Does a Book Deal = Happily Ever After?

Everyone likes a happy ending. Even the people who think the traditional Happily Ever After (or HEA as the romance-world calls it) is trite, still love it when the hero or heroine triumphs, when good defeats evil, when they finally blow up the Death Star.

It’s just human nature.

It’s also tempting for writers to view signing with an agent or getting that Book Deal as the HEA. After all, we labor for years, querying to silence, receiving rejections, going back to the drawing board and trying again. When someone signs with an agent, there is much cause for celebration. When Carina offered to buy my novel, I confess I cried tears of relief and joy. The moment was a culmination of so much effort. But is it really a happily ever after?

Those of us familiar with romance tropes know that, for a very long time, every romance novel culminated either with an engagement or a wedding. The exception to this was the Marriage of Convenience story, where the wedding takes place early on, emotional obstacles must be overcome and the story resolves with declarations of true love. However, that’s still usually very early on in the marriage. This kind of thinking was largely a product of the times. Happiness was found in commitment, which meant marriage. Now there’s more flexibility. Finding love is enough. Many romance books end in very satisfying HFNs – Happy for Now. As society has discovered: marriage isn’t necessarily the answer.

The other problem with this trope of ending with the wedding is, though we all loved the idea that they’d ride off into the sunset and lead deliriously perfect lives, we all also know that the wedding is really just the beginning of the story.

It’s the first step on a long, often difficult, road that you’ll walk the rest of your life, if you’re lucky.

You see where I’m going with this.

Signing with that agent or getting that Book Deal is just the beginning. Basically you’ve gotten the job you applied for. Someone is willing to invest in you being a Writer. Hooray! Now the real work begins. And not the glamorous honeymoon stuff, either. It’s the dividing the chores and staying up all night to soothe the colicky baby. It’s the fighting over money and in-laws and the temperature of the bedroom. It’s worrying that maybe you’re not as attractive as you used to be and wondering about that sexy new assistant. It’s about dealing with health issues, tax audits and job layoffs.

It’s not that marriage is always about the difficulties. But it’s not skipping down the beach hand-in-hand, either. (Except maybe on vacation.)

Having a writing career is like having any career. There’s the day to day work, the highs and lows. The struggles and the moments of sweet triumph.

So celebrate that book deal. Enjoy the validation of an agent representing you.

Just remember that, after the honeymoon, that’s when the story really begins.

12 Replies to “Does a Book Deal = Happily Ever After?”

  1. Ah, Jeffe. You’re so wise. I’ve been sitting here all morning struggling with edits. Snagging the deal is hard work–I cried too. Glad to hear I’m not alone–but then it shifts to a different kind of hard work. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll get back to the edits now and stop moaning over them.

  2. Great post! It’s important to pause and enjoy each success, but also to recognize each one is a single piece in the puzzle. There’s always more to learn and strive for, and there will be more success (hopefully) and more failures (boo on that) along the way. We have to take each one for what it is, then keep moving. Sometimes the hea means not quitting.

  3. I admit that I didn’t cry. Pretty much the only thing I cry over these days are really well-written novels and sappy children’s movies.

    It’s a whole new conversation once you have a book contract. And not all of those conversations are pleasant, but all in all, my relationship with my publisher is HFN.

  4. Very well put. I’m not even seeing the book contract as the wedding – more like the engagement. A very long engagement, in which things could go horribly awry. But I find I am actually reveling in the work involved.

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