Becoming an author
I have been asked to write an item for an on-line writers’ forum. I haven’t written it yet, and this is my rough copy as I work it out !
OK – well, all writers know that is it stunningly – excruciatingly – difficult to get published. People who haven’t tried it have no idea! Most publishers will take typescripts only from an agent who has already looked at it and who recommends it. But persuading an agent to look at the first few pages is in itself a huge task. Most agents are inundated, many barely glance at the covering letter and the synopsis. Very few go as far as reading the few pages you have enclosed and, when they do, unless there is something that absolutely GRIPS them, they reject it. And all this is before they ask (if they ask!) for the full typescript – which even then may well be rejected. And THAT is before they even begin to approach a publisher – who may also, of course, reject it.
So it is incredibly difficult. And it is almost equally difficult to get a short story, an article or a poem published. To top it, the economy is such that not only are publishers not willing to take a chance on an unknown author, but they are also rejecting already-published authors to boot. Furthermore, many publishers no longer pay a juicy up-front settlement and will work only on a contract-and-commission basis. This in itself causes a problem because they will not put a lot of effort into you and your book when they don’t need to re-coup their money, so a huge amount of the marketing falls on to your innocent and fragile shoulders.
So, in many ways, I’d like to tell writers to not bother! But that would be very discouraging and perhaps rather flippant. But what I will say is this: writing the book is the easy part, it truly is.
Never feel rejected. Because your book gets rejected over and over again, it does not mean you are a bad writer. It may well mean precisely that, but it is more likely to mean that your story didn’t grab the person who happened to open your envelope at the agent’s office. That’s all. And, Lord knows, there are some really rubbish writers who have shelves of best-sellers! Likewise there are many brilliant writers who have never been published.
Yesterday I attended a reading group. They had just finished Madame Bovary. Yikes, I thought, I hope one of them doesn’t go and suggest one of my books – Flaubert wouldn’t even consider it writing …. mine are total rubbish compared to his. But mine are just fine compared to Jilly Cooper, for example, or Dan Brown, or hundreds of others.
So, my conclusion is to go for it – just hit it as hard as you can without getting stressy; keep it fun, and take it as fun, albeit serious fun. And bear in mind that it is an extremely tight market, so if one day you decide to stop – you haven’t given up, you have just decided to stop. It’s different.
Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. She is widely travelled and writes regularly for magazines and blog sites. Her sketches are on her web site http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk . Her books are available from Amazon and on Kindle, or can be ordered from several leading book stores.
Click below for “A Call from France”, voted a must-read for mothers of teenagers:-