan to write it as a series)? Is the fact that you plan on making it a series something that should be stated in a query letter?

    Thanks ladies! 😀

  19. Caitlin Usignol says

    Magic in the Shadows sounds great. This is the first time I have heard of it and can’t wait to read it.

  20. Michelle C. says

    I’m so looking forward to this book.

    I wonder how different things would be if we were all a bit more positive about things, instead of pointing out the negative. Instead of saying you haven’t made it, it should be you finished a story? Great, now write some more and see if you can sell one.

    I think sometimes we need more encouragement, someone other than ourselves who believes in us and that we can do whatever we set out to accomplish.

  21. sadieloree says

    I loved this post!! It’s so reaffirming for those stuck in the slush. I adore this series and can’t wait for this newest installment!

  22. says

    As far as I’m concerned you have totally made it! I’m s looking forward to reading this next book. Your post was really great and it’s good advice to give anyone. You’re awesome.

  23. says

    A wonderful writer and a wonderful inspiration! I’ve pulled out yet another quote to keep from a post you’ve written.(And hey, a copy of the new book wouldn’t hurt, either!)

    P.S. (I say you’ve made it.)

  24. says

    Great post! I’m about halfway through my first novel and all the way into “middle of the book blues.” It was good to read about your journey to “made it.” Congrats on your latest book!

  25. Linda George says

    What a Great post! I just love following all of you Dames. Winning the book would just be icing on the cake.

  26. says

    I too suffer from comparison to others. But not on this issue.

    I have a very clear milestone at which point I will be satisfied I “have made it”. After I reach that point, everything else s just gravy, and no one will be able to convince me I haven’t “made it”.

    First royalty check for a novel. That’s it. I don’t care if it is one damn penny, and a clipped one at that. Doesn’t mean I stop, or that I don’t try to achieve more. But if I define what “made it” means to me, and each that goal, then no one can take it away from me.

    The problem with self-comparison is that everyone has different definitions. Pick yours and shoot for it, and don’t worry about whether it fits with everyone elses. Because it won’t.

  27. says

    I’d love to hear the answer to Dawn Y’s questions.

    I’d also like to know about selling short stories. I have always heard that “short stories don’t sell” (which you’ve proven they do)

    I’ve got a short story that I sent through Dame Toni’s Book RX (and got lovely helpful feedback on) that I wrote for a writing contest (that does publish the top 12 stories) but now I’m trying to figure out if that’s the right way to send it…

    What’s your input?


  28. Barbara Elness says

    Loved your post – and I agree, as long as you’re following your dream and putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys), you’re an author. I’d love to read Magic in the Shadows and I hope to soon.

  29. Jill says

    Enjoyed the post.
    The naysayers are like your Jungian shadow. They like to hang around artists because they want to be artists but can’t get out of their own way so they love to get in your way. You are actually doing what they want to do.

    I’m counting the days to read about Zayion again! I’d love to win!
    Thanks for writing these books. I read extensively in the genre and yours are my favs!

  30. says

    Yeah, gotta roll my eyes at the naysayers. My mom’s advice on anyone who pulls the “you’re not a ‘real’ writer unless/until—“? “Lie to them. Who cares what they think?” :) That’s the kind of support system everybody deserves.

  31. Becky says

    you have successfully published 2/3 novels in a fabulous fantasy series you’ve got your name on several popular short stories and your signed up for what 3 more at the very least?
    plus you’ve already got yourself a loyal fanbase thats growing by the day.
    for everyone on here, your fan base your family and to all those who oount you’ve “made it” =)

  32. says

    Hi :)
    I loved your post.
    Wow – you sound greatly successful to me!
    All the best,
    PS – I already have Magic In The Shadows so don’t enter me in the contest unless it is a signed copy, because I don’t have a book signed by you yet. :)

  33. Bre says

    loved the post and would love to be entered into the contest, but are Canadian residents allowed?

  34. says

    Dame Devon – I ADORED this post. I’ve been deep in the contest-not-finaling doldrums, and just signed up for Nanowrimo to try and wrench myself out. I have no plot outline, no character sketches – heck, I don’t even know the protagonists’ names – and only the vaguest snippet of an idea – but I’m determined to do it. Not just that, but to try writing in first- instead of third-person as well. I’m feeling kind of peppy, and liberated in trying something different. thanks for cheering people like me on!

    P.S. I love Allie, therefore I’m with your Twitter friend – I believe you’ve made it as well

  35. Heather C says

    Great post!!! I think a lot of us fans just don’t realize how hard it is to get your work out into the world. Patience and perseverance must come right on the list of author qualities after creativity. :)

  36. Sable says

    I can’t wait for Magic in the Shadows! I love Allie and your supporting cast of characters. Maybe we’ll even get a book about the mysterious Mr. Jones someday. *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*

  37. Elise says

    This really raised my spirits. I write a little here and there, (and inspire to write in the future) but I know by all standards I haven’t made it, or so I thought. Its true in all honesty, yet I think it all comes down to your own thoughts. Don’t listen to what other people have to say about your progress in the writing world. Besides as you said, the only person who reads those junk books are yourself. Can’t wait for the new release!

  38. Esther says

    Devon your insight into writing is going to take a lot of us who have “written some things” into the new field of ok lets try again thanks E

  39. says

    Devon love that article its awesome i often think about writing but than think what will i write I used to write for my school newspaper but that was just the news section

  40. Harry Markov says

    Oh, yeah I get the whole haven’t made [made it] deal, although I think I cause myself to believe I haven’t made it. My mind is a very vile thing that always likes to pop up and announce that for every victory I have, there are at least 1000 people that did better and have achieved more.

    And you are correct, the attitude towards writing is what determines the angle with which one looks at whether one has made it or not.

  41. Nikki Egerton says

    Thank you Dame Devon, you have actually already answered a question I wanted to ask – Dame Rachel has mentioned practice novels before and I wondered if you knew at the time of writing them that they were only practice novels. I have written stories since being small but am now seriously writing my first novel. As much as I wish it would be published, I can kind of see that it wont be. I have however “made it” in that I am finally doing what I always said I would do!
    Thanks again xxx

  42. says

    you’re awesome. seriously. just awesome. what a great post to take the cranky right out of this cloudy carolina coast morning :)

  43. says

    Great post Devon. I can’t wait for Magic in the Shadows. Congrats on yet another release. And thanks for that post. I’m getting two short stories published and, while I still have many more writing related goals in my future, I can now honestly say (and believe, thanks to your post) that I have made it! Yay!

  44. Anthea says

    I like this post. And how can I resist putting in for a copy of your new book? I came over via your link from LJ, so now I’m off to look around here a bit :)

  45. Dawn Y. says

    One more question: how important do you think it is for an author to have a literary college degree? I was talking with another writer last week, and that person said if you don’t have good ‘credentials’, like a Masters of Literarcy, publishers won’t even consider you. I don’t know what to make of that comment. I can think of several great authors, with multiple published books, that to the best of my knowledge started down career paths that had nothing to do with writing. So, what do the Dames have to say on this? Thanks!

  46. says

    I needed this post. Thank you so much:) There is always someone out there to squash dreams. I think some people are born to do that. *snicker*.

  47. Sarah D says

    I love the post. It’s so very applicable to other areas outside of writing as well, so thanks!

    Would love to be entered in the contest too.:)

  48. Jennifer L says

    Heh. I have that same frustration with “making it”. I’ve been writing since I was 9. Won contests (with big cash prizes), been published, did the freelance thing (White Wolf Games), finally sold my first story to a professional anthology (out in December). Screw them. I made it. I’ll keep making it, too! :)

    P.S. I loved this post. Does it show?

  49. says

    I may have only 1 story published but I do have that ever elusive P word. Have I made it? I wish. My one criteria for making it would be to have a following, a regular audience. Oh and getting paid would be nice. And I’ve got an applied animal science degree. Not exactly what publishers would look for I suppose. For now I’ll be happy with the hopes of winning a book.

  50. says

    A – You’ve definitely made it. B – You can’t wind us up like that and not tell us what the other series is about! What type of a cruel post is that!? :) Seriously would love to know more about the other series but do respect your right to keep it private. Cheers, SB Frank

  51. says

    @57 College writing degrees are not the kind of credntials you need to get published. What you need is a good book. An MFA will not make a bad book good. The agent or publisher has seen so many crappy books from MFAs(or whatever), that those three letters are invisible to them. I’m sure the Dames will give you the same answer.

  52. Biki says

    Congratulations, you’ve made it. :)

    Sorry to say I haven’t gotten the chance to read your books yet though.

  53. Carol Thompson says

    OOHH ! What agony !

    Five books, multiple re-writes and still not good enough for you.

    Thats almost masochistic of you.

    Well at the end you have got two you like, so best of luck with those.


  54. Sue S. says

    Sounds like an interesting series that I might have to start. My daughter is actually the one who wants to win this book, I’m just helping her out. 😉

  55. Carrie S. says

    Oh my sister is dying for this book. She’d love to have a signed copy. Make a great gift for her! Count me in for her! 😉

  56. Lisa Richards says

    Hey, you made it. Don’t doubt it. Have read the first book in the series and loved it. Would love to have a free copy of “Magic in the Shadows”. Will they be autographed? How many books can we count on in this seres?

  57. Irene says

    You’ve probably already been asked this a billion times, but how do you make yourself write when you feel that every word you’re typing is terrible?
    I’ve been feeling like that a lot lately. I’ve just finished my first novel, rewritten it 3 times, and lost count of how many times I’ve polished it. I sent it off to my friend to critique, and I decided to write something else until she’s done. It went fine for a while, until the ‘new and shiny’ wore off. I force myself to write for like a paragraph, then give up after I convince myself that it’s all terrible and I’m wasting my time. I don’t think I should feel like I’m wasting my time while I’m writing. I know I’ve done this before, but what if I can’t do it again?

  58. Sue R says

    I am dying to get my hands on Magic in the Shadows. Let see how my luck is in getting this free copy. :]

  59. Bobbi P says

    I read constantly..while I walk for exercise, while I eat, and sometimes even while I drive (without others in the car, of course). My husband does not read. He likes (gasp) non-fiction. Until he read your books. Now he’s waiting for Magic in the Shadows to appear in his stocking. I hope I win it so we can have at least one thing in common! (Of course, I’ll carefully read it first!!)

  60. Cherie J says

    Interesting post. As far as I am concerned as a reader you have made it. If someone is reading your work then you have made it, no matter the format. People who say that writers have not made it because their books are not in a wide enough market just irritate me. Thanks for a chance to win a copy of Magic in the Shadows. Would love to read it.

  61. Stephanie M says

    Hi Devon! I loved your post because you are passionate about your dreams and no matter what anyone says you are happy with where you are. That is very inspiring:o)By the way you have definitely “made it”! I loved both your books Magic to the Bone and Magic in the Blood. I’m going to order Magic in the Shadows tomorrow. Your books are unique and I consider you one of my favorite writers. So thank you and I can’t wait for your other books to be published!

    Steph M

  62. Steve Opperman says

    This was, in deed, a very inspirational post and a very honest look into your own, very private world and into the mind of a contemporary author. Now we will conduct our little ritual where I officially remove the name of John Grisham from my Wall of Favorite Writers and replace it with the name of Dame Devon, even though I haven’t even held one of your books in my hands yet. Pretty soon, you will occupy an entire section of my personal library. Thank you for your insight, and welcome to my world.

  63. Tracey Boyd says

    I think if you get your thoughts on paper, that makes you a writer. If you can wade through the sea of publishers, editors, agents, & critics and come out published, that makes you a very talented writer. The bonus is having an audience that enjoys your stories as much as you do.

  64. Tracey D says

    What is your opinion on book trailers? Do you think they help in book sales?

    Tracey D