Leaving the Stable

It was never going to be part of my writing journey that I send my manuscript direct to a publisher (the few who will actually take unsolicited manuscripts of novels these days) and they offer me an advance and gush about how much they need to publish my wonderful novel.

No, that’s not quite how my life story has ever gone, or indeed probably not how the vast majority of dreams are achieved. And I never really expected it to be, though one can always hope of course!

So, now for two months I, and some of you, have been waiting to hear on a decision from the marketing and production people at the publishing house who read my manuscript.

If you recall, there were some positive things said, (you can read for yourself here) though there were weaknesses, they were confident a good editor could iron those out.

Then yesterday, finally I had this email. It was a mixed bag, as you’ll see:

Dear Joanne
I have now received responses from my colleagues in marketing and production. Marketing have expressed some concerns as to you, the author, being unknown and untried. It is always difficult to market such a book and its author to the reading public as compared to someone who is known and in the public domain. However they do believe that the theme of your book is saleable. They also suggest that a paperback edition would perhaps be more marketable than a hardback edition.
On the other hand our production department are suggesting that if well proofread and edited that this book would have potential.
 [I have had preliminary discussions with our publishing executives who are reluctant to take this book on with our full financial commitment. They have suggested that if some of the costs can be shared with the author they would be prepared to give it a shot and bring it into our stable.]
I did not want to prepare contracts before I had written to you to explain our thinking. If you are agreeable to this suggestion I will arrange for a contract to be prepared. I will endeavour to keep working with you to support your work, but my hands are tied. I do feel that your book is quite unique.
Please let me know your decision.
I can’t even begin to comment on the “bring it into our stable” line, so I won’t!
Anyway, though there are some positives, (theme of the book is saleable, has potential, your book is quite unique…)  my gut reaction upon reading the email was a deflation rather than elation and one which screamed ‘no, this will not be the path to take.’ Although it is their own personal company practice to have a mix of authors they pay an advance to and others who share costs which I knew this from the outset, it is not even so much the idea of paying out money which bothers me. (Though subsequently discovering this would be in the region of £1800-£2000 has of course put a lid on the whole thing anyway.)
No, my reasons for not wanting to go ahead are as follows:
1) I want a publisher to be wholeheartedly behind my book. I want them to have a least some of the passion I have for it, otherwise who’s championing it? I do realise this is an industry, a business like any other and their primary aim is to make money, I am not naive, but I can’t help but wonder how much effort they are going to put into marketing something they only half believe in and haven’t invested much money in. My answer is they probably won’t.
2) I want the best look for this book. I have visions for it and yes, I might be a snob wanting it in hardback, but that is what I want. If I ever do end up self publishing, this will be one of the options. When they say paperback is more saleable, they mean it’s cheaper. It’s cheaper to make, it’s cheaper to the consumer and it’s less risky if they don’t sell. However, I believe this book deserves more and the children who finally get to read it, deserve more.
3) A publisher’s job surely entails some form of risk? It irks me that new authors are not given much consideration, simply because they are unknown. (No wonder the indie publishing business has taken off.)  The line on “being unknown and not in the public domain” grates on me a lot in this email After all what are we selling? A book or a person? Seemingly not a book any more. I find this sad because I don’t think children are bothered about who writes the book. Children want a good story. It’s tough writing for children in a business where all the decisions are actually made by adults. The only reason I myself decided not to go down the self publishing route is because I envisage the book to have a certain stylistic look and feel, which I could not achieve as an indie publisher. Particularly not in relation to the art work. There needs to be maps and family trees. Not necessarily illustrations but certainly a bespoke front cover.
4) Bearing all that in mind, if this publisher is wanting me to invest £2000, then I may as well hire an artist and editor and self publish. The fact is though, I don’t have that kind of money. Writer’s generally aren’t rich folk. (You’d think they would have realised this from the covering bio letter I had sent them: Part time teacher should give a clue to how much money I don’t have!)
So there it is. I will now go to plan B. I have exhausted the list of publishers for children’s fiction who accept unsolicited manuscripts. Now it’s time to bombard agents. (Lucky people!) Thankfully I am already armed with my Writers and Artists’ Handbook complete with pink post-it notes already earmarked on likely targets candidates. 😉
However, first I will work further on the manuscript, as it is evident from comments received that I need to do this. Of course doing so, will take me away from completing the draft of Book 2, as soon as I liked (now 54,000 words in). However, this is what needs to be done.
So, as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” “Good things come to those who wait” etc, etc….
The journey…now in it’s fourth year, continues. Thanks for keeping on with me, through the highs, lows and plateaus! 🙂
(Also, if you’ve read this and wondered why there are no spaces between paragraphs and points after the copied email section, please ask WordPress as I can’t fathom what’s happened!)


Filed under Publishing

15 responses to “Leaving the Stable

  1. I remember a writing class years ago where a guest author passed along these very important words: “Money always flows to the writer.” You are quite right and smart to get bad vibrations here. I don’t know who this publisher is, but the sentiment of “you’re too risky to publish unless you share the cost burden with us” is a big red flag in my book (pardon the pun). And do you really want to be in business with people whose reaction to your work seems to be a collective “meh”? Best to do as you say and let this one go and move on. Find a collaborator who’s as passionate about your story as you are. As so many are fond of saying, persistence will pay off in the end (another bad pun – yeesh).

    • Absolutely Graham. I think ‘meh’ seems to sum the whole thing up. Annoying to be kept dangling 4 months in total. To be fair maybe the book is just ‘meh’ and my writing is just ‘meh’ in which case I need to up my game big time. Actually no ‘meh’be about it ( I can do puns too! :D) I know I’m not that great. I have this idea but I’ve never been especially eloquent or literate and I struggle to conjure up metaphors and smilies and flowing prose of wonderful vocabulary. But I do believe in my idea. (Maybe I should get a ghost writer!!)
      Anyway thank you, friend. You, along with sone other good folks, have helped confirm what I already knew. 🙂 onwards and upwards hey?!

      • Don’t go there! You are imaginative and talented and you pour your heart onto the page. How many ostensibly “great” writers’ work reads as clinical and soulless?

        Getting published is so much a matter of finding the right fit. This wasn’t it. (If I had a dime for every rejection I’ve received containing the dreaded words “didn’t grab me…”) Pay it no further mind than you would a pair of shoes in a shop that weren’t your size.

      • Oh yes! Totally agree. The fit isn’t right and that’s it really in a nutshell. Excuse my down tone last night, I was tired!
        We’ll get there. Someone will like our stuff one day.
        In the meantime I realised I missed your last two installments of Vintage, which I keep meaning to get to!

  2. Yes. You’re right. Hang on in there.

  3. Sorry to hear, Joanne. For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing the right thing. I agree that even if you had the money to front those costs, you would be better off going it alone, as you said. And with all those horses in their stable, I doubt their passion to get this book into readers hands will come anywhere close to your own. Agreed on that point as well. Stay the course you’ve set for yourself and don’t take anything less than you deserve. ❤

    • Thanks, Jess. I guess this is what you get for trying to cut the middle man or woman (ie the agent) out. But I find it a depressing state of affairs that so many publishing houses don’t take unsolicited manuscripts. I understand why to a certain degree but still. Also disappointing is that this publisher is in the Writer’s and Artist’s yearbook which is what you’re told to use here in the UK to get the best and submit to the right people. I assumed as such they are not some tin pot company. Perhaps though I was wrong. But, yes I intend to get the best for this book. And that starts with me polishing and learning more about writing. 🙂

  4. As I read the publisher’s letter I didn’t know how this post was going to end but I won’t lie to you: I was almost screaming “Joanne, NO!!” at my phone, fearing that you were going to seriously consider their offer. I think you have made absolutely the right decision, but please don’t let their apparent lack of full confidence in your work dent your own belief in it. I’ve never read a single story or post from you that hasn’t been an enjoyable and well-written read (even the rants!;))

    Have faith in yourself and your writing, and as always, good luck x

    • Oh, Roger! Sorry to have put you on tender hooks there! 😀
      Thankfully (always a positive) I’ve been taken for a gullible fool and idiot by too many men in my romantic life meaning I’ve become too much of an distrustful, cynical old bag in recent years to be taken in by any of their flannel! It’s clear now they are some sort of subsidiary Vanity press.
      What I find most disconcerting is that they were in the W&A yearbook.
      I want this work to be taken on by someone who believes in it as much as I do. These people weren’t on the same page. Simple.
      And thank you for your kind comments about my blog writing 🙂
      Oh and they haven’t dented my belief in my work. It may be slightly mad cap but it is getting better with every revision. And if I’m not bored with it after 3 and a half years working on it, it can’t be that bad. My attention span is usually shockingly bad!
      Thanks for your support again, RJ. Much appreciated xx

  5. You are absolutely correct in your expectations of publishers and have interpreted their unprofessional offer appropriately. Two points: 1. There are other publishers (and you’re able to prove that another publisher has shown interest) and 2. Realistically you’re very unlikely to get 100% of what you want in any negotiation – you may have to compromise, probably on your second requirement. Jus’ mu 2 cents – I wish you success Freda 🙂

    • Thanks, Mike, for your comments. Oh I know there will always be compromise and negotiation, but not two-grands worth! And thanks for the best wishes 🙂 Not giving up any time soon! 🙂

  6. Pingback: 30 Days ’til 40: #25 | Writes of Passage

  7. Firstly, congrats on getting some interest – let alone a reply! It sounds like you are barking up the right tree with your premise. It’s rubbish that publishers exploit new, “untested authors” like this. As an industry, much like the music one, they’ve forgotten that they need you (the talent) above all else. For what it’s worth, even if you did have the money, I think you made the right decision. Self-publishing through crowd funding or something might be a better bet. At least then you will be a “tested” author! Good luck.

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