Forgive the provocative title, I’m sure your book is wonderful, but I’m guessing that the self-doubt the writing process is riddled with isn’t something only I have experienced!

In fact, Francis, my ‘fairy book father’ (I really must find a better way of describing him) reassures me that self-doubt is pretty much inevitable.

The process of writing is, for the most part, a solitary pursuit.  Every now and then some clever soul conspires a way of writing that involves other people; co-writing, basing a book on interviews or… well there must be a third way that escapes me now (and writing being what it is, there’s no one here to ask).  Even these people will be faced with a fair amount of editing or compiling that is shared only with the computer keyboard.

And it’s hard to sustain that initial resolve that you have something to say 100% of the time.  Sometimes, when you get stuck, you find yourself questioning whether that’s because you’re just a bit stuck or because you’ve completely lost your way. 

The good news is that, provided you keep on keeping on, you’ll get to the end eventually (and if you’re like me you’ll find the habit of writing kicks in and then you accelerate towards the end rather than stutter and stall).

But then the nature of the submission process rears its head and if you were anything less than certain about your work before there’s every chance the spectre of doubt will reappear.

Of course it’s perfectly possible that your book will be rejected because it’s a bit less than good, or possibly entirely awful.  On the other hand there are a myriad of other possibilities.

Think about it from the other end.  In order to be taken on by a publisher or literary agent the following events must conspire in your favour:

  • The postal service do what they should and deliver your submission (some kind of tracking is advisable to mitigate against this).
  • Someone actually reads your submission (I’m not suggesting anything else would ever happen, well, OK, I know this does happen).
  • It fits with the type of book they are interested in publishing.
  • The person reading it likes it.
  • The person reading it believes there is a market for it.
  • That person doesn’t have another book or books that they are fully occupied with so, much as yours looks interesting, they’re already committed elsewhere.
  • That person hasn’t just read another book that they find fractionally more interesting than yours (most things are relative after all) and to which they’ve just committed themselves.
  • That person isn’t having a bad day that means, despite meeting all of the above criteria, they’re too grumpy to say yes.

So when the first rejection drops on your mat there’s no reason to be disheartened after all.  That’s what I’m telling myself and Francis agrees.  He’s swiftly directed me towards another publishing contact and the journey continues…

Philip Graves


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