Friday, 2 December 2011

Publishing Deal - Forget the Clichés

I promised to come back and tell you the rest of the end-story from Write to be Published. For the first part, go here. For today, you'll need tissues.

Again, this is reproduced with kind permission of Snowbooks.

So, what is it like, that moment when you realise you are really going to be published? It’s different for everyone, but let me tell you how it was for me. You think I was starry-eyed with excitement? Skipping around drinking sparkly stuff?

Sadly, no. The news came in stages, during several phone-calls over a few days, mostly as I stood in the car-park of Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, while my mother-in-law, Alison, was dying. Apart from my husband, Alison was the person who supported me most vigorously. She had railed against every rejection, bemoaned the blindness of publishers, and constantly praised my resilience. She was genuinely and enormously interested and she wanted to see a novel with my name on the cover almost as much as I did. If she’d lived, my publishers would never have needed a publicity department; the sales reps would have had a ready-made, unpaid sales force in Scotland; every acquaintance of hers – and there were very many – would have been persuaded to buy copies.

Alison died about a day after we finally heard that Mondays are Red was sold. Although she was unconscious all that time, I like to think she heard, too. A day or so before, my father-in-law and I were talking at her bedside; she had shown no signs of awareness for a while, and I said something to him along the lines of, “You know, I think this book is really going to be published.” And she said, with her eyes still shut but with a definite smile, “About time, too.” It is the last thing I remember her saying.

So, despite ending my years of grim failure, news of publication for me was not marked by happiness. I was standing in a hospital car-park, with my new agent talking about possible film deals and definite publication dates and that it had been taken as a “highlight title”, and how everyone had huge hopes for it, and I had to go in from the August sunshine and sit in a neurosurgical ward, watching Alison lose her life.

That is why the dedication in that first novel reads, “In memory of Alison, whose belief in me was everlasting.”

I hope you all have an Alison to keep you going. She’d never read any of my attempted novels, because I didn’t show them to anyone, but she believed in me anyway, because I believed in myself. In her opinion, anyone who kept trying as hard as I did deserved to succeed. She was wrong, of course: trying hard and long is not enough. We have to be good enough as writers and write the right book. But she couldn’t judge me on whether I was good enough, only on whether I worked hard enough. For her continued belief in that I am so grateful. I wish she’d been around to see the end of the story.

There’s something else she’d have done if she were alive now: remind me to acknowledge what I have done. We need to do that. You will all have had successes and improvements, made new contacts and potential readers, had feedback that has inspired or re-directed you, written something better than the last piece, formed new ideas, grown as writers and people. So, before you return to your writing, do remind yourself how far you have come, how much better you would like to be and that your improvement and success are in your hands more than anyone else’s.

I wish you all the success you deserve.

Reproduced from Write to be Published, by kind permission of Snowbooks Ltd.

Mondays are Red is available as a brand-new ebook, for around £2.25, with new material. Please, please buy it. Readers, I need you.


JoMacdonald said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story, both parts have been incredibly poignant and resonated deeply with me.
Jo x

Dan Holloway said...

A beautiful tribute, Nicola.

catdownunder said...

I am glad you had "Alison" - and just a wee bit jealous of the fact that you had her too!

Jayne said...

Catdownunder’s comment is perfect (purrfect); Alison sounds a most amazing woman. I’m glad she knew about your imminent publication and that you remember her smiling with that knowledge.

Write to be Published is a fantastic book – not only for all the wise crabbit advice you give – but for these glimpses behind your journey to publication.

Michael Malone said...

Gave me a wee lump in my throat. Lovely.

Katalin Havasi said...

Your story reminded me of this saying:

A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck to the job.

You're lucky to have been blessed with a loving and supportive mother-in-law who totally believed in you.

Hazel said...

Nicola, As always your words hit just the right spot. I was very moved and inspired by your story. Thank you x

C D Meetens said...

What a beautiful story, and how lucky to have Alison for a while. It means so much when someone believes in you like that.

Tamlyn said...

I almost did need tissues. I'm glad you had her.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post Nicola, though a very sad experience. And yest, our endeavours and achievements are always amidst the mud of really life. I was shortlisted for and attended the Hennessy Awards for new Irish Writing just a couple of weeks after my lovely mother in law had a devastating stroke (she survived but is severely affected). The juxtaposition of this achievement with difficult reality was very emotional. As I strive now to achieve publication it is in the thick of raising my four young children, being a friend, sister, daughter, wife and coping with the everyday joys and struggles. Determination is hard to maintain sometimes but as your two stories have shown that determination plus turning outward to assist others provides it's own strength. Although writing quality, timing and luck account for a huge amount, persistence and courage is also key.

Tabitha Suzuma said...

A very moving story. Alison sounds like a really special (and perceptive) person. I think all writers need someone who believes in them like that because it is such a ruthless, competitive and isolating profession. I had someone too, and because she was a highly successful author, honest and direct, and had read my books, I never really had any doubts that if I worked hard enough and persevered, I would eventually get published.