MY POTHOLED PATH TO PUBLICATION

IMG_0172Looking at my smug mug on Urbane Publications’ shiny new website, I’m sparing a thought for unpublished writers out there who’d like to stick pins in me. A pitchfork, even. I’ve been lucky, I know. I’m sorry. But it might help you to know that my path to publication has been long, muddy and potholed.

 

The first blow was almost my last: my story was rejected by a pony magazine. Okay, I was ten, but the page of reasons for my rejection — no doubt intended to be helpful – made me turn to the recorder and then piano, flute…

 

I didn’t write again for about thirty years – by then on my second career, as a post-doc research optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital. I still secretly wanted to write a novel, so I took an Open College of the Arts course and started keeping a diary, but couldn’t come up with an idea.

 

Years later, I finally got an inspiration, and after two months of mulling, made a start (in the middle of an international conference). Unbelievably, the novel wrote itself in six months. I was an author after all! Euphoria!

 

Hm. Until I sent Men Dancing off to a literary consultant and was told yes, well done, but now start again with a different novel. Apparently, my female protagonist was too old (at 42, ffs) and unlikeable. An RNA report agreed. After a few sulky days I started re-writing, making her thirty-bloody-nine and a bit nicer. 

 

Then it was time to hit The Writers’ Yearbook, submitting to the three agents that seemed best suited to my novel. A further ten. The whole effing book. Subs were nearly all postal in those days; my desk became a one-woman sorting office – and soon had a heaped tray of ‘not quite right for us’ letters. Then two agents asked for the full MS and considered it for four months (one sending agonising updates about ‘just having a second/third read’ etc.), but both decided to clear their desks for the holidays and sent painfully synchronised rejection letters a couple of days before Christmas. 

 

It was time to hit the Yearbook pages of lovely little publishers accepting non-agented subs. But they too are swamped with hopefuls, and turned me down. Except a self-pub outfit that also had a ‘conventional’ publishing arm – that they were offering me. I grabbed it with both hands.

 

The company was friendly, the editing light but good. I wasn’t going to be a bestseller – or even a seller at all, other than on Amazon and in the local Waterstones – but at least I was being published. Well, sort of. I had to pay them a fee for having my novel at the London Book Fair. Then for including it in their brochure… Soon, all my royalties were used to pay for this and that – particularly when second novel Flamenco Baby came out. Then the royalties became delayed. No, they stopped. I was so busy researching for a new novel  and doing promo for Flamenco Baby in Spain, that I only once queried it. Then they went very quiet… and bust. I never saw any sales figures or royalties for Flamenco Baby. Another self-publishing company valiantly scooped up most of the floundering authors – and then went bust themselves.

 

But hey, I’d finished another novel, so what did I care? I went bounding off to the Winchester Writers’ Festival with The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter and had a glowing response from a commissioning editor who wanted to see it once I was agented, plus two requests for a full MS from agents! Wow! Ah but listen, people: beware the One-to-One bubble (see my post One-to-Ones, I’ve had a few…). One turned it down in 3 days, and the other… well, more than two years on, I’m still waiting to hear. 

 

So, it was back to those lovely indie publishers. One — over the course of a whole year – was interested, turned it down, invited re-sub after changes, then turned it down again. I splashed out on a literary consultancy report, revised, splashed out on another (Cornerstones & The Literary Consultancy – both recommended). It was a lot better, but still not quite fitting into a genre. Two years had now passed since I’d finished it, and — worst of all – I wasn’t coming up with any ideas for a new novel. I started to seriously question why I was pouring so much time, heart and money into it all this. 

 

Then a Twitter friend told me to submit to his publisher, Urbane Publications. Thinking they only published Crime, I’d not bothered them with my not-quite-women’s fiction – but I’d been wrong about that. I ordered some of their books and found wonderfully unusual, genre-bending stories; heard about the inclusive way they work with authors… this was where I wanted to be! I re-drafted and submitted. The wait was the most agonising I’d had during the nine years since I started writing. But it was a YES. Oh, the screams. 

 

I’m realistic, there are a lot of books out there and bigger publishers to compete with, but now I’m part of the Urbane family I can get on with what I want to do: read, write (new novel finally on the go), get books out there and support others whose work I admire.

 

My advice: Keep tramping that path, and one day you’ll find the right place to have your smug mug.

 

THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS DAUGHTER (Urbane Publications) will be published on 5th April, 2018.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighthouse-Keepers-Daughter-Cherry-Radford/dp/1911583646/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1516540213&sr=8-6&keywords=the+lighthouse+keeper%27s+daughter

 

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