Saturday, December 16, 2006

What a lovely rejection!

No one feels good about rejection.
Sometimes the reasons for the 'thanks but no thanks' can be irritating in the extreme. (See here.)
But it's not always that simple.

My agent has forwarded a letter from a publisher that has induced paradoxical feelings of upliftment and encouragement coupled with a heartbreaking reality check.

'As a committed South Londoner I particularly enjoyed the early sections of the book - Alper does this part of the world very well indeed. I also enjoyed the wackiness of it all; it was utterly different to anything else I've read recently. The dialogue is really lively and the characters feel utterly real - particularly Sky of course.

However I'm afraid that, commercially speaking, I thought it would be very difficult to relaunch Alper successfully after the two Orion books, and with such a determinedly (and charmingly) off-the-wall novel as this. So I'm afraid I have to pass - really sorry, as I did think this had a spark about it.'

I'm fully aware of the realities of the current state of publishing and have posted about it before (see here) so this only confirmed what I already knew.

In yesterday's Independent, Christina Patterson writes:

'Traditionally, there have been two models for being a writer. The first is one of daily assignations with the muse after a hard day at work. The second is abject poverty. There is a third, of course. In this model, you get garlanded with praise, showered with awards, feted, flattered and filthy rich ... about as common, I'm afraid, as a politician's apology or a lunar eclipse.'

So there we have it. There is no middle way where you make enough from writing to feed, clothe and house your family.

I've tried. I wrote 3.5 books as a manic example of the first model. Then last July (just as the final instalment of my two book advance came in) I took a year's sabbatical. At the end of the year, having finished Me, John and a Bomb, and set up my website and blogs, I decided not to go back to work. (I posted re that decision here.)

I've never regretted it for one moment. I have been able to devote myself wholeheartedly to writing and all the associated activities. I have been writing Depth Charge, have appeared at reading groups (see here and here), attended a book launch in Cardiff, organised a successful literary event, was part of a competition judging panel and, of course, have developed this blog, making many unforeseen wonderful friends along the way and publicising my novels. I've also been able to organise and attend the writers' group midweek 'coffee caucus'.

I've also been available to parent my children in the way I consider ideal. I've gone on every school trip and helped with every homework assignment. I've had no problems fitting in weekly visits to see my dad.

But the figures don't add up. G is a highly qualified swimming teacher and is working hard but his hourly rate is crap. We do a few photography jobs but can't rely on these to put food on the table. My income from writing currently runs into 3 figures - per annum - from public lending and copying rights.

So the harsh reality is that I'm going to have to look for a job. I can't see any way round it. I'll try to find something that fits in around the school hours. It would be good if it was local, so I don't have to spend hours travelling. It would be wonderful if it was related in some way to writing.

I'll try to find the positive in this because that's my way. I'll look at the extra money and be grateful I won't have to think about every penny we spend or be reduced to checking under the settee cushions for lost coins. I'll focus on the good aspects of being out there in Real Life. I'll remember that time is elastic. The more you have, the less you achieve in my experience. Whereas when you're really pressured it's amazing how much you fit in.

But don't ask me to pretend it's my choice or that I feel good about it ...

18 comments:

Minx said...

Standing at your side.

Marie said...

Hope it all works out for you, Debi.

clare said...

You're not alone, Debi - I'm in pretty much the same position myself (not that that is any consolation, I know). It's really hard in publishing these days.

I think you just have to keep on going and believe that one day things will change for the better.

Kath T said...

Ever heard the expression 'the law is an ass', seems to have spread to the publishing world too.

Please, please don't give up on the books, bloging and writing.

Maxine said...

Life is tough, Debi. My best to you. I hope that the photography will provide enough to allow you time to keep writing and keep plugging away at those publishers. As one who has been in full-time employment for 28 years --- I'm exhausted! Keep that spirit high.

Verilion said...

I'm going to try and be the little positivity gremlin here and suggest jobs: school secretary, dinner lady, clasroom assistant, work in a book shop, editor (how hard can it be to read books all day), some sort of gardening job. This list is generated from what you have mentioned with a few addded extras thrown in.

And lastly, if you are going to have to work, choose something you want to do, because nothing kills off the hours after work more than pissing and moaning about the hours in work.

Lee said...

I've been racking my brain trying to think of something consoling but there isn't much, is there? If only we could really eat our words...

Debi said...

Thank you all, my very lovely blog friends.

No matter what happens, I'm never going to be able to abandon you ... or my writing ... or my kids ... or my father ...

Somehow I'll just have to fit it all in. Again. (Sigh.)

Debi said...

Now I feel guilty ... there's plenty worse off ...

Cailleach said...

I really feel for you Debi - I know how you feel, since I'm in the same sort of boat - and we all know poetry doesn't pay at all!

All I can offer is a hug, and to know that you can and will have to keep pushing with the books. It seems to be all about finding that marketing niche, which is an abyssmal way of looking at your writing, which is vibrant and full of detailed observation.

You may be ahead of yourself, in some respects - the world needs to catch up with you... Wonder how long it took people to realise Tom Sharpe's highly ironic comic novels had the potential to shift?

Steerforth said...

To be published by Orion is a remarkable achievement. This can only be a temporary setback.

Amanda Mann said...

I'm so so sorry. I assume your agent's still going to be sending it out, though, and will keep fingers crossed for you that another editor will feel differently. Friends this has happened to have had their agents send the material out under a different name. Madeline Wickham didn't have much luck with sales of her novels until she changed her name to Sophie Kinsella.

Shameless said...

Gosh debi,

They really don't know what they're missing! But you know that. You only have to meet some of the people who write those letters to really get the feeling of trying to get yoke back into a cracked egg!

What annoys me is that many of those editors end up getting sacked or sidelined by the publishing companies they work for because they don't get enough sales or discover enough hot potatoes.

Look at what's happening with Bloomsbury at the moment. It's a shame they're taking good writers down with them, for failing to see what the public might just like if they woke up and lived in the real world.

But, I do believe that our will can win through, and at the end of the day you've produced your best and what you believe in.

Re transition job: how about becoming one of the editors who read manuscripts and decide what gets published? Seriously. Work from home? They need good, balanced people.

Atyllah said...

Aw, Debi... so sorry. Life is so full of tough breaks and tough choices. I will keep fingers crossed that the perfect job comes your way and that your manuscript finds just the right publisher. We're taught, aren't we, that sheer persistence, a thick hide and a good dollop of luck are all part of what it takes to be a writer.
Sending strength and love.

Debi said...

Some seriously uplifting, encouraging and constructive stuff here. You know I'm really grateful ...

On one level I'm giving myself a hard time now for being a spoiled brat and thinking I could get away with living the life I choose. How many have that luxury???

I'm looking into all the suggestions made here - all of which had been on my agenda ...

Elizabeth Baines said...

You'll do it, Debi. This situation can't last.

nmj said...

What a bittersweet rejection, Debi, I really hope your book gets picked up elsewhere . . . the snakes and ladders of publishing are truly exhausting . . . anyway, good luck!

Kath t said...

Just remembered some publishers have people to read manuscripts - could be something worth looking into. Anyway, good luck and something will turn up out of the blue when your're least expecting it.