The Rejection Letters: How Publishers Snubbed 11 Great Authors

books-rejected

After nine years of rejection from publishers, Eimear McBride’s debut, A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, won the 2014 Bailey’s Prize. But the Irish writer won’t be the last to laugh in the face of those publishing houses who won’t take a punt on an experimental or challenging novel.

From Gertude Stein and William Burroughs to recent rags-to-riches writers such as J.K. Rowling and Cassandra Clare, there have been brutal rejection letters to accompany most bestselling novels. Here are extracts from some of them:

1. “Overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian…the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream… I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”

Thankfully, for both Vladimir Nabokov and literature as a whole, Lolita wasn’t buried, but published in France after two years of rejections by New York publishers such as Viking, Simon & Schuster, New Directions, Farrar, Straus, and Doubleday. When Graham Greene got hold of it, shortly after its French publication, he reviewed it in The Sunday Times, describing it as “one of the three best books of 1955”.

Despite this, the novel still wasn’t published in the UK until 1957, because the Home Office seized all imported copies and France banned it. When British publishing house Weidenfeld & Nicolson took it on, it was at the cost of Nigel Nicolson’s political career.

2. “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”

One of the 15 publishers who didn’t think The Diary of Anne Frank was worth reading.

3. “First, we must ask, does it have to be a whale?

“While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?”

Herman Melville’s leviathan novel was rejected, as above, by Peter J Bentley. However, Richard Bentley, of the same London publishing house, eventually offered him a contract in 1851. Moby Dick was published 18 months later than Melville expected and at great personal expense, as he arranged for the typesetting and plating of his book himself to speed up the process. Young, voluptuous maidens never made the final edit.

4. “For your own sake, do not publish this book.”

One publisher turned down DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, first published in 1928. Perhaps they had predicted the furore that was unleashed when the full novel did hit the British bookshelves in 1960.

5. “Do you realise, young woman, that you’re the first American writer ever to poke fun at sex”

This was what Anita Loos received before her novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, was successfully published in 1925. It was part of a rejection note, although by today’s standards it sounds quite the accolade.

6. “Miss Play has a way with words and a sharp eye for unusual and vivid detail. But maybe now that this book is out of her system she will use her talent more effectively next time. I doubt if anyone over here will pick this novel up, so we might well have a second chance.”

An editor at Knopf in 1963 rejected Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar when it was submitted under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. After realising it had been written by Plath, who had already published a couple of poetry collections, the same editor read and rejected it again – and managed to spell her real name three different incorrect ways in the process. His assertion that “she will use her talent more effectively next time” is poignant, as Plath had committed suicide six weeks earlier.

7. “You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.”

A fantastically incorrect prediction by one publisher, sent to his colleague, upon turning down The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

8. “Your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact, there couldn’t have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so that what was needed, (someone might argue), was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.”

The poet TS Eliot, editor of Faber & Faber, was one of the many publishers, including George Orwell’s own, Victor Gollancz, who rejected Animal Farm. When it was published, in 1946, Orwell’s original title, Animal Farm: A Fairy Story was amended.

9. “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”

Stephen King received this letter about Carrie. His first published novel was rejected so many times that King collected the accompanying notes on a spike in his bedroom. It was finally published in 1974 with a print run of 30,000 copies. When the paperback version was released a year later, it sold over a million copies in 12 months.

10. “I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.”

So Arthur Fifield, founder of the British publishing house AC Fifield, wrote to Gertrude Stein after receiving one of her manuscripts in 1912.

11. “If I may be frank, Mr. Hemingway — you certainly are in your prose — I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive. You really are a man’s man, aren’t you? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you had penned this entire story locked up at the club, ink in one hand, brandy in the other.”

Mrs Moberley Luger, of Peacock & Peacock, didn’t realise how accurate she was in her 1925 rejection letter of Ernest Heminway’s The Sun Also Rises.

***

So if you’ve been rejected don’t be disheartened, it might be you one day who is able to look back and laugh at the publisher who didn’t want your bestseller!

Happy writing x

***

Via http://www.telegraph.co.uk/The-rejection-letters-how-publishers-snubbed-11-great-authors

Claire Dyer on Research and Imagination | The Literary Sofa

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My lovely friend, Isabel Costello of The Literary Sofa, has been talking to Claire Dyer about her new book The Last Day. Here is what they had to say…


Today I am delighted to welcome the first of my Spring Spotlight guests, poet and novelist Claire Dyer. Her novel The Last Day is published by the independent Dome Press, who appear to have an eye for the magic combination of literary merit and broad appeal.  It is very much my kind of book and in my review at the end you can find out why.  But first let’s hear Claire’s thoughts on something which has always preoccupied writers and fascinated readers: the delicate balance between research and imagination in writing fiction:

I once heard that James Joyce trod the pavements of Dublin to make sure it took precisely thirteen minutes to get from point A to point B so he could represent this faithfully in his writing. Also, Wilkie Collins was known to consult astronomical charts to ensure he had a firm grasp of exactly what kind of moonlight fell on the precise night about which he was writing. In addition I also read somewhere that Audrey Niffenegger carefully researched paper making so she could write authentically about Clare’s work in The Time Traveler’s Wife.

However, authors also make stuff up, and it’s achieving a balance between research and imagination that fascinates me and is the topic I wish to explore whilst I’m here on Isabel’s Literary Sofa.

I too have embarked on many and varied types of research: I’ve done pottery lessons (for The Moment), travelled to Athens (for The Perfect Affair), interviewed carpenters, estate agents, doctors, florists, gardeners, bankers and many more to gain insights into the professions I have chosen for my characters along the way. I’ve also checked out train routes, fashions, newspaper headlines, TV listings, the music hits of the day on the internet; I’ve trawled through photographs, books, stared at Google Maps, sent detailed questionnaires to family and friends both here and in the US and have even stood on Newgale Sands in Pembrokeshire breathing in the salty air to help me prepare for the final scene in one of my books. I’ve visited the London Aquarium, Kew Gardens, the Surrey hills and plumbed deeply personal experiences of birth and death and the many stages in between.

I even visited a medium for a scene in my latest novel, The Last Day, a decision which produced a very surprising result. I went fully prepared to take notes, remain unmoved by anything she said and only think of my character, Honey, while I was there. However, half way through the session, the medium told me my mother, who had died when I was a girl, had arrived and wanted to say something to me. I can’t pretend it wasn’t a shock, one that I’m still coming to terms with, and it made me realise that sometimes the line between research and imagination can get very blurred indeed.

Yet amongst all this fact-finding, my imagination is churning away because in the foreground of all this research are my characters and their stories and it’s for them I have to get it right.

And what if I get it wrong? I remember when researching for the day at the races scene in The Perfect Affair, I looked up which horse had won which race, I studied the notes I’d made when I’d been to the races to remind myself of the small details, like how the tannoy sounds, how the horses skitter to the starting post, the press of bodies, the sweat on the animals’ flanks in the winners’ circle, and yet my scene was set in the 60s and so it was only when I pulled up some photographs on the internet that I realised two very important small details which I nearly missed. The first was that all the men in the pictures were wearing hats and the second was that the majority of the punters were smoking. And so, in my scene, I had my characters take off their hats when they arrive in the function room, which itself fills with the smoke of numerous cigarettes as the day progresses.

What if I deliberately fudge the issue? There have been times when I’ve been less than exact about road names, or the distances between places, or timelines, and also when I’ve used a little bit of artistic licence because to me such facts could be in danger of getting in the way of the all-important story. I do feel guilty about this but, on balance, I believe that it’s best for writers to try and achieve a balance between what’s made up and what’s real so that our readers (and, after all, the reader is the person for whom we are writing) can be immersed in the narrative, lose themselves in the ups and downs of our characters’ lives without worrying too much about whether the weather on the particular day in question was actually sunny or not.

And what is getting it right? Is it this immersion, this losing of oneself in the world of the novel? I think it is. And I guess I’m lucky because at least I can check my facts (if I wish to) whereas others who, for example, write fantasy novels can’t. They make up their worlds, they invent currencies, modes of transport, food, clothes and complete ways of life and I admire them greatly for doing so. I don’t think I ever could. And there are even those who like Laini Taylor blend the real with the imagined. In Daughter of Smoke and Bone which I read recently for BBC Radio Berkshire’s Radio Reads, she seamlessly melds modern-day Prague with a fantastical world of angels and monstrous creatures and gives them all hearts and consciences, hopes and fears. It is a huge achievement and one I admire immensely.

I shall continue to base my stories in this world, whether it be now or ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years ago and I shall do my utmost to mix fact with fiction, the exact with the inexact, research with imagination in the hope that my characters will have room to breathe and a voice with which to tell their stories.

***

See the original article, including a review of Claire’s book, The Last Day, here: https://literarysofa.com/2018/03/02/guest-author-claire-dyer-on-research-and-imagination/

And check out more fantastic author interviews and book reviews on Isabel’s blog: the Literary Sofa.

Joanna Walsh: Author Interview

joanna walsh

Taking in everything from linguistic dystopianism to Freudian whimsy, the stories in Joanna Walsh’s second collection, Worlds from the Word’s End, are alternately playful, melancholic, subversive and wistful. The collection demonstrates the wide range of Walsh’s writing, and her continual desire to shift the boundaries of conventional storytelling. From the mid-European detachment of Hauptbahnhof to the playful fairy tale Simple HansWorlds from the Word’s End marks Walsh out as one of our most inventive authors.

Here, she talks to Minor Literature[s] about the impact of technology on storytelling, autofiction, and demystifying the role of the author:

In many of your stories, from Fractals (2013) and Grow a Pair (2015) up to your current collection, you examine the influence of technology on the way we communicate; this is perhaps most directly addressed in the title story from Worlds From the Word’s End. As a writer, how do you incorporate these changes in discourse into your work, and what challenges do you face? 

It a no-brainer. We live via technologies–and always have: writing is the original technology if by technology you mean an artifice created to replace or extend a human function–and each technological shift creates different styles of language that facilitate (and hamper) our uses of it, and its uses of us. Language that wants to section itself off as ‘literary’ is dead. Interesting writers keep a close eye on changes in the ways we speak and write to each other, as well as how this speaking and writing changes us. 

As you showed with your novella Seed, you’re very open to experimenting with digital storytelling techniques; what sort of possibilities do you think new technologies open up for your work, and how can this help to move literature forward? 

I’m not interested in the digital reproduction of the conventional book form. If I’m reading a ‘book’ I prefer print. I hope digital offers a huge number possibilities that do not already exist in print for representing experience via words, most of which I know nothing about. In Seed, I’ve used digital to explore written ways of telling developed by modernist and postmodernist writers, and in feminist and posthumanist thought, that challenge conventional linear notions of time and memory, and conventionally coherent subjectivity (aka ‘plot’ and ‘character’). 

You’ve already published short fiction, digital fiction, creative non-fiction (Hotel) and the A7-sized Shklovsky’s Zoo, amongst other forms; do you see yourself as a sort of ‘format agnostic’? Or is there a particular form you’d like to focus on in the future? Equally, is there anything you haven’t yet tackled which you’d like to try?

Form seems to arise to fit individual projects, or projects to fit situations. I’m flexible, and innovation is always also response, depending on collaboration, funding opportunities etc. But Hotel was a challenge to genre rather than form. If it began as response, it became deliberate, which makes me less an agnostic than an iconoclast. It started as an attempt to tell an autobiographical story outside the bounds of ‘memoir’. Traditionally memoir seems to concentrate on the subject. I’m only interested in myself as a starting point for discussing something wider. 

Following on from this, you’ve previously said that in the Anglosphere, the terms ‘writer’ and ‘novelist’ are almost synonymous. Do you think there have been any negative consequences from having moved between styles and formats early in your career, or is this something you’ve ever worried about? 

I started writing with no expectations of a ‘career,’ conscious of  not having written books that fit into easily saleable categories. But I haven’t been a writer all my adult life, and the idea of writing ‘the next book’ for the sake of writing the next book makes no sense to me. If that became the case, I hope I could walk away from it. But I hope I’ll be able to continue as an ‘amateur,’ like Clarice Lispector… though I also hope my amateurism has a long course  🙂

Autofiction has been an influence on your work; at the moment, the most prominent autofiction writers, such as Chris Kraus, Michelle Tea and Sheila Heti, seem to be based in North America. Do you think there’s something in the British literary scene which discourages this style of writing, and if so, are we likely to see that change? 

The UK reviews of Heti’s How Should a Person Be were almost unanimously negative, usually due to a perception that it is ‘narcissistic’ to write about yourself. I don’t see much change to that yet, but I meet (and teach!) people who want to read (and write) something they can’t quite define: a take on their own story, but not memoir or biography… and I spend a lot of my teaching time giving them permission to write what they want. But my influences don’t come only from North America, but also Europe, particularly France: NDiaye, Garreta, Duras, Sarraute, Ernaux… 

You’ve spoken previously about the importance of authors talking about how they make a living, if not solely from their work. Do you think there needs to be a process of demystifying the role of the author? And is this a shift that you see happening? 

Going back to Lispector: though she claimed to be an ‘amateur’ writer, she was a successful journalist, producing hundreds of columns on a variety of subjects for Brazilian newspapers. Perhaps her amateurism resided in her ability to separate paid work from play. “A professional has a personal commitment to writing. Or a commitment to someone else to write,” she said. “I insist on not being a professional. To keep my freedom.

When I read novelists in newspapers complaining they can’t make a living as a writer like they used to, I usually find they are living the sorts of lives I wouldn’t want to live, writing the sorts of works I wouldn’t want to write. They are ‘authors.’  

“If there’s any mystery left around the position or author (rather than around the practice), I’m be happy to see it evaporate.

But who is paid, and what they are paid, to write, is never neutral. These are things we need to question, and re-question. It is nice to be paid for something you’re skilled at, but the relationship between money and art can never be entirely ‘demystified,’ or art would become static. Fair returns should be paid to people whose work is sold,’ but that’s a commercial proposition. If writing can be weighed out and paid for per word, I don’t want to know what that exchange rate is. 

But, to answer your question: in practice, I have earned a living from journalism and teaching and, at the moment, PhD funding plus the occasional grant or residency. I don’t make much money from writing books, nothing like the UK living wage, but this has made my practice wider that it would have been were it easier to comfortably make a living by producing books.

What’s the relationship between the stories in Worlds From the Word’s End, and those in your previous collection, Vertigo? Was there a particular feeling you envisioned for each collection, that influenced your choice of stories? 

The stories for the two collections were mostly written concurrently – I had not idea that they’d be collected into these two volumes. Danielle Dutton of Dorothy made the initial selection of stories for Vertigo, selecting those with a hyperreal focus, about women in family relationships. I realised that the remaining stories had something in common too: a concentration on wordplay and abstraction. With a little work, they formed what I hope is an equally coherent collection. 

If you were an Egyptian pharaoh and had to be buried with a few key objects to take to the next world, what would they be?

It sounds wanky, but I’m not attached to particular objects, though I for preference I will live in a pleasant—though easily-reproducible—environment (a few nice clothes, a reasonable laptop, good coffee & decent alcohol please). I’m happy being temporary, in anonymous spaces, in other people’s houses. And I like to say goodbye to things. Recently I destroyed a lot of my artwork from when I was an illustrator because I have less storage space in my new place. I had a few twinges about that after, but it was probably the right thing to do because I felt it was at the time. I don’t like to go to writers’ houses, but I was in Prague with someone who wanted to visit Kafka’s house, and it’s now my favourite writers’ museum: so beautifully designed, around so little of him. I’m horrified how writers are interpreted via their ephemera: burn it all!

What’s your favourite portrait (it can be a song, a painting, a film, anything)?

This week? Maybe Joni Mitchell’s Carey.

***

Via: https://minorliteratures.com/2017/09/06/an-interview-with-joanna-walsh/

On Art, Music, and Lovers: A Novel by Mira Tudor

MiraTudor

Today on Writer’s Blog is a special guest author, Mira Tudor. She has written a book entitled Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel which is her debut. She got in touch to let me know about her work, an excerpt of which is below.

I am very happy to support up and coming authors, as we all know how hard this business of writing is. And so, if you read the excerpt and want to read more, please follow the link to Kindle Scout, where you can do just that, find out a bit more about Mira, and vote for her work. If you do vote for it, you will receive a free copy of the novel, which is always a nice bonus.

Enjoy!

“Why are you always leaving your things in the middle of the floor?” Haralambie asked his girlfriend, stepping out of the kitchen into their living room.

Henriette ran her hands through her long, wavy red hair, looked at him ruefully, and got up from her computer.

“Henriette, this is not just your studio. I live here too,” Haralambie continued, bending to gather her latest clay pieces, her sculpting utensils and plastic sheets, which he placed on a shelf on the balcony with some of her other works. Having thus voiced his feelings and tidied up the place, he headed back into the kitchen to light another cigarette and drink the rest of his coffee by the window.

In the adjacent room, Henriette swayed languidly to a sixties rock ballad, flailing her arms and bending this way and that until she noticed Haralambie’s slim body leaning comfortably against the doorframe.

“Is that what it’s like at those parties of yours?” he asked.

“No, but that’s how I like it sometimes,” she responded provocatively, a wicked smile on her lips.

Haralambie walked over to her, cupped her face in his hands, and planted a kiss on her lips. “You’re not sixteen anymore, Henriette, and you know it.”

To read more, please follow this link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/JSEPZW00AG6S

The campaign will finish on 22 July 2017.

33 Things You May Not Know About J.K. Rowling

J.K.Rowling-Facts

1. She has wanted to be an author ever since she can remember: “As soon as I knew what writers were, I wanted to be one. I’ve got the perfect temperament for a writer; perfectly happy alone in a room, making things up.”

2. When she was extremely young, she would sit and copy words from books “without knowing what the words meant”.

3. She wrote her first story – called Rabbit – age six, and wrote her first novel at age 11. It was about “seven cursed diamonds and the people who owned them”.

4. She was head girl at her secondary school, but doesn’t consider it much of an achievement.

5. One of her teachers, Steve Eddy, remembered Jo as “not exceptional” but “bright, and quite good at English”.

6. She applied to study at Oxford, but was rejected, and instead studied French at the University of Exeter. She said she did “no work whatsoever” while she was at university.

7. Her eldest daughter, Jessica, is named after Jessica Mitford, who was an author, investigative journalist, and civil rights activist.

8. It took Jo five years to plan all seven books in the Harry Potter series. Most of her plans were written by hand on odd scraps of paper.

9. She wrote the last book’s epilogue in 1990, before she had mapped out the series as a whole or even had a publisher.

10. In 2000, she said she’d hope to be placed in Gryffindor, but that in reality she’d probably end up in Ravenclaw. Later, the official Pottermore quiz sorted her into Gryffindor.

11. She has described Hermione as a combination of herself and her younger sister, Dianne: “that sort of annoying person who underneath is very insecure”.

12. When asked why Harry’s scar was shaped like a lightning bolt, she said, “To be honest, because it’s a cool shape. I couldn’t have my hero sport a doughnut-shaped scar.”

13. The “only time” she consciously put someone she knew into the Harry Potter books as a character was as Gilderoy Lockhart. She says she “barely exaggerated” what he was like in real life.

14. In 2003, her father sold a first edition copy of Goblet of Fire – which included a handwritten inscription reading “lots of love from your first born” – at auction for £27,500. They had stopped speaking earlier that year.

15. The three-year publishing gap between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix was a direct result of the pressure she felt because of the series’ success. She became so overwhelmed that she found it difficult to write, and told her publisher there “wouldn’t be a book next year”.

16. She maintains that she never truly finished Order of the Phoenix, saying she didn’t do her usual final edit before handing it over to her editors, “and it definitely shows”.

17. She almost called the final book Harry Potter and the Elder Wand and Harry Potter and the Peverell Quest, which she quickly decided against because the word “quest” was too cheesy.

18. Her favourite chapter from the entire Harry Potter series is Chapter 34 of Deathly Hallows, “The Forest Again”. Her favourite from the first book is “The Mirror of Erised”.

19. Her worst fear – like Mrs Weasley’s – is someone she loves dying. For that reason, she understands why Voldemort is so obsessed with conquering death.

20. If given the choice between all three Hallows, she would be tempted – like Harry – to choose the Resurrection Stone, but ultimately believes that “the greatest wisdom is in accepting that we all must die, and moving on”.

21. Her favourite funny line from the Harry Potter books is at the end of Deathly Hallows, when Ron responds to Peeves’ “Voldy’s gone mouldy” rhyme with “Really gives a feeling for the scope and tragedy of the thing, doesn’t it?”

22. At the height of the Potter craze, she had people going through her bins, stealing her post, and attempting to bribe her friends in order to find out information about the upcoming plot.

23. She briefly considered not publishing The Casual Vacancy – her first novel after Deathly Hallows – because she felt uncomfortable with the attention any book of hers would inevitably receive.

24. In 2011, Lifetime aired an unauthorised J.K. Rowling biopic called Magic Beyond Words, which she hasn’t seen because “the thought of watching it makes [her] curl up like a pretzel”.

25. In the same year, it was announced that she had become the first female billionaire novelist. She was removed from Forbes’ list the following year after giving around £100 million to charity

26. She once bought an expensive pair of earrings but felt guilty afterwards for spending the money, so wrote a cheque for the same amount to give to charity.

27. In 2013, she donated £10 million to help open the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic at the University of Edinburgh. The clinic is named after her mother, who had multiple sclerosis.

28. She read aloud from J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, but initially said no, because she thought she’d “wet herself or faint or something”.

29. She was once invited to visit South Africa by Nelson Mandela, but had to say no because she was pregnant.

30. In 2006, she revealed she had written another children’s book, meant for a younger audience than Harry Potter. She called it “a political fairy story” and it was about a monster.

31. Doctor Who writer Russell T. Davies wanted her to star in an episode where her “imagination becomes real” and the Doctor has to “battle through a world of witches and wizards and CGI wonders”, but David Tennant refused the idea because it would be “too spoofy”.

32. She said that the author she identifies with most is E. Nesbit.

33. Her favourite drink is gin and tonic.

Via: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jkrowlingfacts

How I Got Published | Louise Beech

Louise-Beech

Today, an article all about “How I Got Published” by Louise Beech, which I hope you will agree is a very interesting read. Enjoy!

How did I get a book deal? It’s one of the things I’m frequently asked about at book events and festivals. How did I get published?

Unless the person asking – usually a hopeful writer, like I’ve been most of my life – has five hours, the determination to still keep writing despite my reply, and a pretty thick skin, I can’t respond fully. Time and a desire not to dishearten them prevents me answering in detail. Because my journey was long. Ten years long. People serve less time for serious crimes. It was littered with rejection upon rejection upon rejection. There was no satnav to tell me which way to go so that I arrived more easily at my destination.

There’s no magical right answer to the question of how to get published. Every single author will likely have a different tale to share. Some might have enjoyed a quick trip from writing a first novel to book deal, some may have got lucky with their tenth book, but most are probably still driving down the motorway, looking for the right exit.

All I can share is my story. And here it is. Are you ready?

I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. I filled notepads and exercise books with entire novels (chapters and contents page included) from the age of nine. Writing was then – and still is – pure joy to me. The place I escape to, the place I feel safest, the only place in the world where I really feel I know what I’m doing, and that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be. As a teenager, I started my own magazine to rival the school one, and told anyone who would listen that I’d one day be a world-famous novelist. (That I’m still hoping for.) Then life took over a bit when I got pregnant at nineteen…

In my early thirties, I sent some pieces I’d written to our local newspaper and was offered my own column, Mum’s the Word, in which I wrote for ten years about being a parent. I also began to write short stories. Lots of them. I sent some out to magazines, entered some in competitions. Rejections came thick and fast. I cried the first time. But only once. I got up, wiped the tears away, and decided I had to improve. I wrote more. Slowly, they began being accepted. First by small ezines, and eventually by national magazines. I shortlisted twice for the Bridport Prize.

That was what gave me the confidence to write a novel. Every bit of advice I’d read suggested a writer hone their craft via the precise art of producing short stories, and by joining forums to gain harsh critiques in order to improve. I’d done both. So, after we flooded in 2007 and I had more time due to giving up work to care for my ill daughter, I started Maria in the Moon. It took me six months. It was a labour of not only love, but of tears. When I write, I give everything, and that can be draining afterwards. I let it ‘settle’ and then edited it some more. Then I sent it out to every agent and publisher. Over a period of a year, every single one of them rejected it.

I took time to recover – it’s hard, there’s no denying it, when your lovingly created work is rejected by everyone – and in 2009 I started a second novel, The Lion Tamer Who Lost. I tried to use all the advice I’d been given on forums, and all the tips I’d read by successful authors, but most of all I went back to the place where I knew I was supposed to be. Writing. Six months later I sent it out to every agent and publisher. They all rejected it.

In 2011, I went back to Maria in the Moon and tried to improve her. I tried a couple of new agents. Success! (Or so I thought.) A lady from United Agents invited me to visit her. Carol really liked it and took me on. She did everything, but – again – all the publishers she sent it to said no. One of them liked the style and asked if I had any more ideas for a novel. I told her about The Lion Tamer Who Lost but she didn’t like it. I mentioned one I had in my head, and she liked the sound of it. So, in 2012, I wrote The Mountain in my Shoe.

She said no. Carol sent it to other publishers. They all said no. Some had positive comments, but the general problem seemed to be what I was. Where I fit. I was that difficult creature – I didn’t fit into a genre. But I refused to conform. When I write I can only write what must be written. I can’t fit into some narrow niche. It isn’t me. But this was only going to make things harder.

Ironically, after being told that not fitting into a genre would hinder me, in 2013 I started the novel that was my most unusual and hardest to define – How to be Brave. This was one book that refused to kowtow to any market. I knew this would be my hardest sell, and yet I had to write it. Just as I finished, Carol told me she was retiring. She did everything to try and secure me another agent, but no one was interested. I was on my own again. I had written four books now.

I sent How to be Brave to every agent and publisher. They all said no. At the end of 2014 it shortlisted for a big competition. This is it, I thought. The prize was a book deal. And I was going to win. I wore my lucky red dress, told husband Joe that I knew someone in a red dress was going to win. We arrived at the prize-giving and another writer had on a red dress. She won. I was genuinely happy for her, because I knew how happy she must be. But I cried all the way back to the hotel. I was inconsolable.

I’ll admit, that was the hardest time. Friends asked how I could go on writing in the face of constant rejection. I said I did because I knew one day it would happen. I really did. But I began to lose my faith a little. I began to wonder if I could write a fifth book and go through it all again.

Then on Twitter I saw that a vivacious woman called Karen Sullivan was starting up Orenda Books. She wanted to publish beautiful books. Books she loved. I cheekily (this goes against all professional advice, folks!) tweeted her and asked if she would read How to be Brave. She said yes. She and slush reader Liz liked it. I had a tense wait for a definite answer, between Christmas 2014 and February 2015.

Louise Beech screen-shot-2017-07-03-at-11-11-45

Then on 9th February 2015 Karen emailed to say she loved the book, and of course it was a yes. I think, having read my journey, you can imagine how I felt. It makes me teary now to revisit. I know now that I only got rejected because I was supposed to be with Karen. She’s the only one who ‘got’ me. Got my books. Two years on, she has published the other novels no one wanted. Next year she will publish The Lion Tamer Who Lost too.

And I’m back to do doing what I love, but without all the tears. Writing. I’ve started book five, loosely titled Star Girl. And it’s exactly like when I was nine and filled notepads with words. It’s where I’m supposed to be. What I’m supposed to be doing. And I’m glad I never gave up.

Via: https://louisebeech.co.uk/2017/07/03/how-i-got-published/