I always knew that writing books was an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve already explained what happens when I finish a book – it’s more likely to involve sobbing and ice cream than celebrating. But what happens afterwards is equally as pendulous…the decision to publish sets in motion a chain of events that makes you question every fibre of your being. It’s brutal.
First there are the competitions. You enter something you wrote just on a whim because no-one but your friends have ever read your books and secretly you wonder if they’re just being nice. And each time you enter you make the final, they tell you how great you are and somewhere in amidst the shock and delight a spark of hope is sown that you might just win, that you are about to realise your dream of seeing your name in print. And then you don’t win and despite your philosphical attitude it still hurts every time.
So you decide to be proactive…if your work is good enough that it gets to the finals of international competitions judged by independent panels of readers then surely there’s something in it that would appeal to publishers and agents. You print it out, write letters and emails, spend weeks drafting synopses and briefs according to the distinct guidelines each separate agency and publishing house has. You then spend the next three months swinging on this seesaw of hope and utterly crushed rejection and every time you get a letter you tell yourself that it’s okay, that J K Rowling got rejected 52 times before someone accepted Harry Potter and Amanda Hocking got rejected for years and she’s now a best-selling author too. It’s not until you get your tenth soulless and generic rejection email that you start to wonder if you can do it any more, if you can continue to spend all the hours of your free time outside work writing letters and emails to the detriment of your social life. No woman is an island. It’s not healthy.
So there you are at the cross-roads…do you give up entirely and continue just to entertain the small group of friends that faithfully read your works and badger you to complete each new novel because they’re desperate to know what happens, or do you follow a different path? The idea of self-publishing turns slowly in your head. You’ve seen the success stories, the Amanda Hockings and E L James’ of this world. You wonder if you’ve got what it takes to go that route, if your writing is good enough to stand on its own 2 feet without the benefit of a big money publishing house campaign. At some stage in a dark and restless night you decide that you’re going to go for it. Life is too short not to follow your dreams and if you can’t do it the conventional way then you’ll aim for the stars on your own.
You begin calling in favours and tugging on the strings of friendships, asking people to help you edit, draft a cover image, explain the formatting…it’s a heady and exciting time. Everything is so shiny and exciting it’s almost as though the world is wrapped in cellophane, ready to burst out like Christmas morning. The moment you see your book there on the screen you begin to cry…it’s the realisation of a dream. The days that follow are exquisite in their joy. Each book sale, each good review is like manna for the soul. There’s a lot of happy dancing.
But the truth is that behind that there’s still a lot of self-doubt. You question why it’s not selling very fast, if there’s something wrong with the book, with the cover, with you maybe. And then comes the day that you don’t sell any at all and, the next day, still nothing…after four days of selling nothing you begin to feel once again that crushing rejection that so characterised the months of trying the traditional way. Wary of over-publicising yourself on Twitter and Facebook, a mistake you’ve seen too many people make, you start again with the email writing.
A helpful and kind person sends you an extensive list of reviewers who will review books and publish them on their blogs, sometimes to thousands of followers, and after all the research you’ve done you realise that this is the way to get noticed. You start scrolling for the right people to approach and realise, first of all, just how many won’t accept self-published books. It’s disheartening but you plow on regardless. You spend spend several days drafting polite emails to as many people that your book meets the criteria for as you can and then you can do nothing but wait.
Of the thirty something people that you email, after four days, only 3 have got back to you. The hope you sent the email out with rebounds on you like a slap in the face but still, you don’t give up and wait patiently for further responses.
You see, there’s one thing I’ve learned on this journey and it’s that the capacity of a person to hope in the face of adversity is both boundless and awe-inspiring. The ability to chase dreams, no matter how small, is grounded in extraordinary tenacity and a belief that things will come right in the end. Anything in life worth having is worth working for (Andrew Carnegie). It’s worth fighting for. A dream is worth the sleepless nights, the self-doubt, the rejection and the hard work…because it’s the dream.
I’ll leave you with the quote that has become my new mantra – “To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”
And, at the end of the day, what exactly have I got to lose?