Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rejection reflection

The story so far …

I had a two book deal for Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana. Given the state of the publishing industry, I was unsurprised to learn that the contract was not going to be renewed.

At that point, I found an agent and gave him the manuscript of De Nada Nirvana. (I’d previously been picked up directly by the publisher and had no agent. If I had my time again …) Anyway, he told me that he foresaw an excellent long term future, but warned me that we faced formidable obstacles in the short term.

How right he was! He now has the manuscript of Me, John and a Bomb as well as De Nada Nirvana.

Today I received a copy of a letter sent from one publisher to the agent that he thought I might like to see.

On the plus side, the letter said the following:

‘Cleverly and powerfully written’
• ‘… a controversial subject whilst remaining mostly unbiased’
• ‘I like the way the writing style changes to complement the content, for example when Sky and John are on the run the sentence structure changes to short and staccato sentences, reflective of the protagonists’ pain and mental state’
(Gosh – I hadn’t even consciously realised I’d done that!)

But it was, of course, a rejection. I can handle it! I know it’s just a matter of waiting for the right place at the right time. But I was bemused by this particular editor’s reasons for the rejection:

…’you mention that Alper’s characters come from “a very different world to those we usually meet”. Although I realise this was intended to provide a refreshing change of perspective, to be honest, this was probably the most significant barrier for me – I really had trouble relating to them.'

I hardly know where to start with this … My characters are real people living on the margins of society. Although they are fictional, many people have told me they KNOW them. And they’re not THAT odd. I certainly live in their world … Some are homeless, some live in council flats, and the main characters live in a housing co-op where they have formed their own community. Some have problems with addiction, many are political activists. Many are damaged by abuse of one form or another.

Is this SO strange??? And don’t many books have characters that live in a different world to that of their readers?

And if all books published reflected only the experiences of those working in publishing, wouldn’t that be incredibly narrow?

22 comments:

skint writer said...

don't worry Debi - their time is up - the dinosaurs are losing their grip

go get 'em, you and your motley crew

Debi said...

Thanks, Skint!

I'm an avid reader yet I can think of very few books indeed where the characters are from My World.

Surely, what we relate to is a common humanity? Or am I just being hopelessly naive?

Caroline said...

I read this and felt a wave of panic. Especially the 'if I had my time again ...' line.
It'll all work out for you. I'm sure of that.
It's all to do with things fitting together when they are supposed to.
OMG - I am being positive again! What has happened to me????
I blame Sharon for this!
Cx

Debi said...

Caroline - don't panic. Enjoy!

And if you haven't already done so, check the link to the previous 'state of the publishing industry' post and comments.

Forewarned is forearmed and you're already doing much re promotion that I never did ...

Anonymous said...

What do they know?

You'll be looking back on this as a lucky escape before too long.

Sounds like you've found a simpatico agent though.

pundy said...

Well, debi, at least you've got an agent - some of us can't even manage that. I'm sure your predicament is due to the state of the publishing industry and nothing to do with your talents as a writer. How long will you continue searching for a publisher? What will you do if you don't get one?

I feel slightly shamefaced here because I've been reading your blog for a while now and I've just realised I haven't read your books. I'll order them this week and read them - and review them too - as soon as I've finished reading Minx' and Skint's books.

crimeficreader said...

They must have been able to relate to Stanley Highshore then! (Oh naughty me.)
All is not lost Debi, keep at it! Some books may have been rejected because the protag had the publisher's or agent's hated mother-in-law's name.
It's all about finding the right fit in the right place at the right time. You're more than half way there.

clare said...

Keep going Debi - his trouble in relating to your characters reflects rather poorly on him in my view.

gentlemanoracle said...

I've not enjoyed one single book where the characters were from "My world" how boring.

Obviously a boring old fuddy duddy with no imagination. I agree with Roger

equiano said...

So much of reading is about escaping and/or exploring other people's world's, learning from that (even subconsciously) and bringing that experience back to your own. What an odd thing to say, implying that you can only enjoy a book set in a world populated by characters that one relates to!

Hang in there Debi! It is a long, hard slog. If it is any consolation, I came to the same conclusion last week as Pundy, and have just started reading NIRVANA BITES, as a result. Opens with a bit of a shocker, but am enjoying...

Anonymous said...

I think you write great characters, Debi - ones that readers can easily relate to.

Hang on in there, I'm sure it'll work out soon.

Leo said...

One's rejection is anothers gain. Don't look too much into the reason of the rejection.
Your characters are your own creation, and they are easy to relate to.
It'll work out!

Anonymous said...

Opened Nirvana Bites and picked a bit at random....

We all looked up and gazed at Ali. It was rare that he spoke and when he did it was usually in monosyllables and often, as now, appeared to be a confusing non sequitur. In fact, I've always suspected he has a superb brain and rarely speaks to others because he gets far more satisfaction - and stimulation - from internal conversations.

Yeah, right, I live miles from civilisation and there are a hundred Ali's dotting the landscape!

Only one word for him Alper - twat!

dovegreyreader said...

What worries me is that the people doing the "reading" and the "choosing" have a stranglehold on what we the reader finally get to see and it is only their personal opinion/taste/likes/dislikes that seem to count.Keep writing Debi!

ISLAND MONKEY said...

That's really interesting. Thanks for sharing it. It strikes me that a lot of what is regarded as modern 'literature' as opposed to just page turners with minimal literary merit is stuff concerned with people on the margins, outsiders, or at least the unusual. Dont worry if you sent Trainspotting and changed the names he would probably reject that as well..But surely that is the nature of what every writer/artist is up against? To become a publisher, gallery owner, journalist or record company executive does not necessarily mean you have any greater insight. It's just an interest in gaining power in most cases. Hey ho..

Debi said...

Thank you all so much, my yummy scrummy blogmates! Your encouragement and positive affirmation means so very much.

A couple of points: interesting that you all assumed the editor to be a man - in fact she was a she ...

Pundy - you ask what I'd do if I don't get a new publisher. Easy answer. I'd carry on writing. I never started with the intention or even wish to be published. That was never my motivation and it still isn't. Why (and indeed how) would I stop writing? Why would I deny myself this wonderful means of expression? (A gift in every sense.) Obviously it would be great to get some £££ as a result of doing what I love ... I'm not so stupid as to deny that. But it has never been the motivating force behind what I do.

Cfr - tee hee re in joke for those that have read Nirvana Bites. For those who haven't, Stanley Highshore's nickname is Stapled Stan. Need I say more???

Dove grey - you've done the nail-on-the-head thing. These people do have power.

IM - absolutely re Trainspotting. Good point.

I think the bottom line is that I feel, from all of you and other wonderful people, that there are plenty of people out there who care about the world I've created in my fiction.

Of course, I'll carry on. There was never any possibility of doing otherwise. And I'm convinced that lurking just around the corner ...

Anonymous said...

Debi - I actually had a feeling it might have been a woman editor but I went with man just in case I was wrong!

Anonymous said...

But who would want to write a story using characters from their weird world.
How do you write about someone who lives up their own whatsname anyway......

Write it and he will come...........

pundy said...

Debi, I was actually wondering if you would consider any form of self-publishing? You know, like the GOB has done. It's what I'm considering right now and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Kath T said...

This must be so frustrating for you Debi, but please, please hang in there.

I felt the people and could see, fell and know them. They live in the real world of markets, flats and lifes ups and downs. Maureen in Trading Tatiana was a lady who I worked with when I started work well over 25 years ago, who I admit I'd forgotten about, until I read TT. Must admit the your discription was her, and the feeling of knowing someone so well was well spooky to say the least.

I know I've banged on about this before but not everybody is

a. late 20's working in media.
b. late 20's living the yuppie dream.
c. late 20's downloading to £30,000 a year.

I hate that fact that you walk in to Waterstones and pick one of the many books off the table and when you've read it, essentially you've read the rest.

Part of the problem is a lot of people live in their little cocooned world, of their 4x4 life style and don't walk through their city centre and see, talk and hear peoples tales and don't realise for the Grace of God...

Anyway, keep on to your agent if push comes to shove tell him that your fans will be in office reading your draft copy and drinking his coffee and not leaving until we've all read it!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey, Debi, I've just got back to discover what's going on. Dovegreyreader is absolutely right - so don't start doubting yourself for one moment. Remember we're all gunning for you. It will happen!

Debi said...

You guys are so so cool!

Pundy - though I'd never say never, while my agent is still upbeat about my chances of eventually making it using the traditional route, I'm hanging on in there. But definitely the new media are opening up many opportunities that didn't previously exist and just as well too!

Kath - you do know by now how much you inspire me, don't you???

Elizabeth - great to see you back. Yeah - let's get 'em!