Kim Curran: Five Things I Learned When My Publisher Went Under

On Friday the news broke that Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s sister imprint and my publisher, was shutting doors effectively immediately. Which meant that Delete, the last in my Shifter series of books wasn’t going to be published in August as planned.

As you can imagine I was gutted.

I cried. A lot.

I drank. A lot.

I generally stomped around feeling angry and sorry for myself. But then, as the rum hangover started to clear, I realised that actually there were some important lessons to be learnt in all of this. And I will share those lessons with you, thusly:

1) People are awesome

The outpouring of support* for everyone affected by the Strange Chemistry closure has blown me away. The publishing community is a family (complete with the drunken, grumpy uncle who mumbles sexist shit in the corner and everyone tries to ignore). Like all families, they bicker and fall out and want to kill each other a lot of the time. But when it comes to it, they rally together. The tweets, emails, texts and calls that came flooding in after the news broke was proof of just how amazing humans can be.

2) It was a privilege to be published at all

While it felt like the ground had opened up underneath me because I wasn’t going to be able to complete my series, I went home and looked at the two books that had already been published. And it made me realise how lucky I was that they existed at all. I’d had the experience of seeing my books out there in the world, on bookshelves, being read by people. And that was pretty freaking awesome.

It’s so easy to lose sight of your goals once you’ve achieved them because they become replaced by new goals. Once you get an agent all you care about is getting a deal. Once you get a deal all you care about is getting a bigger deal. Or awards. Or whatever. It’s so rare to take the time to look at what you’ve achieved and go ‘well, bugger me, I did it.’ And so whatever happens next, I’m going to make sure I never forget to feel grateful for what has happened so far.

3) You can fail at what you don’t love

I’ve worked in advertising for over 15 years so I’ve seen business at its most ruthless. A few years back, I was working for an ad agency that went out of business overnight and 50 people were out of a job a month before Christmas. So there I was, with a new mortgage and no job wondering what the fuck I was going to do. What I did was go freelance and get a contract within twelve hours of the company going under. It taught me that no job is ever safe, so there’s no point in clinging on to a job you don’t love. It taught me to feel comfortable with risk and know that if there’s a choice between taking a chance and standing still you should always take the chance. Because if you’re going to fail, fail while daring greatly.

4) Write for you

It’s one of those old chestnuts that writers say a lot. Along with: where are my goddamn pants**? But it’s true. Because there are no certainties in publishing. And if you write for an audience or a marketing niche or to a trend and it all goes to shit, what you’ll be left with is a book that was written to a brief rather than one that was written from the heart. But if you write for you, no matter what happens, you’ll have a book that you’re proud of even if you’re the only one who will ever read it.

That’s what I did with my book Glaze. It didn’t find a traditional home, but it’s is out in the world kicking butt, and I couldn’t be prouder of it.

5) People love a comeback story

In the three-act structure there’s a plot point right before the final act called ‘the reversal’. It’s when the protagonist appears to be closest to achieving their goals and it’s all taken away. Like in Karate Kid when Danny LaRusso gets injured in the final and you supposed to think it’s all over. But us viewers, we know what that means. It means they’re going to come back even stronger than before. And everyone who’s ever been knocked back needs to remember: It will all work out in the end. And if it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end.

So Mr Miyagi up, mutherfuckers, and go out there and start crane-kicking some ass.

* The best way you can support any Strange Chemistry authors is by buying their books, or checking them out of libraries, and reviewing them. Also, keep an eye out for all the announcements (no doubt coming soon) on what they decide to do with the books that have been cancelled – and then buy them.

**Which is an even more disturbing thing to hear if you live in the UK.

* * *

Kim Curran is the award-nominated author of books for young adults, including Shift, Control, Delete and Glaze. She studied Philosophy & Literature at university with the plan of being paid big bucks to think deep thoughts. While that never quite worked out, she did land a job as a junior copywriter and has worked in advertising ever since.

She is a mentor at the Ministry of Stories and for the WoMentoring Project. And lives in London with her husband and too many books.

Kim’s newest is Glaze:

PETRI QUINN is counting down the days till she can get on GLAZE. But when a protest turns into a riot, Petri is blamed and banned – from the only social network worth being a part of. Her life is over before it’s even started. Desperate to be a part of the hooked-up society, Petri finds an underground hacker group to set her up with a black-market chip. But it has a problem: it has no filter and no off switch. Petri can see everything happening on GLAZE, all the time. Including things she was never meant to see. As her life is plunged into danger, Petri is faced with a choice. Join GLAZE… or destroy it.

Kim Curran: Website | Twitter

Glaze:  Amazon | Amazon UK

22 comments

  • Oh Kim, what an awful thing to happen (I hope the Fate Gremlins responsible for Strange Chemistry’s demise receive a hefty kick to the crotch. A CRANE-kick to the crotch.) I love your spirit though – and I’ve a feeling you and ‘Delete’ will rise up and conquer like… like Andy Murray did at Wimbledon last year (yaay, I side-stepped the cliched ‘Phoenix’ metaphor!)

    The fans of your series will not desert you, and this post will probably win you some new ones too. As a fellow Brit, you had me at “Bugger me” (well, you had me before that, but it’s been AGES since I heard that phrase, and it made me homesick for my Devon homeland, where even little old ladies used to say it with impunity – probably having no idea what it actually meant.)

  • This post brings up so many questions in my mind.

    I’m curoius as to what happens to your rights when your publisher goes under? Is this covered in the contract? Do you get them back? Could you say, get back to the rights to the first two books and then have “Delete” published by another publisher or self publish?

  • “So Mr Miyagi up, mutherfuckers, and go out there and start crane-kicking some ass.”

    That’s so awesome! Thank you for your honesty, and for this post.

  • “…this post will probably win you some new ones…” Yes. I’m new. Thank you for this, and I will do my part to talk, write, review and work on some new philosophy regarding the published factword or creativeword business we are all in love with and victimized by in waves of simultaneous pattern.

  • it sounds so cliché, but some doors must close before you even begin to look at all the other possibilities around you. Kim, you have greater, bigger, better waiting for you!!!! <3

  • Thank you for coming here and sharing your experience and your pain with us. I know it must have been hard to put this into words but you’ve really helped the writing community by putting this out there.
    {{{hugs}}}

  • Thank you muchly for this post. I’m going to keep this handy on my computer table for inspiration the next time I have one of my “what made you think you could write?” episodes.

    May you have heaps on ongoing, never-ending success as a writer and mentor!

    Salus et vita,

    S.L. Fummerton
    self-published author of “Thaumaurge”

  • Oh, Glaze looks interesting! I just grabbed the sample pages from Amazon.ca. Good luck with Delete, Kim. I’m very sure it will all work out for the best … Your words cannot be contained. :)

  • #3 reminds me of Jim Carrey’s story about his father, who abandoned comedy for the “safe job” that also proved to be anything but. Both are terribly important to authors who haven’t yet gotten that contract, or aren’t going the traditional route (my publisher is a small press and I don’t have an agent), because they’re the ones most tempted to get a “safe job”. I know I have been.

    Nothing is safe. Nothing is guaranteed (except taxes and death). So do what you love, and damn the naysayers.

    All the best.

  • Hey Kim. Sorry, bit late to this, been under a rock for a few weeks. (Well, various rocks, but that’s another story.) (Weird & interesting new life forms under some of them, though…) Your publisher going under is a shock & sucks big time. Your inimitable attitude of get drunk/wake up with hangover/reassess/step up/kick ass is exemplary, & no surprise to me at all. You were always awesome; glad that hasn’t changed a jot :)

  • Let me add to the chorus of those hoping that the rights to Delete revert promptly, and that you self-publish if another satisfactory publishing contract doesn’t shortly come your way.

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