I’ve never been stupid enough to think getting published would be easy.
Goodness, authors’ stories of rejection are plastered all over the place, plus, if I was any more grounded I’d be, well, underground.
But, sadly, I was once naïve enough to think that when an offer came, from agent or editor, then publication and a place on a bookshelf, was a given. Guaranteed.
How wrong I was.
Because four offers later…Yes, four offers in the space of a year, I’m still at the starting line, one of the rejected many, a Slushie, wading through the battering storms of Slushland, fighting hard to get my work noticed.
I’ve been writing for a long time, years, since single figure birthdays, but I only built up enough of a confidence reserve to submit my work about two and half years ago.
That said the first place I sent one of my books was to a literary consultancy. And wow, what a brilliant move that was. My writing clambered up the ladder. An unrivalled learning experience. The best. Insightful. I evolved as a writer. I learnt to step back, be critical and not too precious of my work. And boy did I hit it hard.
Then I went for it. After heaps of revising, I contacted a handful of agents. And, after a long wait, the infamous reel of rejections began. I had zero control over my sinking heart each time I read a thank you, but. Oh, the pain!
‘Your work isn’t right for our list.’
‘This just isn’t for me.’
‘I need to fall in love with a project to take it on.’
‘I’m just not committed enough to take this further.’
You know them.
But I persevered, thankfully, because, eventually, it paid off…I got a bite! I did. A genuine real life publishing contract. What the..? People like me don’t get publishing deals! This was it, I’d won.
And, for almost one whole month, yes that long, I was buzzing.
I didn’t have an agent so immediately signed up to the Society of Authors and asked them to vet the contract. Which turned out to be my second brilliant piece of game play.
Within a couple of days they warned me not to proceed. They said I should be wary. Very wary. And just like that, the deal was off. Disappointment ate away at me. Had I made the right decision? After all, an offer’s an offer, right?
On I plodded, submitting to a whole new bunch of agents and publishers and about three months later I received another offer from a small publisher. Sadly, this particular high was even shorter lived. In fact, the contract didn’t make it to my inbox at all. A couple of weeks of silence their end gave me enough warning for the inevitable email. The company had run out of funds so could no longer proceed at that time with the publication of my book.
Swear words left my mouth.
Off I went again.
Another six months passed, my swollen pink folder of rejections laughing at me every time I slipped another inside. I don’t even like pink.
But belief in my work once again paid off, I received two offers from agents on the same day. Two! Who should I choose? They both seemed to love my book, thought I had potential, that I could make it as an author. I stewed on it for a while and then did it. I signed with one. Elation! Third time lucky and all that. This had to be it.
After a meeting and a chat, I took my agent’s advice and worked on a few suggested bits and bobs in my manuscript. Sat back, revised, redrafted. And then I sent it back. I loved that excitement, checking my inbox pretty much every hour anticipating their feedback. But it didn’t come. Silence, followed by: ‘Sorry, still haven’t got round to reading it’. More silence, followed by: ‘Sorry, been so busy’. Again more silence until an email arrived that still haunts me now. My agent had decided that since signing me six months ago my book was unlikely to sell to anyone so, for now, I should write more books because probably my second or third book would sell. I couldn’t speak for an hour or so. Everything they'd told me swirled through my brain. I’d been so convinced this person was The One, someone to champion my work to the bitter end. Help me make my writing professional, perfect. Back me all the way.
What had I done to deserve this?
I went on to make one of the toughest decisions of my writing life so far. To leave my agent.
I felt foolish in a way, still do. I’m a debut looking for a way in, what was I thinking dumping one of those magical golden-glowing people that most aspiring writers never get to meet, the ones who guard the gates to traditional publishing deals. But, you know what, it made me realise that:
However much I want to be a published writer, I’d rather remain unpublished forever if it means being part of a team minus that essential element - trust.
But now for the silver lining.
All these experiences, these hard lessons, have led me to have a firmer idea of what I write and what I want. I’ve made some great new writer friends, penned three more first drafts and have a bulging brain of ideas to keep me busy for years to come.
I won’t give up. Not yet. Maybe not ever. I love writing too much to quit. So until further notice, I’ve pulled the gloves back on and stepped into the ring. I’m determined to win, every punch of the way.
Maybe this will be my year.