The Rejection of AntiDoom

Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while will know that, for the last year and a half, I’ve been working with an agent interested in representing me and my work. For those that haven’t, hello and welcome. Here’s a brief recap.

This is about Night Shift, and it was one standard slush-pile submission amongst many. The invitation to go to London to meet with the agent in question was as terrifying as it was thrilling. There was no deal (indeed, I would have been surprised if there had been) but a request for changes. I then spent two months bashing out a revised version, which wound up with this sad story.

Roll forward a year. A big year, where – based on that disappointment – I went completely back to basics and took my work apart. I thought deeper and harder and re-examined everything I’d previously assumed was set. In March I resubmitted. And, as I mentioned briefly in my last blog-entry, a few weeks ago I received The Rejection of Doom.

Obviously this is not what I wanted. I wanted a gushing email, telling me how great I am and how said agent was going to make both our fortunes, that I’d soon be mixing with the great and the good and that I could retire from my paid employment to concentrate fully on doing what I love – immersing myself in other worlds, relying on a steady royalty-stream to pay for the champagne and caviar, and possibly other things beginning with ‘C’.

Last year, when I got the ‘I’m disappointed with this draft’ email – then I was devastated. This time I’m not – if anything I’m uplifted. This is for two reasons, I think. Firstly it’s because it’s the nicest, most positive rejection I’ve ever had. Mainly, though, it’s because when this draft finally went out to her in March, I was mentally exhausted. I’d been working so hard on this one piece that I’d begun to hate my own work and my own world. I couldn’t see any merit in it and was expecting rejection.

That’s why I started on my new project, to purge myself of this negativity and to focus on something completely different. This rejection, so positive in its phrasing, has made me believe again. I can write. I am capable. It’s always nice to be reminded that you do have worth as a human being.

I replied by thanking her for her work (two free readthroughs by a serious professional: I am a much, much better writer as a result) and asking if I might send her in my next project when it’s ready. She said of course I could. Another thing I’ve gained from this.

The big question now is what I should do with Night Shift now. I’m not prepared to keep on tinkering with it: I need to move on. Obviously if a professional wants changes then I’ll go back to it, but I’m not just going to endlessly shuffle words around just for the sake of some mythical ‘perfection’. I’ve got a new novel on the stocks and a lot more to come after that. I could (and I probably will) keep slushpiling: why not? What have I got to lose? But even that takes mindspace and right now I need to focus on Oneiromancer.

The other option is to self-publish. I’m seriously considering that: one big burst of energy to shove it out with as much fanfare as possible and then I can forget about the damn thing. And yes, I’m aware of the irony of this after my last blog post. Hey, it’s my page: I can be as inconsistent as I like.

What, Dear Reader, do you think? Do I keep slogging the slushpiles or dip a toe into the Self-Pub Sea? I have to do something: it’s (I believe again) a good story; it’s not a failure and it represents years of work. Something should be done with the damn thing.

Either way, my creative work continues with Oneiromancer. There are still Nightmares to create and to conjure, worlds to weave and stories to spin. And, at the end of the day, that’s what I like to do best.

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The case against self-publishing

On Twitter I am the (mostly) welcoming recipient of a lot of puff. There’s always loads of authors looking to claw together sales, and, through tweets and retweets, a fair bit of it ends up at my door. Some of it interests me. Sometimes I might take a punt. Sometimes I look at it and think ‘well, that’s not for me but it’s an interesting idea.’ Some of it I find just totally infuriating.

I can forgive the odd typo (there are enough in traditionally-published works, after all) and the occasional clumsy phrase if the story carries me through. I’m not a massive perfectionist – not in other people’s work, at least. But what I cannot forgive are errors in the promotional material itself.

Now I’m in a bit of a bind here. You want examples, right? Thing is, I don’t think it’s fair on authors – who I’m sure have put a lot of time, maybe a bit of money, into their work – to humiliate them in a public forum. See, there by the grace of Picard go I. Had the e-publishing revolution happened five, maybe ten years ago, I’d have been in this very position myself. You can bet your bottom Florint that one of these would have been available for purchase right now – and it’s likely (probable) that I’d have made the same mistakes in my enthusiasm and idealism. I am not anti-self-publishing. It just angers me to see stupid self-publishing. The sort I’d have produced five years ago.

Some egregiousnesses, all taken from tweets I’ve received in the last week or two:

  • Promotional material containing the phrase ‘Three times in the least.’ I mean, come on. I’m never going to spend money – or waste my valuable reading time – on something that promotes itself with such bad English. ‘At least three times.’ Come on, it’s not hard
  • ‘Tatsier’. On a cover. I know typos happen and I know they’re right buggers to find. But on a cover? No. If you only have half-a-dozen words to proof-read then I expect it to be error-free. ‘Tastier’. Again, not hard
  • The cover looks fine, no typos in the puff, all elements present and correct: so you follow the link to Amazon, click on the ‘more details’ tab… And what’s revealed looks like it was written by a student. Of astrophysics.

And all that’s before we get to this batch of beauties.

This stuff matters, folks. I will never buy a book if it looks as if the writer can’t be bothered. Right or wrong, if you can’t use good English (not necessarily ‘correct’ or grammatical English, but language true to the book’s contents) in your promotion then I can have no faith in the words beyond the cover.

I get angry about this. I have to work really hard not to fire off sarcastic tweets – I’ve been criticised myself, I know it hurts and I don’t want to inflict this pain on others. Sometimes I think I’d be actually helping the author by pointing out the flaws – but I don’t think I could hold my annoyance out of sight and I don’t want to be that person. Who am I, after all? Hey, at least these people have got work out there in the public eye. I’ve only got this blog, and nobody gives a damn about that.

Why does this annoy me so? Partly because I’m that sort of person: not quite a grammar Nazi, maybe more the Castro of correctness or the Amin of anality. But there are consequences. Every ‘bad’ book that’s self-published makes it harder for the good ones to be seen. And – I’ll say it again – there are some really, really good stories to be found. There is no filter on the industry. We are drowning in a tide of mediocrity and, whilst I really don’t want to squash the unique voices that would never get a trad-pubbed released, we need help to find a way back to the shore. We need an island, a reef where we know these self-pubbed books are of genuine quality.

[Irony alert: after drafting this entry but before posting I received the Great Rejection of Doom. I may well be joining the ranks of the self-published myself, sooner rather than later. You can’t write the same book forever – sometimes you just need to get it out there and move on.]

For what it’s worth, let me finish by promoting the following self-published authors, who I know write good stuff and – I believe – are worthy of your time:

Finally – finally finally – I’m going to be away (on honeymoon, no less) for the next coupla weeks. That means no blogs for a little while. You have fun – and behave yourselves – whilst I’m away, mmmkay?