I have a book out on submission. The sky is dark, nothing has any taste, my heart does not beat. I want to crawl under a rock and slowly die there, and in pain, because it will be less painful than waiting to hear back from my agent on ‘how things are going’. Submission. The submission process. It’s well-named, because it’s a process that, in no time at all, can reduce you to a simpering wreck, ready to submit to anyone or anything. Are you a desperate, needy sort? You will be by the time you’ve had a book ‘do the rounds’, ready to accept any offer that comes along. ‘You’d like to publish my book and you’re prepared to offer me one half barrel of fish guts? Yes, please where do I sign?’ That sort of thing.
Tragically, this part of being a writer does not get any easier, and I am deep in the thick of it right now. I’ve seen sometimes that people think that once you’re an author, you stay an author. That once you’re an author, any old dross that drips off your pen or leaks digitally onto your screen will be accepted, and with unbridled and enthusiastic glee on the part of the publishing house. And that they may even pay you two whole barrels of fish guts for it. Sadly, this is not the case. I’ve had several books and projects rejected in the 22 years since I was first published, and while having had some books out and having a half decent reputation for them mightat least assure your stuff will be looked at, there is no guarantee anyone will want to do anything with it. And even that isn’t certain.
When you’re just starting out, this whole process can seem hugely daunting – whether you’re a writer trying to find an agent, or a writer who has an agent trying to find you that first book deal, I can only offer this simple advice: don’t take it too seriously. Focus on the other things in your life – your day job, your family or pets, your home, your hobbies. All of these things are infinitely saner than the business of trying to make a business out of the fantasy worlds that have emerged from your subconscious and are now sitting in people’s inboxes up and down the land. I’m speaking as a total hypocrite here, but if I could only take my own advice, I’d be much happier.
I have a book out on submission and I am ready to submit. To anything. I even submitted to painting my shed as a ‘useful’ way of passing the time. But at least I have now finished, more or less, the new place in which I will attempt to write things for which people may or may not want to pay me a barrel of fish guts. And it’s nice. Not the fish guts; the shed. I am pleased with it. It turns out (quelle surprise) that I already have too many books for my new shelves, but that can get sorted at some point, and in the meantime, I have a really nice place to try to not jump through the roof every time my email beeps or my phone pings.
If you’re submitting yourself at the moment (because that’s what it feels like), all I can say is this; do try not to take it too seriously. And I totally feel your pain. This is not an upbeat blog post, but it is an honest one, and I am minded to finish with something my friend Catherine Johnson is always (very rightly) pointing out: no one is asking us to do this crazy thing. No one is forcing us. So just take it for what it is and try to keep some balance in your life, at all times.
Next time, something happier.
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Author Marcus Sedgwick is 2022 Novel Writer-in-Residence for the Hub, WriteMentor’s community learning platform that connects like-minded storytellers and provides all the tools they need for writing success.
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