Does Patience Really Pay Off?
Updated: Jan 28, 2020
Every time I read of a SCBWI friend having snagged an agent or a publisher, I'm thrilled for them. I'm so happy to hear of writery friends not just realising their dreams but getting their words out there for everyone to discover and it's much easier to do that with whole bunch of people in the right networks on your side.
This news used to be a bit of a dagger to the heart – the old picking teams for rounders thing. It's horrible being the last. I did used to get picked eventually but the pool to choose from was minuscule compared to the one of writers seeking representation/publication and the writery pool grows with every day that passes.
I am not a patient person. A dear friend who used to live with us would often say don't start the extension tonight, Jan. So I think I did really well to give the traditional publishing industry ten years or so to snag me. Of course I might have bailed just as someone was going to say yes - I should have more patience. But hearing the latest joyful news about an old friend, I realise that even if somebody did (I still have a few subs out there and once an agent did request to read the full manuscript years after I submitted) I would probably decline. When I was working, as well as being impatient, I was terrible at being managed, rubbish at being told what to do and often too dismissive of the contrary opinions of those trying to manage me, for my own good. You can see, I much prefer control to patience.
The more I learn about the larger publishing houses and their wider activities the less I'd like to be associated with them. I am appalled by some of the people that they do publish. At this moment in time, former prime minister David Cameron hits the the top of the list. And the industry's tending towards London centric white Oxbridge exclusivity, in spite of efforts to increase diversity, is disappointing.
The traditional publishing industry is almost by definition about money. Agents and publishers are looking for what they can sell, fair enough. But money is not my primary motivator. I just want to get my stories, The Wonder Girls in particular, out there. I want the thrill of being read. A while ago I would have done anything for that, to be published traditionally, but not now. I do recognise that I'm privileged in this respect, I have a supportive partner who earns enough for both of us, which is very nice of him. I also was given some money to make The Wonder Girls into a sellable product and I only need to sell enough to pay back the 0% credit card I used to get the paperbacks printed. I've also discovered that I can sell, in person more so than online. So along with my schools strategy, this term I'm looking for more independent bookshops or festively event opportunities to do that, as well as planning a kickstarter for The Wonder Girls TWO. I'm going to continue being a tugboat among cruise liners.
If I'd had patience where would I be now? It's very unlikely I would be published traditionally. I did actually have an offer – it was from an American hybrid publisher who offered a traditional deal without advance but it didn't feel right. I've just had a look back at that now, wondering if I made the right decision and I' think I did. Would patience have delivered me an agent? Possibly, eventually, but I'm not sure my emotions would have survived much more rejection, perhaps if I were younger. Patience certainly wouldn't have delivered me the fabulous book launch I had in November or, I believe, the confidence boosting oomph to get on and make things happen for myself schools-wise. Patience might have got me into Waterstones Southampton, which nearly happened, but I can live without out that. Mostly, patience doesn't get things done – horrible echo of current PM there but the only thing I'm risking is me and my story, not a whole country.
So hurray for the recently agented and published! And hurray for those of you who are on my side, my small but gradually growing network. You have affirmed me by reading, reviewing, telling others, or giving my book to a young reader, or being a young reader of The Wonder Girls. I think this actually feels better than if an agent/publisher were in the way to claim some of the glory!
And thank you too for reading me here. I aim to be back in this blogging saddle next week, so hopefully see you again!