Sarah Callejo

My sin was ignorance.

I wrote a book thinking that all you had to do was pour your imagination onto a sheet, send it to a publisher and you’d get back a paperback with your name on it three months later. So the first submission I made, was embarrassing.

It took about three weeks to get my first standard rejection letter, which was followed by another two or three a few weeks later and complete silence after that.

I decided to investigate and see if I was doing something wrong.

I was shocked when I started trundling through writers’ blog posts and began to read what submitting really entails and how difficult it is to even get a reply back from an agent or a publisher.

I soon learnt that it’s not only a matter of having a good plot, voice, characters,’s also a matter of how you present it to an agent or publisher to grab their attention. But it’s a vicious circle, if you don’t have a good book, it doesn’t matter how good your introduction is.

Those rejections were painful, but they were also an eye-opener. It made me question the quality of my book and search for ways to improve it. The best way, I decided, was getting feedback on my work from experts or at least objective people. From experience, I know it’s difficult to criticize friends’ work, and you tend to tone down any criticism, when in fact:

A writer needs the blunt truth to see the mistakes.

In the acknowledgement of books, you can find all kinds of information, and I was lucky to come across a scheme which offers a critique of your unpublished novel. This was extremely useful, as it was an accurate and extensive report on my manuscript pointing out the weaknesses and strengths of my writing. Basically, my first attempt at writing was pretty bad, but the critique wasn’t discouraging and gave me an idea of where my faults lay and how to improve them with my next attempts.

The way I chose to improve my novel was by attending writers’ conferences and courses which gave me the tools to edit my work and hopefully produce a better manuscript.

Once I’d edited it, I did an online course on how to submit your work. This was extremely helpful, as it taught me how to write an attention-grabbing synopsis and query letter.

I find writing a synopsis is sheer torture. It’s like trying to fit a size 16 into size 8 trousers and you know you have to get rid of all the excess fat.

But with the help of the course and another book on synopsis, I lost my fear of synopses.

The next time I submitted, it was with the confidence of knowing that I was doing it properly and, even if I did get rejected, it wouldn’t be embarrassing or painful. By this time, I’d learnt how many people do get rejections and this gave me comfort. I no longer felt like a failure, knowing how difficult it is to be accepted. You only have to read other author’s roads to publication to see how common it is to be rejected. After all, we must remember that it is a subjective world and your work won’t please everyone.

It’s been four years since I wrote that first manuscript. Now I know that:

The average time it takes to publication is 8 years.

So I’m in no hurry. There is no point in rushing a product which is not ready; it will only get rejected. I’m taking my time to try and write a great book which will be worth publishing, and I’ll know how to present it when the time comes.

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