How on earth did I get published?

IMG_5369I’ve asked myself this question many many times since signing my contract. I was an unknown, appearing out of nowhere, offering up the electronic equivalent of a ream of paper – “here’s this book wot I wrote.” And now I’m a published author. How did this happen? Why me?

There is a woman who works at my local shopping centre who looks like a publisher. Specifically, she looks like one particular editor from a major publishing house. This editor showed a lot of interest in my manuscript, only to reject it after I’d been on tenterhooks for several months. Every time I see her doppelganger at the shops, I give her a smile. She always smiles back because I am a customer and that is her job. But I smile because every time I see her, I think about how lucky I am that my manuscript has actually been published. Because I do believe there is a fair bit of luck involved. Not only luck – I’ll give myself a little credit for producing a readable and marketable novel. But hundreds of writers across the country are producing readable, marketable novels and they’re not all getting published. Why me?

I spoke to an agent once. She was very interested in my manuscript. She didn’t remember having seen this previously. This is the conversation I had with her –

Me: “How does a debut author attract the attention of an agent?”

Agent: “Well, you’re doing everything right. I’m interested.”

Me: “You know you turned this manuscript down a few months ago?”

Agent: “This same manuscript?”

Me: “Yes.”

Agent: “Oh, sorry, I must have been having a bad day.”

A bad day? My literary ambitions had (at that time) been knocked flat by yet another rejection because the agent was “having a bad day”. Or I was rejected without her even bothering to look at it. Either way, it goes to show how fickle this business is. Something dismissed one day can be loved the next. I still don’t have an agent. How do you successfully tread the fine line between persistence and backing yourself, and being a pain in the neck?

I know many fine writers with way more experience/ qualifications/ talent than me who are not getting published. So why am I? I have given this a lot of thought. Sometimes, I almost feel guilty, as if my place should belong to someone more worthy.

The best I can tell, there are two reasons working in my favour. The first is my ‘point of difference’. I am a police officer. I know the procedures, I know the culture, I know the people. So the voice of authority comes through in my writing. It was an easy choice for me as a police officer to write crime. I’d like to think every writer has a story that they are the best possible person to tell it.

The second is that it’s not just about the story you wrote, it is also about ‘your story’. The author platform. Publishers seem to be looking for the complete package. A website has to exist, there has to be a social media presence. And, seriously, if I can do it, anyone can.

Then the best you can do is cross your fingers and persevere.

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23 thoughts on “How on earth did I get published?

  1. Well that was perfect timing!
    I was about to send an email asking if you had an agent and how you worked it all out yourself, and you beat me to it! 🙂 Also, how long did it take between finishing your manuscript and someone in the industry ‘discovering’ how great it is? Thanks for this post.

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    • Hi Paula, my breakthrough came when I won a place on the QWC Hachette Manuscript Development Program in 2013. Although Hachette passed, it gave my manuscript some legitimacy and it was elevated out of the slush pile. I started submitting the ms in about Feb 2013. I signed my contract in Jan 2015. A few detours and lots of waiting in between!

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  2. I heard a few authors talk about how they first got published when I was at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne this year. There does seem to be a decent measure of luck, driven by persistence. But at the end of the day, it has to be a great book too, so don’t devalue your success! Congratulations:-)

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    • Everybody’s got a different journey, but I feel bad for people who get rejected consistently because their story doesn’t ‘fit’ what a publisher is looking for. That said, I know of a growing number of people who have successfully self-published. Thanks for your comments 😀

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  3. Really interesting, isn’t it? Books are always subjective so perhaps it’s not so surprising that a manuscript rejected by one publishing house on one day can be approved another day. Or elsewhere. Or if the author submits it under a different name (but let’s not go there!). I saw Hazel Edwards speak about all this and much more on the weekend and it was so good to hear. It helps to have your own platforms and media going on before you pitch. Thanks for the great post. #teamIBOT

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    • It would be a boring place if everyone agreed on how to measure the ‘quality’ of a story. But it is so hard to know where to turn or how hard to push. Hachette picked me up only to pass me over because they thought my book would be too hard to sell. Go figure. Thanks and good luck!

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  4. Great post. I have attempted to write some children’s stories which I’d love to get published. A couple times I tried submitting a story I wrote through the publisher’s unsolicited manuscripts submissions, but of course so many people submit their work so you have to be really lucky to get noticed. Congrats on your book getting published. #iBOT

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    • Thanks Julie. I actually aspired to be a children’s book author but being a mother was not enough to qualify me as a children’s author. Being a cop, however, does seem to qualify me to write crime. Entering competitions is a good way to test the waters. Good luck!

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  5. I think that “fit” is a big factor in whether a book or a film gets picked up – I know with my own documentary work it is often about timing, who else has already written/produced something similar, what is already trending or likely to be trending in the two + years it will roughly take to get the book/film finished…what is likely to be in vogue then, what is popular overseas…so it has to be good and it has to fit the perceived market need and it has to stand out, been seen, get noticed….it is hard work. Good on you! I f you ever feel like collaborating I have an idea I have been kicking around for a while 🙂 One day I might extend it to beyond 1500 words 🙂

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