I’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?”
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.