I had an idea for a book, wrote it down whilst munching on a sandwich and watching television, sent it off to a publisher, received an offer by return of post and lived happily ever after on the royalties.
Ok, this is what really happened
I had an idea for a sitcom which I thought was hilarious (but then I would wouldn’t I, being rather biased.) I wrote it without a thought for the required format and style, posted it off to the BBC and was, not surprisingly, turned down a few weeks later. Not to be discouraged, I hatched a cunning plan. I’d write a book, get a name for myself as an author and when I sent my sitcom back to the BBC they would look upon it more favourably. (can you see my problem here? It’s naivety)
So, full of misplaced optimism, I sat down and wrote my first novel. It started out as a light hearted comedy/crime book but morphed half way through into a thriller. It was then I discovered that I adored writing books in general but thrillers in particular. I had found my niche. I quickly shelved my sitcom and sent my new masterpiece off to Hodder. It was while I was waiting that I finally, and a bit belatedly, carried out some research into my new, chosen profession. The statistics were horrific. The average literary agent received 200 – 300 submissions ever week but signed approximately just half a dozen new authors a year, none of which they could guarantee getting published. Feeling thoroughly deflated and feeling slightly silly for sending my book direct to Hodder, I waited for my next refusal to arrive in the post but when it did, I had a pleasant surprise. It had been sent by the lovely Betty Schwartz who was a submission editor at the time and although she informed me that it wasn’t quite right for their list, she complimented my book and told me that I wrote very well. I still remember to this day, dancing around the kitchen because as refusals go, it was a corker.
I quickly dashed off a second thriller then a third and a fourth but it wasn’t until I finished book number five, a thriller called Fallout, that I decided that I had written a book that was good enough to have another try at getting published. By this time I had a far better understanding of how the industry worked and began the long, slow process of sending it out to agents. I eventually signed to an agent who loved Fallout and sent it to the big five publishers for their consideration. One by one they turned me down. One said that he loved the book but it was too difficult to sell a thriller written by a woman (yes I know but it was a different age) and another said that she loved the book and didn’t know why she was turning it down. Sadly my agent didn’t want to send it to any of the smaller presses so that, as they say, was that.
I continued to write but more or less gave up on the idea of getting published and then along came Amazon’s self publishing platform. I uploaded Fallout and saw some early success. At one point, my book reached number one in the Movers and Shakers category and at my peek I was selling 50-80 books a day. My writing was rejuvenated and I quickly dashed off a few more books featuring the same protagonist. But then something changed. Amazon began allowing authors to give their books away for nothing. It was probably an excellent business model for Amazon but it was the kiss of death for serious authors who wanted to sell their books and see some financial gain for all their trouble. My earlier passion for writing began to wane and instead of a daily joy, it was becoming more of a daily slog. I was writing every day out of habit, simply because it was something I did, I recognised that without the earlier enthusiasm, my writing was in danger of growing stale. I needed help or, at least, I needed to take a different path.
Fast forward to 2020. Earlier in the year, I had given up writing completely but it had left a huge hole in my life. I needed to write but couldn’t summon up any enthusiasm. In an effort to recover my writing mojo, I sent Fallout to Darkstroke, a small independent press, who signed me and published it in October this year. The publishing world has changed enormously since the days when the big five ruled. Nowadays every author is expected to make their own success but it has given me a reason to carry on writing and now I have a support network of friendly, knowledgeable authors who help each other out, swap tips and ideas and are generous with their encouragement.
So, my advice to any aspiring author is this. Don’t be downhearted when you receive those rejection letters; it happens to everyone. Write because you love to write, not because you expect to make vast amounts of money because if that’s your expectation, you’ll be heading for disappointment and lastly, never rest on your laurels. Writing is like any other profession; the more you practise the better you will be and even authors who are at the top of their profession, readily admit that they never stop learning.