In psychological terms, context is almost everything. Much as we like to think that we know how we will act and react in a given situation, without the richness of...
Make no mistake, getting a book published is tough. Some of that is for the right reasons; after all there are a zillion people who would like the idea of having a book published and there isn’t a market for that many books – it’s no bad thing that the publishers and literary agents of this world act as something of a buffer between all the prospective junk and the ones that make it into print. And, of course, lots of those won’t sell particularly well.
But some of the reasons getting your book published is tough aren’t good ones.
One publisher that I sent my book to took twelve weeks to reply (and only then after I had called to enquire about its progress, which is something they say you shouldn’t do).
In fact, I would agree that you shouldn’t do it. I happen to know that the rejection I received was simply a way of getting me off the phone. Because two weeks later I received a letter that also rejected my book, but for an entirely different reason.
This was the same publisher who, when I was speaking to someone to ask how long they were taking to review submissions said, “We’ve got a lot backing up at the moment, but we have someone coming in next week to go through them all.”
Now, they probably meant they were employing an experienced freelance submission reviewer (or whatever they are called) but it had the air of, “We’ve got this kid coming in from the temp agency for a couple of days just to get the rejection letters sent out.”
I remember reading an interview with a publisher who was asked why they never gave writers much by way of feedback when they were rejecting their work. The answer was extremely honest: he explained that if you give feedback you risk the writer thinking that they can get into a dialogue with you or, worse still, making the changes they think you want and expecting you to read it again and say ‘yes’.
The implication is that, if a publisher thinks a book has sufficient merit, they will commission it and work on it with the writer.
One of the many advantages of having Francis on my side is that when he has spoken to someone about my book they are responding to their relationship with him, not to some complete stranger.
He spoke to someone he used to work with who is now the sales director of a medium-sized publisher and she said she would pass my book on to the managing editor; that’s particularly handy when you’re dealing with a publisher who doesn’t invite unsolicited submissions.
It was, regrettably, another rejection.
But not only did I receive an explanation of why – my book just wasn’t a strong fit with the titles they publish – I also received a suggestion of a publisher who she thought would be interested in my book.
That means I have a pretty good idea that the publisher fit is strong, so what this publisher thinks really matters. If they reject it I will need to reconsider things because they should be interested in the subject matter.
I’m going to review my submission carefully, tune it up so that it gives my book the best possible chance and write the most important letter so far.
It just goes to show… having a Francis is immeasurably helpful for all sorts of direct (advice) and indirect (relationships with the industry) reasons. It also shows how difficult it can be to pinpoint the publishers who will be most interested in your work.
Next time I’ll tell you more about what I’m putting in this submission.