I’ve been t’inking about publishing.
During the last fifteen years I’ve had three agents: Jane Turnbull, Mulcahy and Viney and United Agents. They have all rated my work as commercial, important and publishable, but I’ve yet to find a publisher.
The process has left me ragged – or at least perplexed and frustrated. I have published Shuffle on Amazon, thinking it’s the most commercial of my two finished novels, but I’m full of trepidation. Shuffle took years from its inception to completion. Ivan Mulcahy had big plans for it – what if now it sinks without trace. It could easily.
Unless I get a new agent and publisher pretty soon, I’m also going to publish my second novel with the help and advice of a trad publisher who believes in my work. This publisher tried to get his fiction department to go for Summer, but in the end they didn’t. We have spoken at length about the pros and cons of going it alone and the message was very clear – be scared and I am.
But nor is there any guarantee of success by going down the traditional route.
For a start there’s the money. The author’s share of the cover price once the publisher, agent and bookshop have all taken their cut, is minuscule. The author’s royalties of the e-book is small too, after the deduction of associated fees . And if an author is shy about self promotion, they cannot expect much help from their publisher.
To boost my confidence about going it alone, I tell myself other things that aren’t so very whacky: most projects we have in life we create, we invest in and then if we’re lucky we sell. Building a house, inventing a product, creating a brand – how often do we find people to take that risk for us? Never.
So why does the idea of publishing my own work still fill me with a mixture of anxiety and embarrassment. There I’ve said it.
It’s clear it’s not a logical feeling.
So what is it?
I think it’s partly about comfort. I want the comfort of a publisher. Authors write about how their publishers are like friends, babysitters, therapists – imagine it. And not nippy or dull or badly behaved friends, or unreliable or predatory babysitters or self obsessed messed up therapists. No. They’ll be the best of all possible types and life will, probably overnight, become ordered, purposeful, spacious – I’ll become confident, wise, relaxed – sod the money.
And I think it’s also about reassurance and validation. The kind of validation we get in the best of families, at the worst of times. It would be like sharing the slog of writing. All three agents loved my work (you know how agents say they weren’t quite ‘in love’ enough) well these were. And it was so soothing and nurturing to talk about my work – about the films that would follow, the prizes… But there were often days when I couldn’t reach them, often times when I felt unable to say what I really felt and when the offers didn’t come in, (and I don’t blame them at all), it becomes obvious they’re not family – they’re running a business, and an author not selling is an agent’s nightmare. United agents stayed a year, while I wrote another ‘brilliant novel’ – not. And they let me go.
They had failed me, they said, let me down – so how come it was me who felt like such a failure?
I’m still writing, Adam – it’s year three, it’s still got a long way to go. That’s just how long it takes. And because I’m now trying to build a website, blog and yet again looking for an agent with all the time and frustration that entails, well, it’s been a good few months since I worked on it.
And while I’m on a roll – is it the same with the music industry? Or is my fantasy, that the huge machine of record labels and managers doesn’t have the same touchy-feely hype of having a publisher. Or is that just another of my fantasies?