My Life as a Literary Failure …
I know self pity brings tears quicker than anything. And I know terming yourself as a failure is frowned upon in today’s age of molly-coddling – but hand on heart that’s how I’ve been feeling these past few months. And boy does it impact on any chance of writing anything borderline decent.
I’ve been with my current agent fourteen months and in total we’ve subbed to probably around a dozen publishers, maybe a few more. Big players, household names. At the beginning, I was flattered, delighted, overwhelmed, that someone had so much faith in my writing. My writing. Little old me who’d started this as a bit of a laugh, then an interesting hobby, and finally a time-consuming, blood, sweat and tears obsession.
But what I’ve come out of the past year learning principally – is that rejection is never easy no matter in what form it disguises itself.
When you’re unagented, every agent refusal is a smack in the face and a stamp on your ego. But you live with the burning desire that getting that agent, actually signing a contract, is like some kind of Holy Grail. As a new writer, you believe that having someone on board who appreciates your writing, understands you as person, and generally ‘gets’ what you’re trying to achieve – is all you need in this world. With a qualified, experienced, contacted, real-life agent by your side – you will have hit the big time running.
|Link to Gillian's Blog|
Increasingly, I am seeing talented writers (people who without doubt in the good times would have been snapped up by one of the big three publishers and currently be discussing Hollywood film rights) struggling in much the same way as I am.
I’m going to paste in a selection below of the responses I’ve received over the past months, replies that are echoed across genres, ages and styles. No one wants to put their money into new authors right now, that’s the truth of the matter. Money is tight, the economy is tighter, consumers aren’t parting with cash – and publishers want a fast return on any advances.
There’s only so many times, when after waiting six months, you’re told:
• ...but don’t quite know what to do as to be honest, we now have so many new writers that have come onto the crime list, marketing and publicity haven’t got the capacity to take on any more as pushing new authors – especially in fiction – as you know, is incredibly hard.
• I think the best I can do at this stage is to say that if you haven’t had an alternative offer by the new year I would love to reconsider.
• I just didn’t have the vision for how to publish this on our list, so I shall have to pass.
• I enjoyed it and found the narrative original and intriguing. However, despite the commercial potential of this series, I wasn’t as gripped by the writing as I had hoped to be.
• I enjoyed Gillian's writing, and thought the premise was great. However, I'm afraid I couldn't quite see how this novel would fit within our list at the moment, so this isn't one for us.
And I could … but won’t … go on!
So, what’s the answer? How do you fit in with lists? Grip the publishers? Supply extra vision? Tick all the boxes?? And so on and so on …
Self pity is all very well. Giving it all up and flouncing off to Zumba classes is an option. But you’re a writer, ergo you have to write and are probably not much cop at anything else truth be told.
I can’t wave a magic wand and solve everyone’s problems, but in my search for a solution I’ve taken a complete break from fiction writing. I’ve immersed myself in my non-fiction work for a literary magazine, and I’ve booked myself in for my first ever writer’s workshop at the end of the month.
What I’ve learned I think, is that in these tough times, it’s not enough to be good, mediocre, or maybe even great. You have to be phenomenal. Your writing, story and every aspect of your craft needs to shine like a new star and set you apart from the crowd.
Yes, you could do as I did for a while and bemoan the amount of published drivel – from Z list celebs to poor quality authors – and fine, do that. Kick the wall while you’re at it if it helps. But that won’t get you published, and if that’s seriously your aim, you need to sit down, work out a strategy, and write. That’s all you can do. Write and write some more, hone your work until it sparkles – because if you do that to the very best of your capabilities, I still believe, despite all the knock backs, that someone, somewhere, sometime will discover you as a tiny shiny diamond in one hell of an epic coalfield.
Read some excerpts from Gillian's work on her Blog.