Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Francesca concludes the series on our publishing world observations.

The expression ‘All human life is here’ was once the motto of the now defunct News of the World. This seems to be true of the publishing world itself. Not that I mean it’s full of scandal and outrage (though I imagine they have their fair share) but that the people who inhabit that world are many and varied.

FB publications sampleI’ve dealt for many years with magazine publications and on the whole my experiences have been positive. You send a short story; you wait a while; it’s accepted or rejected. There were always two or three magazines that only contacted you if it was an acceptance, which is irritating when you don’t know whether you can submit it elsewhere. Recently there’s been a worrying trend towards this method, with other magazines jumping on the bandwagon, making the whole process much more fraught. Part of it seems to be due to lack of editing man (person?) hours, so not always the editor’s fault. But as usual, it leaves writers up poo creak without a paddle. The best thing is to impose your own waiting period, say three months, as a reasonable time before sending a story elsewhere.

Incidentally, the longest I’ve waited for an acceptance is two years and eight months. A nice surprise but still rather shocking!

As for book publishers, often they just don’t understand our brilliant work. Yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek as this analysis tends to come from a particular type of writer. These are the ones, and many of us have met them, who think their novel (dashed off and unedited) is the best thing since pot noodle and should have been snapped up within the week. It’s often members of one particular gender who have this outlook (sorry!). Though not exclusively.

LBF sign smallIt’s true, some book publishers can be disagreeable. I’ve had a few industry appointments with publishers and editors and talked to others on spec at events such as The London Book Fair and the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. A couple have been moody, maybe because they were fed up sitting in one place all day talking to a numpty would-be novelist like me. Happily many more publishers are perfectly helpful, appreciating the part writers play in the publishing process. You never know which sort they’re going to be before you meet them so it’s always a little fraught. If they turn out to be less than pleasant then I can’t help feeling that’s their problem. It’s pointless taking it personally.

To end on a positive note, I do currently have two publishers interested in one of my novels, which shows it can happen even to a pessimist like me. Both have suggested changes (entirely different from each other!), after which they’d like to see the novel again. I’m well aware that this doesn’t guarantee a sale, but it’s a start.

Encountering publishers personally is a scary notion, but if I hadn’t overcome the fear (or rather, felt it and done it anyway) I wouldn’t now have this chance of publication for my novel. So, if you’re thinking of approaching a publisher and feel a bit nervous, remember the old saying:

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

11 thoughts on “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

  1. I enjoyed your piece Francesca, it’s so true. I have everything crossed for your novel, if it was about hard work and dedication you would definitely be published by now.

  2. How annoying to have 2 publishers asking for completely different changes! However do you decide which one to go with? You can end up with 2 or 3 different versions of your novel, and that must be very confusing. Still, having 2 interested at all is a huge achievement. I hope you have success with it, Francesca, whichever changes you decide to make.

  3. First off I would like to say awesome blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you
    do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing.
    I have had trouble clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out
    there. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost simply just trying to
    figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Cheers!

    • These days I don’t really have time to clear my mind before writing. I find my head’s full of what I want to get down and just go for it. If you’re having trouble sorting your thoughts out though, you might like to try to get down on paper what you’re aiming for. This can be done in a number of ways. You could simply write a quick synopsis or some bullet points for what you want to write that day. If it’s a story, you could use a story board, with say characters, opening line, theme, conflict, solution and a few brief sentences for each scene. A similar strategy can be used for a scene or chapter of a novel. What are you trying to achieve in that scene? Who is in it? What relevance has it for the novel as a whole? I always do a basic scene breakdown for each novel which helps me with what I’m going to write next.

      If it’s appropriate, another method could be to use music to ease you into the scene, or one of the relaxation/mood CDs that often feature things like sounds of the sea or countryside. Good luck!

  4. Viv, two or three versions of a novel would be a luxury. I am currently on version 9 and10 of that particular novel! You are right, if neither of the current interested publishers wants it, which of those latest versions do I go with? I’ll have to decide that when it happens.

  5. Yes, Wendy, I can send off magazine subs and forget about them until it’s a yes or a no (or rediscover them three months later write them off!) Waiting for an answer on something that’s taken so much longer to write is more nail biting.

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