Thursday, 10 November 2011

Faking Bravery - Karen Ball

Although I live in London, I'm posting this from New York. (Isn't technology great?) Everywhere I go in this city, I seem to be surrounded by publishers. These behemoth buildings make me feel like a very, very small cog in a very, very big wheel in a huge machine. I'll admit, as I gaze up at these towers I feel irrelevant.

But without authors sitting in their spare bedrooms or garden sheds, toiling away, these places wouldn't exist. International publishing corporations need someone to provide them with their raw materials (you may know these as 'stories') and without us, there wouldn't be an industry. Let's stop and think about that for a minute... Now, how are you feeling? Empowered, confident, and ready to take on the world? No? Hmmm.

Authors often feel at the bottom of the publishing pile of bricks and mortar. I'm not surprised. Our contracts can be cancelled at a moment's notice, the next manuscript just might not sell, our earnings are ... well, Anne Rooney recently pointed out in a comment on Lucy's excellent blog post that writing isn't seen as a 'real job' because few of us earn 'real money'. It's hard to feel empowered when a person's wondering how to pay the gas bill.

But I would urge us all to pull back our shoulders and stay brave. We're not the only authors who will have felt like this. Think of the Bronte sisters visiting their publisher in Mortimer Square, London for the first time, desperate to be published. Or sympathise with Hemingway. Here's what a publisher had to say about 'Torrents of Spring':

It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.

It's only human to feel intimidated by the people who sit behind desks, but at least publishing has moved on. The rejections are kinder:

I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.

For more of these deliciously painful rejection letters, visit here.

Do you have your own rejection story to share, or tips for faking author bravery?

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JO said...

I decided the whole of New York has ADHD and the only way to manage was to sit and let it race around me. (Easy as an older woman - I'm invisible). In my own little space I can manage to hang onto bravery - it was only when I tried to join in the general madness I shrivelled.

And I think relating to publishers is like that. They have a job to do. While I sit in my corner doing the best I can.

madwippitt said...

What more encouragement do you need to keep plugging away than these tales?
I love the comment about JG Ballard. Never mind getting published - in future I shall instead simply aspire to receiving more interesting rejections than the polite but boring 'competently written with well handled dialogue but not really what we're looking for' ...

Karen said...

I love the Rotten Rejection website and often direct my students to it when they're feeling a bit disheartened. I don't think publishers write rejections like this any more, they're scared they might go global!

Abi Burlingham said...

You're so right Karen, we do have to hold our heads up. All writers get rejected - it's what happens. All of my first rejections hurt and made me feel that maybe I shouldn't do what I do, but now I read them, think "Oh, okay then," and file them in a special 'Rejections' folder. At the very least, it's a reminder to me of the work I've put in, even if the story/poem ended up on the reject pile!