Last week I took a slow boat along a lazy river, well sort of. I went on my first ever barge holiday. I was not really convinced it was for me, but I will try anything once! I am after all a five star girl and I was being asked to adopt a one star outlook – not easy!
That said, I agreed, all be it somewhat reluctantly. I blame wine consumption and a happy disposition! Late one evening 6 of us agreed it would be an excellent holiday and we should all go! I put my fear of confined spaces and dodgy toilets to one side and we all signed on the dotted line sometime last September. The deed was done – money exchanged hands – we were going!
So, how did I get on? Well, 6 go barging was never going to be easy lets face it. 6 people in a confined space for 7 days was I admit an eye opener. Would I do it again? emm…. maybe.
There was something almost magical about travelling at 2 mph silently along the river. Life slowed and became almost timeless. Kingfishers, herons, swans and even a terrapin (I kid you not) were our companions. We would ‘barge’ (I’m not sure if that’s the correct term…) for approximately 4 hours each day then moor up. Spending nights moored in the heart of both Bath and Bristol was inspiring. Stepping off of the boat and being in the centre of those beautiful cities was very special.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better it did! As we ‘cruised'(?) from Bristol to Bath and 4G was briefly restored, my phone pinged. In among the Twitter updates and supermarket offers sat a sparkling new email. A story I had written with a nativity theme had been chosen for an anthology. The publisher was asking for me to review and sign the contract and return it as soon as possible.
Well, as you can imagine I was excited, happy, delighted and shocked in equal measure. Getting a contract printed, signed and returned while on a boat with patchy phone coverage was going to be a challenge.
I have always loved libraries and even more so now. I can not thank the wonderful staff at Bath Central Library enough. They helped me to print & scan my contract so I could send it back via email. We are so fortunate to have access to such valuable resources – not to mention the limitless supply of good books.
I shall leave you with a few pictures of our wonderful home on the water and one of the very friendly Swan that adopted us.
Picture the scene….You have written what you believe is your masterpiece, you have honed it and polished it to within an inch of its life. You have drafted and edited and edited again. It is as good as it’s ever going to be. Now you release your baby out into the world to stand perilously on its own. If you have gone down the traditional publishing route, the following may sound all too familiar;
It begins, the slow trickle or torrent (depending on how many you have sent out) of ‘thanks but no thanks’ letters. You will be in good company, there are lots of famously good authors whose books have received the same response. The question is – can you handle it? Are you prepared for dealing with rejection because the law of averages dictates this will probably be the case. Self doubt starts to creep in… should you give up? Are you a terrible writer? I’ll say it three times …. No no no. Never give up – ever. I read somewhere that the only difference between an amateur writer and a professional is that one of them never gave up! I think there is a lot of truth in that. The fact that you even got around to sending out the letters in the first place shows that you have grit and determination, keep going. I have been pondering whether or not to go down the traditional route and still haven’t fully made up my mind. The publishing world is finally evolving and hybrid authors are finding a voice too.You can of course self publish, which I and many many other authors have done but this also comes with its own challenges – you have to market, promote and be available to do all of the leg work a traditional publisher would do, however,this is a topic for another day. So let’s hypothesis – you have sent out the letters and now you feel as if you will crash and burn because the responses you received were, let’s say not what you were expecting. So, how do you deal with it? We have already established that giving up is not an option, so what do you do? For me I’ve narrowed it down to five simple bits of advice to reflect on:
Do not torture yourself. You write because it is your passion, because every bone in your body is screaming for you to write. Nothing has changed, I’ll say it again… Nothing has changed. Keep writing.
Regard every piece of criticism as a gift. Whether or not you agree with it is something you will need to reflect on however, if someone has given you specific direction on characters or plot or anything for that matter (as long as it’s not personal or deliberately mean spirited) then they have done it to try to be helpful. They want you to do well. Take time to reflect on their comments and act accordingly, btw – that doesn’t mean throwing your toys out of the pram!
Make sure you fit the submission criteria. I know it’s simple but so often overlooked.Check the website, if it clearly states ‘ no romantic fiction’ and that is what your book is then don’t send it! Follow the guidelines to the letter!! Do your homework, check out current authors with that publisher. This is not a one way street, you need to decide firstly if they are right for YOU.
Do not take it personally. Yes it’s your baby, yes it’s the love of your life but just think. Do you enjoy every book you read?No, so why should a publisher? Your book may be incredibly well written and powerful but, as with all art, it is a creative entity which is completely subjective. Work on the things that are within your control, make your book the best it can possibly be.Not everyone will ‘get it’ and that’s OK. Just because it is not one persons cup of tea doesn’t mean it isn’t right for someone else. Whatever happens, happens. Pick yourself up and try again.
Do not dwell, move on. A thick skin comes with the job. If you do not have one you will need to build one. As sure as night follows day rejection will come in one form or another. Nobody likes getting rejected, it hurts. It’s OK to acknowledge it hurts but do not dwell on it. I like to – acknowledge – reflect – change ( if necessary) – move on. You may not need to change or tweek your work and that’s fine too, but you do need to move on.
Remember – have courage, stand tall and keep writing
To help keep you motivated, below is a snap shot….. I shall leave you to ponder:
Rudyard Kipling was told he did not know how to use the English language.
George Orwells Animal Farm was rejected because TS Elliot thought it needed ‘more pigs.’
Stephen Kings ‘Carrie’ was rejected over 20 times.
Louisa May Allcott was told she should stick to teaching.
31 publishers in a row turned down James Patterson
Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times that she decided to self published Peter Rabbit. Sales currently stand at over 45 million.
16 agents and 12 publishers turned down A Time to Kill by John Grisham.