The Journey of the Book
1st October 2014
There’s a story behind every book. And I’m not talking back-story or sub-plot; I’m talking about the journey of the book. It’s the story of how the manuscript was magically turned into a real, live, beautiful book. It’s the story of how it went from a manuscript dripping with the hopes and anxieties of the author to ‘a book’; something solid and real and supported by a publisher and editor and book-buying readers.
The story behind my second book is becoming long and convoluted, with un-forseen plot twists and turns that occasionally keep me awake at night. Will it ever become a real, live, beautiful book?
So far the story goes like this… I wrote my second novel, another YA fiction. This one was set in Jindabyne with a likeable male protagonist and a cast of characters that had dimension. I wrote, re-wrote, edited, cut, paste, shuffled, read, re-read, hacked, dismantled, added and polished. And finally, when I was so sick of it that I didn’t think I could look at it ever again… I sent it off to my publishers. I was confident that my second book was ready for the next leg of the journey.
I suppose I should be honest with you, I let myself get a little bit excited. I started dreaming of a book launch and a front cover and a bubbly champagne. I imagined myself signing books and giving talks and –
IT WAS REJECTED
As I read The Email, my great big hopeful world of being an author of *two* books started shrinking, shrinking, shrinking right down to a tiny little font that I was reading from a screen in my palm.
For days, all I could taste was disappointment.
I shot off emails to friends who commiserated and supported and sympathised. I had long conversations with trusted mentors. I tried hard not to cry. And when I did cry, I tried hard to not to howl.
Eventually, like I mean months and months later, I read The Email again. My mentors were right; technically it wasn’t a rejection. The intelligent, book-loving, astute people at Scribe (who had taken such care with my first novel) simply weren’t publishing YA fiction any more. And what’s more, the Editor had gone to the trouble of giving me a whole paragraph of feedback.
So… After more months of thinking and thinking, I decided I’d maybe try for an agent. I settled on Tyle and Bateson who look like they’re the kind of people who value books and authors and Australian publishing. Ever so gently, they’ve also said ‘no’. This time, the reason is because they are just becoming established themselves. They’re not ready to take on more authors right now.
As I read their ‘rejection email’ I waited for the sadness to settle in. I was ready for the foetal position, the howling, the months without writing… but it never came. I think logic kicked in.
My rational voice said:
These are all valid reasons. Getting published is about being in the right place at the right time with the right story. Remember what that wise and trusted sage once told you ‘a good book without marketing is no book at all’ – I want my book to be well-marketed, with a publishing house and/or agent that values it and has time for it.
I was proud of myself – my resilience, my maturity, my brilliant ability to keep perspective. “I’m growing,” I thought. “I’m handling rejection.”
Now for the deep dark confession – I went back to my manuscript; the first time in 18 months. I looked at it again in light of the comments that were made about it in that first “devastating” email. And you know what?
My second novel still needs a lot of work. Thank goodness Scribe said ‘no’. Thank goodness Tyle and Bateson said ‘no’. This book still has a few miles to go before its journey is complete.
(But if you’re interested, you can read an excerpt here.)