Sunday, 6 December 2009

FAILURE TO BE PUBLISHED: HARSH REALITY

This may seem lazy but I'm going to re-post an old post. This blog has become so big that it can be hard to find the bits you need at the right time. [I will be doing some house-keeping over Christmas]. This post below is one I want to re-offer, partly because many of you are new to the blog and may have missed it, partly because I know there's at least one person out there who needs to be reminded about it, and partly because a brand-new reader has just emailed me to say that after a morning of trawling through my words, this was one that stuck in her mind. [Thank you Kirsty, and do stay with us  -  I really enjoyed meeting you yesterday and was hugely impressed by your questions and attitude!]

Here it is [slightly shortened]  -  and, for the benefit of any of you who wonder why you've followed all my advice and still aren't published, please note that Point 3 is in your hands, not mine...

WHAT DID I TAKE SO LONG TO BECOME PUBLISHED?
First, for those who missed the tragic enormity of this failure, it took me twenty-one years of failing to get a novel published. ALL my adult life failing to achieve the one thing I really wanted: to be a novelist. That's some bruising failure. And bruised I was. Badly. It affected my health and happiness and my sense of self. Luckily [for them] few people knew about my constant attempts at fame and fortune. Unluckily [for him] my husband did. He's still here. Still waiting for me to earn a lot of money, I guess. I'm trying.

I did get some "stuff" published during that time, but it wasn't enough. Educational books and stacks of magazine articles. I still get money from a magazine I wrote for ten years ago which keeps using my articles and pays me every time, with me sitting at home doing sod all - would you believe that today I actually sold "36th rights" for three articles?? Who needs to be a novelist when you get paid 36 times for something you can't even remember writing?

And there was the odd moment of relative success [relative to abject failure], like appearing in Reader's Digest with my photo and being recognised on a bus, and a story winning an expensive pen in the Ian St James awards, and a couple of times almost making it through an aquisitions meeting. But almost is not enough.

Anyway, reasons for my abject failure:
  1. I thought I was better than I was. I didn't know what mistakes I was making. This was in pre-blog days, when people like me [as in me now, not me then - me then would have been pretty useless] weren't sharing and telling me what shocking errors I was making.
  2. I wasn't thinking of my readers. Couldn't give a toss about them - yep, it was all for me. Moi, moi, moi. Self-indulgent, beauteous prose, right up my own backside, just gorgeous, over-written plotless stuff that gave me shivers of pride, and gave any potential reader a severe case of "where the hell's the plot gone or going and I mean why should we CARE about your drivellingly unlikely character who murdered her husband just because of some arcane psychological problem to do with Samuel Johnson which we are supposed to guess through the boring fog of your however-erudite turgidity?
  3. I hadn't written the right book. As in a book with a concept which would grab the agent / publisher with its stupendous hook, draw them into a tightly-written and either original or genre-specific plot, written by an author exuding wisdom and knowledge of the market. (Actually, I thought woman who murders husband because he's fat was quite good hook-wise, but hey, that was then.) See here for my post on this topic. (Not murders of fat husbands: I mean writing the right book.)
  4. I wasn't following the rules of submissions to publishers, despite the fact that I roll my eyes at you lot for sending toffees to agents and being similarly foolish. In fact, once I even .... but no, I can't tell you that. It's too embarrassing.
And so followed the rejection letters. Because yes, I've had a few. There were occasional ones that said lovely things but gave suggestions contradicting previous ones (like "we feel it's too short" after "we feel it's too long" and "the plot is somewhat avant garde" after "the plot is somewhat traditional"); there were the "not right for our list" ones (unhelpful but true); there was my favourite (though not at the time) which consisted of my rubbish covering letter with the word NO! scrawled across it in pencil and returned to me in an envelope without a stamp even though I HAD included return postage; and there was the one which arrived back the day after I'd posted it, something which defies the laws of both postage and Newtonian motion and I can only assume that the postman was an Orion employee sent to destroy the slush pile before it occurred.

So, if you are now in the position I was in then - one of soul-searing awfulness, when you feel that life will be utterly meaningless if you don't get that contract, when your whole belief in yourself is shaken daily - I feel your pain, I really do.


Thing is, I wasn't good enough. And maybe ... sorry ... you aren't either. But maybe, by listening and learning and improving, you can become good enough. But remember too that it's not just about being good enough - it's about writing the right book at the right time and sending it to the right publisher at the right time. I've said it before. I could even become boring. (If you need a reminder, use the label "right book" on the list of labels to the right.)

The trick, and the one which this blog tries to help with, is to work out whether:
  1. you are good enough but haven't written the right book yet
  2. you are good enough and have possibly written the right book really beautifully but haven't sent it to the right person in the right way
  3. you aren't good enough but could become so, with time, practice and/or help
  4. you aren't good enough and won't ever be published satisfactorily
Thought for the day: actually, a lot of published writers aren't good enough either. Some of you may well be better than some of them. It all boils down to what a publisher thinks will sell. And I've already done a post on Why is crap published? But you're not writing crap, are you? Please say you're not. Though I have to be brutally honest and say that if you ask any agent or editor they will tell you that the vast bulk of the slush pile is crap, of a meaningfully finger-in-the-throat boggingness.

After that brutality and after all these weeks of listening to me seem to know it all, you deserve to know that embarrassing thing I did. I can trust you now. Please don't laugh.

Here goes. Deep breath. Will you still respect me? I was young then. Young and really stupid.

The thing is ...

I
once
wrote
a
covering
letter
in
rhyme
...

People! Don't do it!

ADDED ON DEC 6th:
I cannot say this often enough: writing the right book is far more important than anything else. The right book is a book that a publisher thinks can sell sufficiently [which does not have to mean millions]. If you focus too much on whether the font should be Georgia or TNR, or whether it should be stapled or paper-clipped, you are focusing on the wrong things. Write the right damn book in the right damn way and send it to the right damn publishers in the rightish way and it will eventually be published. And don't tell me you followed all the rules and failed so the rules must be wrong. Nope, because you missed the most important rule: writing the right book. And my whole point in banging out crabbit words on this blog for nearly a year is this:

I do not want you to take as long as I did. But I cannot write the book for you.
Maybe I need to say more about what makes the right book. At last, the Crabbit Old Bat has a brainwave!

Meanwhile, if any of you want individual feedback on your own books or Works in Progress, there is Pen2Publication. I can do quite a lot to show you if you have or haven't written a potentially right book".

37 comments:

Catherine Hughes said...

I'm quite at ease with the struggle these days. My conviction that I will someday get a novel published has never abated, so I only get frustrated occasionally, about the amount of time it's taking me.

I've read this post before and completely agree. As much as I loved my second novel - the one I went all out to secure representation for - it wasn't the right book. My first novel may be a more likely prospect, but it needs some more work. The novel I am working on at the moment is really very different and may just be the right one.

If it isn't, I shall shunt it aside, and get stuck into writing one of the various other ideas that are clamouring about my head, or I shall finish one of the two currently abandoned WIPS that I have.

Can I offer another suggestion here? I've been broadening my horizons. I've been doing web content for years, usually search engine optimised stuff - research heavy and very boring. Last year, when I found myself unable to work outside the home any longer, I branched out into current affairs articles for a media website. Then I started sending out short stories and, as of Friday, I've been doing pitches to magazines and have had my first one accepted, which success has inspired me to send off three more pitches over the weekend.

So, whilst you are waiting for your novel dream to come true, why not extend your talents and try and get published in other ways? It can only help - by giving you a confidence boost and by enlarging your portfolio of work. It may be 'not enough' but it will still help - and to distract you from your current failure as well.

Well, that's my theory anyway.

Marisa Birns said...

Goodness! I did not know your history.

But this is a fantastic post because it's from someone who's really been there, done it, paid dues.

I found myself nodding at all your points/advice. I also thank you for being a successful writer who is taking the time and making the effort to help others. That's very lovely and generous!

So. I have been writing short fiction and posting to my blog for critiques from writing group. That's my homework. Honing skills. Here's the near future: I will be good enough, I will write the right book, I will send it to the right publisher.

Oh, and I will keep all my fingers crossed and hope that the stars, the moon, the galaxies...

Query letter in rhyme?

Like sonnets in iambic pentameter?

Still admire and respect you :)

The Voice said...

Grab me by the shoulders and shake me awake, why don't you? Lol.
Thank you so much for this post. I have been sinking into the pits and only seeing myself and not things I am doing wrong.
You are really appreciated.

Hodmandod said...

This is a great post. Thank you. It took me about 15 years from first draft to publication, probably because no one was interested in the 1980s during the 1990s, so it had to wait. I have been a journalist for years, and am awed by your 36th rights by the way. x

Miriam Drori said...

Nicola dear,
The post that is here
Is most insightful
And really delightful.
I'm doing my best
With lots of zest
To write the right book
And get more than a look
In not too much time.
And so ends my rhyme.

Great post - really!

Nicola Morgan said...

Catherine - VERY good point. We're writers, so we have to write, and writing other things than the WIP is a hugely important part of our career. It means that while we're waiting for feedback, we've always got something on the go; it means that all the times we're practising more and more; and we never know what excellent result/connection could come of it. There's no downside. Well said.

Marisa, The Voice and Hodmandod - thank you for your comments. It is very very helpful to know that these posts are appreciated.

Miriam - hilarious! I laughed, for all the right reasons. Thank you!!

Jo said...

Such an important post. Daunting and scary, but truthful. I think it's unfortunate that much of the joy of writing has gotten tied up with being published. I try to remind myself that even if I were never published again, I would still write because I love to and that is really all that matters.
So much of the business part of it has to do with luck. And most of us don't want to hear that because it is completely outside our control.
Not getting published because we are not good enough is easier to accept than not getting published because we haven't written the right sort of book.
Writing is hard already without thinking about trends and genres. And anyway the odds are that the genre will be well over before you've completed and revised and honed a book which fits into it. Although the vampire thing has lasted far longer than anyone expected so there may still be time to jump in there.I'm joking.
I think that if we work hard at our craft, approach it like a job (one we don't get paid for) and write the books which are true for us, and we are lucky, then we may be published. It's all very depressing but I am far more depressed if I don't write at all.

Samantha Tonge said...

But Nicola, what i find really, really hard is that published writers are always telling me just to 'write the book you want to'. And this time i did. I wrote a time-slip, chick lit, historical, paranormal book... you get the problem already. It is inbetween genres. And yet it is certainly the best book i have written because i was passionate about it.

I've tried writing for the market before, but the result was boring and derivative.

So, how does one write for the market but still find that passion??

One top agent complimented my sub from this book, was sorry to reject and more or less said send me something when you write a more conservative book.

I could scream. Especially as the idea for my next book is even more 'out there'.

Um, so i think what i'm asking is, what do i do when published friends insist i should 'write the book i want to'????

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I like the phrase "harsh reality," because there are many harsh realities in the publishing world that seem to surprise people, like they had no idea this would all be so difficult. Even after a contract is signed, there are plenty of harsh realities to face--the editing process, the promotion and marketing, dealing with negative responses and reviews-- it goes on and on. I would love to read a series on the "harsh realities". Just an idea in case you're looking for posting ideas!

Jemi Fraser said...

A cover letter in rhyme??? I love it :) Can't believe it didn't get snatched right up!

I'm very thankful I didn't start sending out queries when I first thought about trying to publish some of my work. I've learned a lot in the last year!!

Nicola Morgan said...

Samantha - I will definitely blog properly about this soon, but first: you have to write the book you want to write AND it has to be the book people want to read (ie the "right" book). The sort of writer that I am (and you are, i think) will not be suited to a contrived, cynical "writing for the market" and that's not at all what I'm advocating. The "right" book is any book which that publisher thinks he/she can find readers for, enough readers, readers of the sort that that publisher's list aims at.

You are misinterpreting some advice by these published writers. I don't believe they are saying "just" write the book you want to write. Yes, you should (I believe) write the book you want to write, but if it is only (ie "just") the book you want to write, it may not be a book people want to read. You have to be thinking of your intended readers - do as Stephen King says in On writing, and have an "Ideal reader". After all, why would you "want" to write a book if readers won't like it? (That's a rhetorical q - I know you wouldn't!)

I 100% believe that it is possible to write a sellable book without any compromise of art. I certainly write exactly the book I want to write, but I make sure that the book I want to write is ALSO a book my publishers can sell.

There is no conflict here for me. To be published, you have to find an idea for a book which you want to right AND the market would love you to write. That's what I aim for each time I come up with an idea. I don't find that a compromise at all.

Jo - I agree with all you say but I would want to emphasise (and will when I blog further) that I don't mean writing what the market is actually looking for or following trends. I don't mean anything as commercial as that (though that's also perfectly reasonable and common and I don't sneer at it). I mean simply writing a book that readers, and therefore publishers, want. And, as I say above, and elsewhere, why would a writer want to write a book that didn't tick that box?

Dan Holloway said...

I love those four points about where you are in the "good enough" spectrum, Nicola.

I was talking with my wife just last night - writing is unique in being a hobby that most of those who engage in it think they can turn into a living. No fun runners think they're going to compete at 2012. When you go to pottery clases you don't consider it your right to appear alongside Clarice Cliffe on the Antiques Roadshow 20 years down the line. So why is it that so many people who write are so convinced they can make a living at it?

Of course, I'm one of the poor deluded souls who hopes, 10 years down the line, to be able to scrape together the heating bill from their endeavours, so really I ought to look inside myself and ask why on earth I think I have a chance. I must confess I haven't a clue - quite possibly because I hang out with writers more talented than me and imagine their lustre rubbing off, and adding to the self-delusion. But I honestly don't know. All my wife and I could come up with is that most people can put words on paper - and that SEEMS to be what being a writer is about.

I'd love to know your thoughts on the psychology.

catdownunder said...

I suspect that Nicola's remarks were aimed fairly at me. I agree with what she said too.
However, in all fairness, I was not having a "grumble, grouch, it is not fair" moment about not getting a response about my mss from those concerned. I was, and I think rightly, growling about people not having the common courtesy to respond at all. When a would be author takes the time and trouble to send something off, when they have followed the guidelines set then I believe it should not be too much to expect those receiving it to respond and say, "We have your submission." If they do not want any unsolicied mss or do not want any more at that time or will not be looking at it for any reason then I believe common courtesy demands (at very least) a response saying, "Sorry we are not taking any more mss at this time". That way the would be author knows that they need to tru somewhere else. Total and utter silence is not helpful to anyone - even, dare I say, themselves. This is, surely, just good business practice?
Sorry for the rant Nicola but, while I can understand and accept that something I write might not be good enough, I cannot accept being completely ignored. Is that fair and reasonable or am I being too demanding? Tell me if I am!

Linda Strachan said...

...I wrote a time-slip, chick lit, historical, paranormal book...

wow, this sounds like about three books in one Samantha! Don't you think you might have put too much into the pot at once?
But I agree that you have to write something that gives you a buzz, otherwise not only would it be horrible and boring to write, but also probably pretty terrible.

Although there is no 'magic bullet' that will get you published perhaps it might be worth spending a bit of time experimenting with other kinds of writing, if for no other reason than to sharpen your writing skills.

But there are also lots of different markets to write for not just fiction and not just novels. A little success elsewhere does wonders for the moral, especially if it includes a cheque, no matter how small!

Try writing something very short rather than a novel, comedy instead of realism, paranormal rather than fantasy.
I have never, as Nicola well knows, been keen to stay writing the same kind of thing for very long and I love the challenge of trying something new - possibly too much!
I have enjoyed writing bits of picture book texts one day and gritty teenage novel the next. but I know it is important to stick with it until it is finished, otherwise it feels like I am cheating and just playing at it. But writing different things keeps me sharp and I find out what I can or cannot do and mostly that I can actually rise to the challenge.
Not everything gets published, nor should it, like many writers I have a cupboard of manuscripts- some that have been rejected (often) and others that never got that far.
But that is all part of learning the business - although I do sympathise with catdownunder, not getting any reply is frankly abysmal. But don't give up, most writers who are published are the ones who persevered.

Arabella said...

In rhyme? Oh, that's too wonderful. I wrote a rhymed essay in junior high English, and the teacher didn't even notice, or pretended that she didn't--perhaps so I wouldn't one day think I was clever enough to repeat the trick.

Melinda Szymanik said...

Its all true. But it's also true of staying published - which can be just as difficult and disheartening. It seems even harder to twist the arm of the accountant at the acquisition table these days.

David Griffin said...

Personally speaking, I'm beginning to accept that if neither of my two novels are published, then I'll try with my third (WIP at the moment). Just keep writing, until it happens (or might happen). This was a difficult decision for me but one I'm beginning to get to grips with.

This is just one of the things I've learned from your excellent posts, Nicola. I know we all learn from you, appreciating your encouragement and advice (as well as humour!).

Your honesty too: taking 21 years for your first novel to be published. I've learned from this that perseverance, determination, professionalism and never giving up are all required for the possibly of eventual publication.

And your 4 point list takes the blinkers away from the eyes; I guess we all have to get rid of rose-tinted glasses. The truth is that only a small percentage of us writers trying to be published will actually succeed; but importantly, if one gives up and doesn't try, then there is no way of knowing if you could have been one of those small percentage of published writers.

Harry Markov said...

I probably respect you even more now that I know you had sent a cover letter in rhyme. First of all, it's impressive that you could write a whole letter in rhyme and then have the guts to mail it. You tried every trick you could think of to get published and well trial and error, trial and error.

Thankfully I am not there yet. I am working on that first novel, I finished, but wanted to revise and I feel quite comfortable with my slow pace at how everything progresses.

I want to be novelist, but I am to much of a spotlight seeker to stop at there. I have been trying to crack through the anthology scenery and freelance writing articles, reviews, interviews and those sort of things. I need little to feel progress in the right direction as far as publishing goes, but then again I need little to feel like utter crap.

Catherine Hughes said...

Samantha - my books cross genres, too. And one of my WIPs defies categorisation completely, although it is, I suppose, very slightly scifi. When I write queries, I pick the genre that best defines the novel (young adult so far) and I stick with that.

I used to write YA SF Romance, which would have been offputting, I guess.

Whatever the main element of your book is - the one thing that really cannot be ignored about it - is the genre it fits, I would guess. So it could be a paranormal novel or a chicklit but not both..?

Take JR Ward. She writes sexy vampire novels, with a very different twist on the vampire legend, and they are definitely 'ones for the girls'. Ahem! But she's a paranormal writer, not a chick lit writer.

Just a thought - I'm (obviously) an unpublished non-expert, but that's my take on the difficulty.

It sounds like a great book, by the way!

Terresa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terresa said...

With luck, I've stumbled onto a writer's gold mine here. Thanks for the candid advice and humorous bits, too.

PS: Note taken, I will never, not ever, submit a query in rhyme.

Samantha Tonge said...

Interesting, Nicola, maybe i am misinterpreting my friends a bit. I do try to keep an eye on the market, and one reason i forged ahead with this book was that paranormal chick lit was supposed to be (and is) dipping it's toe, across the Atlantic, into the UK market.
But yes, i will be keen to read about how you keep your passion.

Linda, possibly!
You are right though, and i have come to realize this year, that i need to broaden my writing horizons and maybe go for writing shorter pieces. That was one reason i set up my blog this year, but i suppose it is time to take that one step further and write short stories.

Thanks, Catherine! Hmm, i have been very wary of what i call my work, and sometimes simply sub it under the title of 'Women's Fiction'. The general feeling i got, about 2 years ago, was not to sub under the title 'chick lit' as many agents now find this term off-putting (as a genre, it was supposedly starting to wane a few years ago - not that i see much evidence of that).

Nicola Morgan said...

Harry - sounds as though you have a very constructive and admirable attitude. Being patient is a rare virtue in a writer!

Terresa - I hope so!

Dan - interesting re the psychology. I think I would like to do a post on that soon. (But I think first there's a demand for me to give some practical advice about what this elusive "right book" is). I wonder if the psychology is something to do with writing being a desire for expression, and so that not being published feels like being gagged, as though someone is saying you can't have your voice heard. I've mentioned this somewhere before (a post called something like "You do not have the right to be heard") but will do so again.

Cat - thing is that for an agent/publisher, it could be bad business practice to reply to every unsolicited contact. They do not ask for us to contact them - it's our desire to do that that is the driving force. From a purely practical time-management POV, replying to every unsolicited approach is the wrong thing to do. For my own business, Pen2Publication, of course I'd reply to everyone, (unless they were abusive) but that's a very different business model: each person who contacts me is a likely piece of work, for which I will certainly be paid. Each person who contacts the agent is statistically unlikely to represent a piece of paid work, and there is no loss to the business if they ignore the approach. I know it feels rude to you, and I understand that, but it's actually rather sensible for them, given the facts and the business model, and the stats.

Arabella - awww, the teacher should have praised you for your efforts!

Melinda - very true.

Linda - hello!!

Samantha - yep, will do it asap. I think it's worth remembering that a published author is not necessarily a knowledgable one about publishing in general. I come across the most extraordinary lack of knowledge amongst oft-published authors.

Re chick-lit - yes, it's not a helpful term when subbing, not because it's out of fashion (which, as you say, it isn't) but because it doesn't quite say enough about what the book is. It's a bit too frotthy and vague, I suspect. I think women's fiction, or commercial women's fiction sounds better. I'm not sure that I can explain why! I wonder if perhaps it's that chick-lit became a bandwagon and we're always trying to appear not to be chasing a bandwagon (even if we'd love to!)

David - I was half way through my third attempt when I was hit by a new idea, which became my first published one. I hope the same happens to you! (Or even that your 3rd one is "it"!)

Sally Zigmond said...

Cat. I agree that Nicola that most agents are not physically able to reply to every query they receive. They get hundreds every week.

Having said that, I have always had a reply--mostly negative, it must be said--from every agent I have queried.

I know that every country and every agents works slightly differently but this is what I do.

I first send a short letter to 10 agents at a time. I briefly describe my novel--not a full synopsis--and ask whether said agent would be willing to read more. I ask them what they want me to send.

I always write by post (unless I am invited to email) in which case I will always include a stamped SAE.

About 7 will say no. Some send me a standard rejection letter. Others will scribble on my original letter--no thanks--and send it back. But that's fine. I don't expect any more. Good agents are busy people.

If I'm lucky, 3 will ask for more--usually a synopsis and the first three chapters.

Out of those one will ask for the full manuscript.

Meanwhile, unless they ask for exclusivity--which I don't recommend--I start again.

Some writers find this process depressing. I don't. But then, I'm a glass half full kind of person.

Never expect anything and that way you'll never be disappointed. Agents aren't rude. They are looking at things from a totally different perspective. A writer has one precious manuscript on which they pin all their hopes. To an agent it's just another pile of paper they probably can't sell.

And maybe, just maybe, Cat, you're targeting the wrong agents and/or in the wrong way. Be humble but not pathetic and don't be over-familiar. Be business-like but not brusque and--I repeat---never expect anything.

Sally Zigmond said...

Me again. This is mainly for Samantha.

You describe your novel as "time-slip, chick lit, historical, paranormal." Ouch. I hope that's not what you put in your submission.

You see, it's not because agents are blinkered. It's because publishers' editors (in the bigger companies, anyway) they might wish to send your manuscript have different specialities. Therefore an editor who is an expert on 'chick-lit' will not be an expert on historical fiction.

And if you don't mind my saying so, your description is not so much 'different' as muddled. Chick-lit by its nature is about a young, modern urban woman with love difficulties. Time-slip or historical? Time-slip is a sub-genre of historical. Many historical novel fans dislike time-slip. And again time-slip involves the paranormal otherwise how would it work? Ghosts as well as time-travel? Over-egging the pudding?

Having said that, I have read quite a few novels that are about a feisty modern girl who finds herself slipping into the past. It's not impossible to publish that novel if it's well-written and would appeal to readers. (Barbara Erskine does just that with her novels. And Kate Mosse did well doing the same in Labyrinth.)

However, when pitching to an agent, as others here have said, you have to know what you're writing, who else writes like it and which is the most important element. That is, what exactly is the story?

The job of an agent or editor is to sell your book to people who want to buy it. You can't expect them to sit and scratch their heads over your novel. Or the sales and marketing teams to decide how they're going to sell it to book shops and book buyers. It's your job to tell them what lies at the heart of your novel.

Katherine Roberts said...

Excellent post, Nicola. Excellent blog, too... wish it had been around when I started!

An observation from someone mid-career... ten years after my first book was published (Song Quest, which won the inaugural Branford Boase Award), I am STILL trying to write the right book! So it's not just something you have to think about at the start, but something to bear in mind throughout your writing career. Persuading a publisher to take your thirteenth book can be just as hard (maybe harder if you haven't yet written a multi-million-dollar bestseller) than persuading them to take your first. In the beginning, though, I didn't think about the "right" book - I just wrote the book I wanted to read, which worked for me.

Oh yes, and I once wrote a letter to an editor in rhyme, too! This was begging a small publisher to send me the royalties they owed me for a story published in an anthology. In my case, it was the third letter I'd sent asking for the money... and, amazingly, it WORKED! (Maybe the editor was terrified he might get another rhyme if he didn't pay up?)

David Griffin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rosalind Adam said...

I read this post yesterday. I woke up thinking about it in the night. I even thought about it while I was eating my breakfast. It's hit a creative raw spot. I too have had lots of 'stuff' published but not my novel, the one that I love so much, the one that I wrote for me.
I'm looking forward to reading that future post of yours on writing the right book.

Wendy Woo said...

Thanks for re-posting this, Nicola. I've written four novels in total - two I'm confident with (alas both rejected by two agents - still querying), the other two novels make my eyes hurt when I read my typed mush. But these have potential, they're on the back burner while I get on with 'the right one.'

catdownunder said...

Thanks Sally. I think there might be another problem too. I am submitting from the other side of the world and upside down. (That's why I get so irritated and upset with being completely ignored. It tends to be very expensive from here.) I have had people say all sorts of 'helpful' things like 'submit to an Australian publisher' and 'find an Australian agent'. Australian publishers in the past have said, "Try someone in the UK" and Australian agents are either not taking new clients, will only take on someone who has already had something published or say, "Find an agent in the UK".
Having cried on Nicola's shoulder (so to speak) and having been given more consideration than I deserve by her all I can say is that I am not going to give up. I just might need to pedal my tricycle 15,000+km to the UK and hand deliver a MSS instead. At least I will know it arrived that way!

Sally Clements said...

Very timely post, and very relevant. I've had great feedback for one of my earlier manuscripts, and have been lucky enough to have it critiqued by the RNA New Writers Group, an interested publisher, and 3 judges at the Golden Rose Comp. I initially muttered to myself that it didn't achieve publication, but decided to re-read it as if I hadn't written it, and discovered a lack of intensity and focus. Yup. It just wasn't good enough. A momentary blue period, then determination struck.
I'm currently re-reading with a load of post-its to show where it needs oomph, and re-writing in January.
Just because its not good enough now, doesn't mean it will never be, and with the growing that I've done as a writer I can see the gaps, and hopefully make it great.

Theresa Milstein said...

I appreciate this post. The rejections that provide feedback have been the most helpful because I use any critique to improve my manuscripts. I've also been reading blogs and books to improve my writing.

I wrote a post about rejections on my blog:

http://theresamilstein.blogspot.com/2009/09/positive-rejections.html

I've started this blog as a daily writing exercise, though it's not fiction. In addition, I'm submitting for essay comments, and commenting on other blogs. I belong to SCBWI and attend NESCBWI conference, which are wonderful organizations for children's book writers.

I'm hoping that one day all of this will come together.

The biggest challenge is to write something that fits with current trends. It's a small window between being one of the first on the boat to missing the boat.

And now that the economy isn't doing well, and publishers seem baffled by future publishing trends, it's harder to break in than ever.

Kate said...

I love that you admitted to the rhyme. I also love how direct these posts are. It seems to be really hard to get nice no nonsense advice like yours.

Thanks for another interesting and useful read.

Kate xxx

Anonymous said...

The comments section is becoming way too sweet--I'm getting a contact sugarhigh.

I've got nothing to say except what the fuck is wrong with Americans? Jesus Christ. I'm sick of us.

Proe

Nicola Morgan said...

Proe, are you feeling a bit crabbit today? What's happened? What have you done? I am not aware that Americans are any worse than other people...

Anonymous said...

We are, I'm sad to say. And not only because we respond to comments from eons ago, in a transparent effort to pretend that we're not speaking only to ourselves, but also because:

a) In the US, writers do not get royalties from public libraries. I consider this moral failing as serious as cannibalism or Rowling-worship.

b) Our political discourse revolves around one political party which (that?) is beholden to insurance companies and so is wholly against single-player health insurance, or any wholesale restructuring of a failing system, and a second political party which believes that if you're sick it's because you once said 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas.'


Proe

Leigh Russell said...

Here's another harsh reality...I'm a succesfully published author (3 bestsellers on the shelves and an offer on the table from my publisher to write another 3) shortlisted for a major international award, number 1 bestseller on amazon kindle female detectives, inundated with invitations from bookshops (I'm booked for May 2012)... I could go on but the harsh reality of being published is that if you remove the top earning half dozen or so authors, the average earning of the rest is something like £4,000 a year. Yes, I'm making more than the average author, but my husband, like yours, is still waiting for me to earn a lot of money....