After reading the fine commentary on Asbestos Underpants LLC, I was particularly struck by this comment: "One bout of bad luck here will not end your career." In this case (published by a small press, the novel broken into novellas) I can understand that. But what about a career that's farther along? I recently saw a story from a writer who hit a rough patch after her first trilogy (with Harper Teen) didn't sell as well as expected. She did manage to sell her next novel (Tor Teen) and tried to revive her career by sinking her entire $15K advance into additional marketing for the new series . It's a happy ending; it worked and her new series is having reasonable success as a NYT bestseller. This is on one hand exciting because her resourcefulness and hard work paid off! On the other hand, this is terrifying - even if I get published, I may wind up needing to reinvent my career. As the writer says: "If [new novel] didn't sell well... I’d have to reinvent/start over my career. There’s no shame in that. I was totally willing to reinvent!"
So when I read that someone as experienced as the Shark herself also seems to think it's normal to have this kind of up and down, or as you say "first of many great publishing stories", I remembered this story. As a writer on the rodent wheel of anxiety, I would really like to know: what does reinventing yourself look like? Is this actually possible.
STOP STOP STOP
You will make yourself crazy if you start gnawing on "what ifs."
You can control ONE thing right now: what you write.
Write the best book you can.
Then you query.
Then you sign with a savvy agent.
And at some point down the road if you need to reinvent yourself, you and your savvy agent will put your heads together and come up with Plan B, or Plan C, or Plan Q.
You absolutely cannot start planning for this, or even thinking about this NOW.
Reinventing a career is never a template. It's an individual plan that incorporates your sales, your category, you career goals, and the state of the industry at that time (ie not now). Every client that I've had Plans B, C and D with has been in a different situation.
In other words. much of Plan B/C/Q will depend on things that haven't happened yet. And to quote someone smarter than me "No plan survives boots on the ground."
There's only one thing to take away here: Be Resolute.
Publishing is going to throw you some curve balls. Resolve to hit them out of the park. But right now, you can't swing at a ball that hasn't been thrown.