Answers on a Postcard!
Last week when my super-polished and all things enticing manuscript (at least I thought so) was rejected by one of the UK’s biggest publishers, I felt like the biggest failure. The sorry-but-not-for-us email had just as well have read:
YOU ARE SO CRAP.
NO, REALLY YOU ARE!
HOW COULD YOU EVEN THINK YOU’D STAND A CHANCE WITH THE LIKES OF US?
GIVE UP ALREADY.
YOU’LL NEVER BE ONE OF THE CHOSEN FEW…
GO BACK TO THE DAY JOB AND DON’T YOU DARE PASS GO!
Because honestly, no matter the plethora of niceties blurring my (almost) tear-stained eyes about my ‘interesting premise’ and ‘evident hard work’, these hideous words flashed out before me from nowhere in lurid neon green.
I wasn’t good enough.
More than likely I just wasn’t a fit for the publisher’s list. More than likely they prefer their romcoms a little more predictable and a lot less quirky. More than likely they simply weren’t willing – or able – to take a punt on a story that veered off the beaten track and dared to be different.
All of which is fair enough… although it does bring us full circle to the oft unfathomable theme of subjectivity – aka. one editor/one team making the firm and final decision on the type of reading material that’s going to be readily available to the masses in several seasons time.
Because as a reading audience (in the UK alone), we are nothing if diverse. Our High Street bookshops need and deserve richer pickings… not just the TV book club endorsed titles, not just the safe as houses fiction that will make a fast buck – especially if it’s been written (or ‘written’) by a celeb.
Yet stories come in all shapes and sizes, not just those that tick the boxes of a budget’s spreadsheet.
I took to Twitter and virtual cried
The support was soothing and endless and is still ongoing. I DO love the bookworms of Twitter. And on a Law of Attraction note, all of this ‘just happened’ to coincide with a hashtag that came into fruition the very next day #ShareYourRejections
*If you haven’t read any of the inspirational stories that were trending under those three words last week… I implore you: Do it now!*
But for all that, I swear many of my fellow authors would have cringed, covered ears and eyes and felt glad they had the innate ability to keep a stiffer upper lip in these shock to the system situations; the ones that hit us all from time to time (or more accurately wallop us in the solar plexus). Like the storyteller within, I though, am unable to keep a secret. At least not this kind of secret. I also think it helps others – quite possibly going through the same thing right now – to know they are not alone, to come out in the open, get naked (in the literal sense) and wail from the rooftops.
Goddamit, it’s cathartic if nothing else.
I guess I got a little ahead of myself
I’m an all or nothing girl in everything I do, in every aspect of my life. And I see this writing gig and all it entails as my career, not a hobby to embellish a morning with a cup of coffee (or three) in a quaint cafe whilst mulling over the macarons, but my true path in life.
How am I qualified to know this?
Well, I spent fifteen years selling foreign rights for children’s books in forty-five plus languages, I have also had a short stint as a boutique *read VERY boutique* literary agent. I have also co-founded and written hundreds of articles for a popular online women’s magazine.
In short, I’ve spent the earlier years of my professional life hiding behind (the admittedly) beautiful words of others, yearning yet petrified to get my own out there.
Finally, I took the plunge (repping my pen named self via my teeny weeny one-woman agency), and finally this led to three works of fantastical foodie fiction being published with my current publisher (who I love very much, and am eternally grateful to for the platform they have given me).
But now it’s time for new adventures.
Call me a dreamer, call me a Pollyanna, but my vision is bookshops and airports and optioning for movies and the whole all-singing and dancing kit and caboodle. Because why in the hell not?
Yes. I know the stats.
I’ve worked the other side of the industry’s selective fence, remember?
I know I am neither Matt Haig nor Dan Brown, Mrs Gi Fletcher or the infamous and wonderful J.K. But I am ME and that is going to have to be enough. Because I do have something unique to offer – as it happens.
YOU have something unique to offer.
WE have something unique to offer.
And the key to our longed for successes can only be in remembering this every single moment of every single day, even the doubt-fueled ones. For we are ALL made of stars, not just the chosen few.
My writing is eloquently romcom with a foodie and magical thread. It has its definite place and calling in a world full of doom and gloom. It uplifts, it entertains and it nourishes the stomach (as well as the soul) all in one ‘it-shouldn’t-work-but-somehow-it-does’ fell swoop. It often talks of Glastonbury (I grew up on the leylines and have a passion for injecting my hometown into more mainstream fiction!) and travel to magical lands. It leaves readers with questions swirling in their hearts and their minds.
Okay, maybe I’m blowing my trumpet… a little. But if we’re not our own biggest fan (at moments, at least) how can we expect anybody else to plug into our words, and ultimately, buy them?
And when looked at through the filter of practicality, is what I am asking so very much?
“My breakthrough came after a ton of rejections. I was in Waterstones, feeling sorry for myself, looking at the 1000’s of books on the shelves. Imagining mine was there also. And realized I only wanted 1 space. Just one amongst thousands. It wasn’t a big ask. I wasn’t after the entire shop. Just one space about an inch wide and 7 inches tall. When I saw that, I could visualize it happening.”
This from the fast emerging talent that is Darren O’Sullivan, a psychological thriller author published by HQ, who I got the opportunity to interview earlier this year.
We have to go BIG… or go home.
So what then, can we do to feel better about our chances after that highly sought after rejection has reared its ugly (and let’s face it… puzzling) head?
One thing and one thing only:
ACT AS IF
-Visualise the book deal
-Have imaginary phone calls with agents and publishers
-Draw the cover of your book on an A4 sheet of paper, colour it in with felt tip pens and pin it to your wardrobe. *I swear by this tip in particular, it’s a powerful message and it’s the one thing I did daily in the run up to my debut novel being published!*
-Be an athlete (runners often use this approach, consistently visualising every second of their race months before their golden trainers ever leave the starting blocks) and see yourself signing that contract/reading that YES email out loud amidst screams and popping champagne corks/receiving that award on the stage.
If I sound like I’ve lost the plot, bear with…
The above is not only spiritual, but a scientifically proven method of getting back what we give out: In Quantum Physics terms, The Universe is basically a giant mirror reflecting back our thoughts and beliefs, which can be measured as energy. And that long list of rejections transforming slowly but surely to success stories listed under the #ShareYourRejections hashtag is testament to that: the absolute knowing by each and every one of those writers that one day, somehow, against all the odds their books would break through.
Some of these authors relay tales of the very same agency and the very same agent signing their book up years later. Others got lucky after their 200th NO. The point is they refused to let the speed bumps stop them, they refused to quit.
So use the critique (and laughter, as per J.K.’s suggestion below!) of your naysayers as rocket fuel, turn it around, act when inspired to submit… and never stop. Brush off their subjectivity as you would a petulant wasp. Know that if you can see it in your mind’s eye, you’ll damn well bring that image to fruition.
Then watch out for the twigs (signs of land) as you redirect your boat (manuscript)… and, most importantly, pass the message on. Never forget to share your own success stories with others.
There are enough pieces of the ever-expanding pie for ALL of us.