26 March, 2013
Hurdles and Hoops
It's said that when you have a book published in the traditional way, you have to sell it many times: you have to sell the idea to an agent and persuade them to sign you up; the agent has to sell the book to an editor; the editor has to sell it to the other editors at the acquisition meeting in their publishing house; the acquisition team have to sell it to the marketing team; the marketing team to the booksellers; the booksellers to the public.
Most writers will fall at one of these hurdles - more often than not, the first one, getting an agent. Rejection happens at every stage. I've blogged before about good and bad rejection experiences, encouraging rejections, and the heartache of starting over again with a new novel being rejected (especially when a three year-old announces it to your whole church).
Last November, I had the excitement of being signed to The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency with my novel The Art of Letting Go. For three months, I worked at re-writing the manuscript and putting together a publishing propsal with my agent, David, and a few weeks ago he sent it out to lots of publishing houses. It was an exciting moment to read in the agency's submission list for the month, "The Art of Letting Go a thoughtful and surprising drama about art and artifice by award-winning debut novelist Chloe Banks." But of course, it didn't take very long for the rejections to start rolling in.
David forwards any rejection where the editor actually gave a reason for saying no, so I can see the thinking behind it. When David sent the first one, it was almost exciting. Two literary professionals were e-mailing each other about my work! Somebody at a publishing house was thanking somebody at an agency for letting them see my novel! This felt like a high-class sort of rejection. But then the second one came. And then the third.
The second rejection felt hard. The compliments felt empty and the criticisms so fundamental to the book I was discouraged. The third however was better - it was encouraging and complimentary; a rejection based on the publisher's book list and not my writing. And while that's frustrating, it also gives me hope for the other publishers that are still reading. As I saw with finding an agent, it's a very subjective industry. And it's a painfully slow process. All I can do is keep writing and try to forget I'm waiting. [On that note, I'm over a third of the way through the first draft of my next novel, Derailed. More on that soon!]
I don't know if I'll cross the next hurdle with this novel, let alone all the other hurdles between here and publication. I've heard countless tales of people who had agents for three books before one sold to a publishing house. I really hope somebody will take a chance on a book written in an unusual style by a new author - I dare to dream - but even if they don't, perhaps my next book will be the one. Or the book after that. And while I'm waiting for verdicts on my novel, I can enjoy some variation with other rejections from magazines and short story competitions (and even the occasional acceptance!). I can also enjoy writing my second novel from the privileged position of already having an agent waiting to read it. That's something to smile about, right?