Rejection and rationality

Okay, the first rejection was expected; the second is disappointing, the third, worrying; the twenty-third – it’s really starting to grate.

Part of the problem is that new authors have a slightly romanticised view of the literary agent: a chain-smoking Barry Humphries clone who’ll tout their slab of literary genius to the furthest corners of London and secure that first multi-million pound advance.

The publishers see the agent somewhat differently. To them, he provides saleable talent and shields them from everything else. And that is the view you should take as a new author; the literary agent is there to filter out dross.

As I said previously, after the twenty-third rejection the new author can take one of two stances:

  1. They are fools! They are blind and ignorant fools!
  2.  Or, more usefully – Maybe I’m writing stuff they don’t like.

Going with number two doesn’t necessarily mean that the novel is beyond help (remember that agents rarely give feedback), but before spending anymore time on it, you need to find out if what you have written just needs more work, or should be taken out back and shot.

So here’s the next question:

Who told you that the book was good?

Was it family? Friends, maybe? There’s nothing wrong with letting those close to you read the novel, but remember, above all else, their job is to love and support you. They will lie (and they will lie convincingly) to spare your feelings. And to be honest, if you’ve ever told a friend they look good in leather trousers then clearly you’re prepared to do the same.

This is where writing groups come in (improving your work, not your dress sense), and no new writer should be without one. If you live in a town big enough for a bus service, then somewhere nearby is a group ready to eviscerate every substandard piece you put in front of them. And this is a good thing because it’ll make your more self-critical and more prepared to cut swathes from your manuscript which simply don’t work. And the praise, that’s all good too, especially if you’re nursing a bruised ego after rejection number twenty-three.

And if, for example, you write and love science-fiction then don’t join a group in which everyone writes and loves science-fiction. Find a group with at least one member who hates it, loathes it, detests it.  I was lucky in that no one in my group was too keen on  science-fiction and I genuinely believe Regarding Avalon was a better novel because of it. If, each week, you have to face people who don’t care or understand the theories behind faster-than-light travel or the complex and riveting political history of the mighty Intergalactic Gonk Empire, then you will focus less on the genre-related elements of your story and more on the story. This goes for any genre: romance, war, crime, thriller. A balanced group will help you create a balanced novel.

Thanks for reading … 🙂

You don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books

I’ve been hearing this a lot over the past few weeks:

‘Would love to read your book, Dom, but I don’t have a Kindle.’

Which makes a change from this:

‘You ate the whole cheesecake?’

One of Amazon’s best kept secrets is that you don’t need a Kindle to read books from the Kindle bookstore. You can get a Kindle reader application for the price of a download (free), and they do versions for just about every platform (no Linux version but apparently the Windows version runs under WINE).

And if you happen to have a Kindle anyway then you can happily swap between it and your laptop/phone/whatever with your current page updated between all of them. That’s right, with the Kindle connection switched on, Amazon will keep track of the book you’re reading and make sure your other Kindle applications keep in step. Very clever and only a little bit sinister.

So, if you’re an eBook author with a website, it might be a good idea to link to the Kindle apps. It can only help.

Kindle for the Mac

A writer’s blog. How many’s that now?

Yes. It’s another blog.

Another blog belonging to an unpublished writer, no less.

I’m even going to start it with the those seldom-heard words: ‘This one is going to be a little bit different.’ And I genuinely intend it to be. As often happens in life, things don’t always turn out quite as you’d like them to (and as proof of this, I refer you to the phrase unpublished writer a few lines up from this one), so I think it’s only fair that I point out what I’m going to be chatting about here – which is pretty much anything: my favourite books, my favourite writers, odd bits of music I hear on the telly, cats (we have two and a funeral pyre of shredded wildlife in the garden to prove it). I might even throw in the odd picture or two (I travel a lot). But mostly I’ll be talking about writing, so I guess that’s a good place to start.

A few weeks back, I posted my first novel on the Kindle bookstore:

Regarding Avalon

Regarding Avalon is a science-fiction crime thriller I completed about a year ago. Since then it’s spent another six months doing the agency rounds before arriving back on my desk with about twenty firm but gentle ‘no thanks’ tucked under its arm. To be honest I think I was luckier than most since I did receive some very encouraging feedback, and very fair reasons as to why the book wasn’t taken on. One agent said she’d love to represent it, but already had an author who was working on something similar. Another said that it lacked an international feel (the book is set in London, and aside from the frequent forays into virtual reality, doesn’t travel much further than that).

Another said it just made him feel ‘a bit queasy’.

Oookay, upward and onward.

Now at this point,  with a stack of rejection letters tutting gently from the coffee table, you find yourself with something of a decision to make.

  1. Do you assume that twenty agents just don’t ‘get it’ and that someone in the next round will have the intelligence and foresight to see they hold a literary goldmine in their sweaty little hands?
  2. Or do you think that twenty people with centuries of experience in selling fiction may actually have a point?

A detached rationality is what’s needed here; if you’re a new writer then picking answer number 2 will most probably save your novel.