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Another Rejection? Never Give Up!

Having your novel rejected by publishers is hard, especially when you are first starting out. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your book but it hurts when rejection follows rejection. You take it personally, although it isn’t—it all comes down to finance and whether a publisher is willing to take a gamble. So I can well understand why many writers today go down the self-published route, some not even bothering with even trying for a publisher, feeling it better to keep hold of the reins and control of their work, and of course, to keep all the profit their book may earn.

In today’s world of the ease and acceptance of self-publishing, it is also becoming more apparent publishers are unwilling to sign up a new author, instead preferring their writers to have proven themselves by having churned out and self-published at least five novels, regardless of actual sales attained by each. They prefer too for their authors to already have a large following on social media so that any new book the publisher releases will have a ready audience.

But I wonder how many of these self-published authors still want to find that elusive publishing deal? Become a “proper” contracted author along with the kudos that comes with it? Okay, so we all know even if you are lucky to find a publisher willing to pay you for your work, that tantalizing dream of earning mega bucks will probably never come true. But are authors being truly honest with themselves when they say they don’t that, it isn’t why they write, they have published and that’s all that matters?

Take me, for example. I’ve been writing for many years. I have several novels completed, others nearly so and several more started ready for when I have time to finish them. I’ve been short-listed for a major national writers’ award with one of my novels leading to a top London agent liking my book so much she signed me up. We agreed on a publishing name, talked about the cover…and there the fairytale ended. No one took it up. In the end I self-published through my own publishing business. The novel was well-received, sold a fair few copies and all the reviews were good ones. (Every Step of the Way available through Amazon).

The story with my second novel hasn’t even reached that far. I’ve lost count of the number of rejections I have received. All the publishers I’ve submitted it to like the story and my writing style, they say, and are intrigued by the plot and characters. Yet not one, so far, has contracted it. A major publishing house thought my book was worthy of publication but not enough to take a gamble on me as a new writer. Oh, they did offer me a contract—a partnership contract to publish if I paid them £2,500.00.  Yeah, right. If you like my story that much but are not prepared to take a gamble on me, why should I take a gamble on you doing everything you say you would do in the contract. And I would certainly have to make a lot of sales to even break even. I don’t think so. It enough to make this writer want to self-publish again.

Only there’s a little bookworm wriggling inside me telling me not to give up. I shall continue trying, and keep sending it out to publishers and agents. I have nothing to lose. And whilst I wait for the responses, I am concentrating on my other novels and completing those already started. So, a big sorry to all my fans and followers who were looking forward to reading the book soon.  I know you’ve waited a long time. But it is coming, in one form or another and I hope it will be worth the wait.

Meanwhile, I take heart from the authors listed below who fought hard to be recognized and accepted by a publisher. I won’t mention JK Rowling as we all know her story by now, but the rest are perhaps less well-known. They didn’t give up either. Neither shall I.

John Creasey MBE:  In 1986, he held the record for the most rejections, at a staggering 743 No Thank You’s before hitting the jackpot. His first books, westerns and thrillers, earned him another staggering figure: £10 each!

Fay Weldon: For 20 years everything she sent out was rejected until a publisher accepted her work.

Agatha Christie: Her first who-done-it, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was rejected five times, but undaunted, she continued to write crime stories, and her play The Mousetrap still holds the record for the longest continuous stage-run in the world.

Alan Sillitoe: His novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was likewise rejected five times. Prior to writing this, he had churned out seven novels. He never gave up either.

Alistair McLean: His short stories never got anywhere until the day he won a short story competition and was asked by the publisher to write a novel. His first book, HMS Ulysses, became a hit, earning him £50,000.

Zane Grey: It took him six years of writing stories before finally being accepted. He went on to become the king of cowboy and western books.

Baroness Orcy: The Scarlet Pimpernel was rejected by 12 publishers.

Alex Haley: Before Roots hit the No.1 spot, Alex had received hundreds of rejections.

Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Peter Rabbit received six rejection letters before success came knocking out of the carrot patch.

George Orwell: Animal Farm amassed 23 rejections before the gates opened to success.

RD Blackmore: He never gave trying despite Lorna Doone being rejected by 18 publishers.

Frank Herbert: He received 13 rejections before Dune was accepted.

Thor Heyerdahl: Despite the story of his epic adventure on the high seas, his book Kon-Tiki was rejected 18 times before being published.

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Does it Feel Good?

Over coffee and cake the other day, my publicity agent (aka best friend Jane) asked me what it felt like to finally be a published writer. “Not a lot different,” I told her. “A bit like having a birthday really. First, there’s the initial excitement over the fuss being made about you, the congratulations and hugs and kisses, the sense of relief that you’ve reached another milestone in one piece, then that deflated feeling when everyone’s left and you realise inside, you are the same person, just a day older.” But afterwards, giving the question further thought, I realised I do feel different, and began to analyse why.

Every Step of the Way had been ten years in the making. From the initial seeds of an idea to eventually seeing it on Amazon and physically in someone’s hands. It took about a year to write, the first three chapters in about three weeks but then came a period of intensive research when I learned so much fascinating stuff about the era the book is set in – the 1950s – to the extent the research overtook any writing. But I was on a deadline, a perceived one, of my own making, until in September 2004, it was finished. Or so I thought. During the ensuing years, having gone through many false starts and hopes and squashed dreams, an award ceremony, agent, editor, proofreaders, the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, being told there’s no market for sagas, turned down by publishers, and everything else betwixt and between, it needed many rewrites and more edits, to the extent I was so sick of the sight of my characters, I wanted to drown them all in the River Thames never to see daylight again.

So you can perhaps understand the feeling I had that, after all this time, I was glad to see the end of it. Any excitement I had hoped to feel now it was out in the big wide world hadn’t materialised. What I felt was liberation because at long last, I was free. The book had reached maturity, guided and fed, pruned and nurtured every step of the way (pun intended!). The strings were at last cut, time to either flounder or be a runaway success (hope, hope, hope). But in its wake it had left nothing but self doubt. Not over the novel itself but whether it could have been better written for I knew that, if I wrote the story now, I would write it another way. This is due to the fact that in the last ten years I, too have matured as a writer, learnt the many lessons needed to write a good book. I now know the various pitfalls and how the market works.

So, Jane, in answer to your question: It feels different – because I am different to the person who wrote it all those years ago. I feel proud – because all the mishaps and ups and downs experienced in the intervening years have helped to shape it into the creature it has grown into. I am also proud of myself in that I didn’t let the dream go, I didn’t kill it, I didn’t give up on it. I feel elated at the prospect of seeing more people hold my book in their hands and knowing many have already downloaded it onto their Ereaders. And more importantly, I feel excited by the prospect of going through the pains of doing it all over again with the next. Hopefully that one won’t take another ten years to appear.

In short.  It feels good!

Read extract from Every Step of the Way

Available on Kindle through ThornBerry Publishing via Amazon and as a paperback through FeedaRead and Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com, Waterstones Barnes & Noble

Have you got your ticket to our Summer Audience? See what it’s about at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApKgIG68jFY

Almost There with Harry Bowling

Novel competitions are rare compared with the plethora for short stories and poetry so last week’s announcement calling for submissions to the 2012 Harry Bowling Prize for unpublished novelists is most welcome. It also prompted my first blog proper. I want to tell you a little story. Sitting comfortably? Coffee at hand?  Good, I’ll begin.

 

Every Step of the Way
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a wannabe writer worked for 10 years alone in her ivory bedroom writing and dreaming of being a published author. A fairy godmother appeared in the guise of the Artists’ & Writer’s Yearbook telling her of the Harry Bowling Prize. But there were strict rules to follow: 10,000 words plus synopsis. Unpublished. Any genre. Must be set in London. Our heroine had written two and a bit books. None fitted the last criteria. Undaunted, knowing London well, she set about writing another, centring on something unique to that city. The task complete, she sent off her entry. And waited. And waited. Waited until the day a buff-coloured envelope arrived. Excited, she ripped it open. The dreaded word “Unfortunately” leapt out at her. Disappointed but not disheartened, she began to write another book, a ghost story. Woooo oooo. Spooky.

Two years passed. 2004 arrived. The next HB competition opened. The same rules applied. This time her book was set in London. Well, partly. And it still needed a synopsis. Arrrgh the dreaded synopsis, she thought, almost giving up then and there. Harry Bowling, she learnt, wrote London sagas. Ah ha, was that the magic formula needed? If she turned hers into a saga would it stand more of a chance? After all, that’s what he wrote. So, waving a magic pen, she switched genres, the Goldington Ghost changing into Every Step of the Way. She kissed her entry goodbye, sending it far, far away to the land of the MBA Agency.

Each day she anticipated the coming again of the buff envelope. It never arrived. August almost ended, two days to go before she was to fly away on holiday, the telephone rang. Oh how her heart somersaulted hearing those wonderful words, “I’m delighted to tell you, you have been shortlisted.” She screamed. She cried. She laughed all the way to cloud nine with no aeroplane wings to get there, her feet never touching the ground for months after.

An invitation arrived requesting her presence at the presentation party where the winner would be announced. In an upstairs room of a little French restaurant in London, accompanied by her two ugly (sorry) beautiful twin sisters, she ate delicious canapés, drank copious wine, and met friends she knew from the RNA and many more besides. Such fun, such laughter. Such tension.

Every Step of the Way didn’t win but our heroine was far from sad. For her, being shortlisted was happiness enough. The runner-up prize money enough to buy a flat screen for her computer, the box of chocolates greedily scoffed on the train ride home, the HB book indeed a great read, these things were insignificant to the real treasures received that day. These were the gifts of acknowledgement and recognition she could write good, proof she had something valuable to say. People finally sitting up, taking notice, saying, “Here is a serious writer”. A giant kick to boost her ego, a foot through agents’ doors and a springboard over the slush piles. And finally, joy of joys, she found a top London agent.

(Pssst: This is the part where you grab a tissue) Unfortunately (why is there always an unfortunately?) the agent didn’t find a publisher. “The market’s flooded with sagas at the moment.” “Sagas aren’t popular any more.” “We can’t take a gamble on an unknown in today’s financial market.” Horrible words our heroine didn’twant to hear. But despite all, she never gave up trying to change from a wannabe into a real published author.

A happy ending to my story hasn’t been written. There isn’t one. Not yet.

However, it is certainly not a tale of misery or woe. On the contrary. It’s one of determination and encouragement, of not giving up, of wanting to live the dream and trying one’s damnedest to make wishes come true. For our heroine, entering the fabulous Harry Bowling competition was one of the best things she ever did, from the valuable lessons learned, the tantalizing glimpse of what can be achieved, to all the marvellous, supportive and close friends made along the way.

And friends, this isn’t a fairy story.  It’s true. I know. I am that heroine.

So go on, give the Harry Bowling a go. It’s worth it. And Good luck.  I might even try again. Who knows?

Every Step of the Way, a 1950s London saga, is scheduled to be released on Kindle during 2011.

Kitchen Tip of the Day:
Fed up with cleaning the oven floor? All those horrible burnt on bits? The smoke? The spray cleaner fumes? A pain in the proverbial to kneel on floor to clean, even worse trying to get back up? Do what I do. Place a large, cheap or past-its-best baking tray on the oven floor and leave there. Take out and wash occasionally or chuck in dishwasher every now and again. When it gets really bad, place in dustbin and buy another tray. Sorted.