Yup, you guessed it. I heard back from the publishers.
And it wasn’t quite the positive response I had hoped for.
They loved the idea… but felt it wasn’t quite the story concept for them.
No, I’m not crying.
Because there’s that age old adage: Every cloud has a silver lining.
Meaning you can find a positive in anything, even the negative, and that is the way I live my life. I’ve taken plenty of knocks in my life, personally and professionally, and I have always found something to feel good about in each situation. The writing game is no different.
Previous to this submission, I submitted to agents, and the ones who read what I had sent were all extremely positive, but not able to offer representation for various reasons. One was really keen but wanted more polish on my then manuscript before considering representation. This was one response I had.
“The world needs your story.”
So, it can’t be all bad, can it? But what can I do, going forward?
I know my story isn’t unworthy. The feedback from my beta readers has already told me that. I have a few more tweaks to do, as suggested by a couple of them, which I didn’t implement after submitting to the publisher, as I thought I would let the story rest, whilst they were pondering.
The next decision to make is what I want to do next, publishing wise. Do I want to try submitting to another set of agents/publishers? Or is it time to take that bold Indie step?
I have a list of publishers and agents I could submit to.
But I am much further along the Indie process than I thought, really. I have a prospective cover already. I have the means to format my book. I already have a host of bloggers willing to help promote when the time is right.
One thing I haven’d done is set up a newsletter and built a mailing list, because at this stage, I don’t know what I could send out regularly, to subscribers that would even interest them!
I just need the gumption to do it.
What do you think?
Should I take the plunge and go it alone (with all of you for support, obviously!) or do I try and submit again, chasing the traditionally published dream?
It’s been six weeks (or just over, actually) since I submitted my manuscript to a publication house. They said they aim to reply to all queries within around six weeks.
And in that six weeks, I have started back at school, and felt the most deadening exhaustion ever. I haven’t been able to get creative at all.
But, if I had the right energy levels, what could I be doing? What could any writer be doing?
Start thinking of another project to take your mind off the current situation
Take a little mental break
Read – both fiction and non fiction
Take part in little challenges (or big – I signed up to NaNoWriMo this year, but whether I could actually write 50,000 words in November, is anyone’s guess!)
Build up your social media audience
Consider starting an email newsletter (Still thinking about this…)
Read some of your older work – you may see something new in it.
Aside from trying to get my energy back, I have read a lot (when I don’t fall asleep with the book in my hands) and invested in some new craft books to help improve my writing. And I have been looking for my plans for book two and three too.
But honestly, my creativity has taken a real hit with this tiredness. And not hearing back from the publisher yet, has me on edge.
What is keeping me going, keeping me for letting go of my dream, is the encouragement from others who have been with me on this journey. My beta readers, who know what my story is, and one in particular who was so excited to hear that I am planning a couple more stories involving the characters in my first book.
Surely that must mean something, that someone wants to know more about these figments of my imagination?
Hearing back from this publisher in a positive way will be a certain type of validation for me, but if that doesn’t work out, I’ll be heading on that Indie trail, with the confidence that at least 5 out of 5 of the people who read my manuscript enjoyed it and were excited by it.
It’s a pretty bit thing, you know, submitting your book baby to agents and publishers.
It was huge enough when I sent my beloved manuscript off to beta readers. But the difference was, I knew I would get some feedback about my story.
When you send your proposal off to an agent or a publisher, you really are heading into the unknown.
I have heard those stories of fledgling authors submitting, and getting the rejection letters or emails, or worse, just not hearing back.
Most reputable agencies will state that they should get back to you within a specific time. But some just don’t. That is scary!
I have had a couple of experiences so far. One agency I contacted, replied with the kind rejection, that they enjoyed my material but wouldn’t be adding me to their list. No real feedback or suggestions, but encouragement to reach out to others.
I took part in #PitMad off the cuff in March. (That’s my pitch, up there). If you are unaware, #PitMad is a Twitter pnenomenon in the #WritingCommunity there. Basically, if you have a polished manuscript, ready for possible publication, there are four opportunities in the year where you can write a 280 character pitch for your book, including the relevant hashtags to show genre, and tweet it. Agents use that day to peruse the PitMad hashtag and if they are interested, they like your tweet. No one else is meant to like the tweet. Others can support you by retweeting or commenting. I got one genuine like that time, and contacted the agent, who read my first three chapters and liked it, but felt a little more work was needed before representation could be offered. But she LIKED my ideas. That was encouraging.
Over the last few months, I was increasingly convinced that I would go Indie and stop chasing that traditional publishing deal. The Beta reader feedback had been very positive. I had a prospective cover. My manuscript was almost ready. I even had a brand new MacBook Air, gifted to me by by Hubby Dearest for my birthday. Perfect for using all that lovely formatting software avaliable to MacOS users, like Vellum…
Then, one morning, something clicked in me and I decided to submit my newly polished manuscript again, just once, to a publishing company, Hera Books. They were recommended to me by a debut author, Kiley Dunbar, who has just released her second book with them. When I read her first book, I contacted her through Twitter, and we started chatting. She told me all about the fantastic support she had received from her publisher and how, though they were only digital publishers, there was a wealth of experience within the company. I held back submitting then as in my dream, I am holding a physical copy of my book, not an e-reader…
One day, a tweet pinged up from her, announcing her debut book was being released as a paperback too. Following the success of her ebook, the publisher chose her book as one of two they were pushing for paperback publishing. And then I saw her book on the shelf at a local The Works shop.
A paperback! In a shop! That was it. Despite having hit an all time low in my mind, something buoyed me up and I woke up the next morning, read the submission details, collated all the information needed, then pressed send…
It’st been just over 2 weeks.
I have 4 more weeks to wait…
I messaged my friend Kiley, to let her know I submitted to her publisher, and she was mega excited for me. She said it would be awesome if I could join the band of ‘Hera Girls’ as she called them. And that made me feel all warm inside.
I’d love to be a ‘Hera Girl’.
But I have to wait…
It’s a good thing we have started back to school now, so I have plenty on my plate to keep my mind off obsessing about time and weeks passing, constantly checking my email for any news. But it is hard playing the waiting game.
Will they like it? Will they hate it?
I’ll just have to throw myself into writing book two… once I’ve got my body and mind back to term-time mentality!
Or at least you wrote a story, or a body of text, and you want it to become a book.
What comes next?
Well, you know, from my previous post here, about things getting too much that it’s not just about writing. There is rereading, and rewriting and editing involved that can take a while.
After all that work, have you finally got something worth reading?
I mean, that’s why I write. To be read. You know that. I mentioned it here.
And the only way I know it will be something worthy of a reader’s attention, is by sending it out to a few readers.
Those in the know call these test pilots Beta Readers. Or you can strip it down further and say your first readers, those who will feedback with information as to whether your story is viable, are your Alpha Readers.
Then after rounds of edits and rewrites, come your Beta Readers. They are the ones who will give you the feedback that can take your book from good to great.
Some Beta Readers are there to give you general feedback.
Does the story engage the reader?
Does it make sense?
Any major plot holes?
They will give a great general piece of feedback for you to mull over
Some go that bit further:
Give more specific feedback about style of writing
Point out spelling or grammar errors, or those missed full stops and unneccesary spaces
Give detailed notes on every page
All this feedback is great. But what do you do with it all?
Well, having sent my manuscript to five trusted Beta Readers, I am awaiting the full feedback from a couple but I have already had some. Here are a couple of pointers to remember.
Wait for all your feedback to come in before making any major changes
Check to see whether there are any similarities in the feedback that may highlight an issue that you need to tackle
Remember there’s no such thing as bad feedback. If you sent it to the right people, all will be constructive
Don’t forget it is one persons opinion
Pick and choose what you decide to alter. It is your book, after all
Keep positive comments handy to cheer yourself up when things are tough, but don’t forget any negative words. They are there to help you better your work.
These are the comments I have kept to make me feel these last 19 years have been worth it!
I was so down last week, having let editing get to me, so I had a total break from everything for a few days. It helped immensely. I woke up one day feeling so positive about the whole situation that I ended up submitting my manuscript to a publisher. Just like that!
I don’t have my head in the clouds, but if you don’t try, you won’t know, will you?
Now I just have to wait… wait for the rest of the Beta Reader feedback… wait to hear back from the publisher…
If you ask someone who doesn’t write, their image of a writer at work, would be someone surrounded by books, a computer or paper to hand, tapping on a keyboard, or scribbling ideas down furiously.
Or gazing out of the window at a picturesque writers retread, pencil at the ready for any ispiration that might hit.
Or that other chestnut, the writer taking up a table at the local coffee shop, empty cups strewn across said table, and laptop set up, ready for that literary greatness to fill the screen.
That’s exactly how all those books out there came to fruition.
A few hours or days to write or type, and a perfect story is created, ready for publication.
The writing journey, along with the subsequent editing process, is an arduous one. And though you may spend a lot of it on your bottom, you use up your mental energy more than you realise.
When I decided to really ramp up the writing of my first draft, I used the month of August in 2017 and created my own mini #RiNoWriMo, as November and #NaNo WriMo is beyond me, what with being a teacher in my other life.
So August, that sacred month for teachers, where you get time off, was sacrificed for my writing.
And write, I did!
But I didn’t know how much writing 2,500+ words a day would take out of me.
I started back to school in September an emotional wreck. Not the best way to start the academic year, I’ll have you know. Although pushing myself to write hit word count goals, it zapped me of any energy, and the ability to function emotionally for a few weeks. Writing had become too much.
And the draft still wasn’t finished. I wondered whether this writing malarkey was really for me?
So when I decided that this August, two years on, would be my month for editing, I had to keep my emotional wellbeing in mind too.
#RiNoEdMo has nearly come to a close, and I have worked my pudgy behind off (not literally, because if I had, that would be wonderful, but I digress…) to go through this manuscript with a fine tooth comb. It took me 10 days to finish the first of my ‘final’ edits.
Once it was off to beta readers, I sat back with a light heart, and one heck of a headache.
That mental tiredness had kicked in. It had officially become too much.
So, I scheduled time for me, time with my children and family, time to read.
And, yes, I have revisited my draft, as and when feedback drips in, tweaking easy bits, but I have put it on the back burner so I can get back into my other life mindset. (I hate to call it real life, because writing is part of my real life too, it’s just my alter-life… By day wife, mother and teacher. By night writer and sleeper.)
One week until school beckons to me. One week to get some of that r’n’r. One week to maybe add a few more tweaks Stop it woman, you are meant to be resting!
I have compiled a list of things I do to help me get that ‘me’ time as well as being as productive as possible, within a short timespan.
Take regular breaks and hydrate.
Give yourself a time limit for how long you will spend on your manuscript every day.
Treat yourself when you reach a goal. A bubble bath, a manicure, a drink…
If your head hurts, listen to it, and step away for a while.
Always have a good book handy to read as a reward.
Plan a day out.
Change the scenery around you – write in the garden one day, on your bed on another, take your laptop for a trip to a different place. It’s as refreshing as a break.
All little things, but they do help to keep your wellbeing from sinking, as you swim through the ocean of Getting That Book Out There.
Do you have any other advice for keeping sane while writing and editing?
Well, for some, it is to allow feelings to be released. For others, it is part and parcel of their job.
And for authors, it is because you have stories we wish to tell, and share with the world.
Now, anyone could write away and create a tale which they send off out into the big wide book world.
Self-publishing platforms have made it that simple. As long as you have access to a computer, you can write, download and press Publish, and that’s it.
You are a published author.
Plenty of writers out there have done that. There are over one million titles published worldwide, every year.
And if you have been trying, you know it is nearly impossible to land a traditional publishing deal. So, that’s where self-publishing, or independently publishing comes in.
But how many of those books that are self-published are successful?
If you market right, you’ll make some sales, then your book might get buried under the waves of newer books hitting the shelves.
There are some authors, though, who have smashed the Indie Author market.
And it’s not just by some fluke. (Maybe it is sometimes. I’ll name no names, but there are a few self-published books over the years that have become huge, yet the writing leaves a lot to be desired! But I digress…)
Those writers spend time on their books. They don’t just churn out reams of text, give it a quick glance, then press that Publish button.
They write, and reread, then write again. They use the eyes of beta readers as well as editors, to help their book baby grow. They take time to create a world within their book that will transport a reader. They want the cover to attract you. They want the blurb to hook you and reel you in. These writers want you to become fully immersed in their story. They want you to be thinking of the characters, long after you reach The End.
They want you to think of them; of buying any future books they may write.
They want you to want to readtheir books.
That’s why I write; to be read.
In my heart, I know my story is worth telling (fictional, not my life story!) I know it is a tale that would be enjoyed, providing I give it all the love and attention it requires.
That’s what the last few weeks have been about.
Reading, rewriting, getting feedback.
It’s taken me nearly 20 years to get to this stage, you know. That’s how much I believe in my story.
When I reached the last page, after this final set of revisions, I felt ready to send the manuscript out to my team of Beta Readers, and that’s where my book baby lies right now.
I sit here, nervously awaiting feedback now.
Will my baby be ready to be set free in the literary world?
I’d love it if you join me over at Allan Hudson’s Blog, South Branch Scribbler, where we talk a little about writing, I share a couple of Ritu Stories, and there is an excerpt of my novel, Marriage: Unarranged.
With the facilities would-be authors have at their fingertips nowadays, writing a book, and getting it out there is relatively easy.
What I should really have said was writing a good book isn’t easy.
When you have poured your blood and sweat into writing a story that you are desperate to get out into the literary world, the biggest disservice you can do is not making sure you have perfected it to the best of your ability.
And in order to create a piece of work that is ready, it requires not just the author, but a whole host of others, especially if you decided to self publish.
your support network behind you, both physically and virtually
unbiased people ready to read what you are writing, and happy to feed back truthfully
an editor who you gel with, someone who knows your vision, and can give you constructive advice
more willing readers
a cover designer who gets your story
copy editors possibly
some one who understands formatting to make the interior of your book look as perfect as it can
a group of people out there willing to help you promote your masterpiece at the right time
I’m at a crucial stage now.
I have a fantastic support network, thankfully. I have had readers feedback on my original, Ritu-edited draft.
I have reworked parts according to the feedback given.
I found a wonderful editor who has read my work and has given me all sorts of helpful advice and feedback.
I have a list of ready to read beta readers once I manage to finish the edits I wish to make to perfect my story.
I even have a cover designer who has designed a beautiful cover for what will hopefully be my first novel.
There has already been the offer of formatting from one of my dear Blog Family.
And lots of promised support when that release date finally comes to happen.
I’m still not sure of copy editing, but will look into that soon too.
But right now, I need time to get this book ready.
A couple of years ago, I used the month of August to really steam ahead with the writing of this WIP that had taken on teenage status. and it really worked. #RiNoWriMo (Ritu’s Novel Writing Month) was what I needed, and I used my blog as an accountability partner. EAch week I would update my followers on my word count and whether I managed to do what I had hoped. The encouragement I received pushed me to continue, and by the end of the month, my WIP was nearly 60,000 words longer.
Not finished but so close.
I was mentally exhausted though, unsurprisingly, because my month wasn’t devoted to writing, I still had to be a mum to my children who were at the age where they couldn’t occupy themselves for too long, so I was acting as a peace maker/screaming banshee mother as well as writing/typing away furiously.
This year, I have created another month for myself, to get this book to the stage where I can finally say “It’s ready!”.
I’ll be focussing my attentions on the editing required, and the changes that I need to make to my manuscript, to give it the best possible chance of being read by more than just a few people out there.
It means that certain writing challenges that I take part in on my other blog may be forfeited for a few weeks, but I think that is acceptable, in the circumstances.
“To realise a dream, you sometimes have to let go of others.”
Ritu Bhathal 2019
And I shall be updating you all on here as to my progress, so you will all be my accountability partners.
These are phrases I have heard bandied about a lot over the years.
And they are very true. We all have something within us that we could tell.
But can we all write that book?
I’d like to invite you on my journey. I’m part way through it, hopefully nearing the end, to be honest, but in order for you to experience it all with me, I thought I’d share the long and winding road I have followed to get here.
The Story of My WIP
As a mid-twenties girl, about to embark on my own marital journey, I had an idea.
It was the bones of a story for a novel.
Everyone has a book inside them, so they say. Maybe this was mine!
I started writing this story in 2000, not realising the journey I would go on whilst this book was being written, both as a person, and a writer.
I managed to write around 6,000 words before the day I said “I do”.
The first year of marriage was busy. Not hard, but different to the life I was used to. It left no time for me to be faffing around with pen and paper or a computer.
But I could hear that floppy disk calling me… yes it was that long ago that my work was on floppy disks, later saved onto CD-ROMs. Way before the pen drives and clouds we are used to now.
I remember telling my Hubby Dearest about this book thing that I had started. He showed a little interest, and actually he even bought me my first laptop for me to continue my writing.
I printed what I had written and got a colleague to read it. She was encouraging and it spurred me on, I had an aim for getting 1,000 words done a night. That way within a few months I could have completed my book.
But life isn’t always that easy, is it?
Being a daughter in law meant I had certain responsibilities, including helping arrange my brother in law’s wedding, coupled with the fact that we wanted to start a family.
I tucked my book up for what I hoped was a short while, at around 13,000 words.
And there it languished, this time on a CD-ROM, for many years.
Sister-in laws came and went, and my own two children took up a lot of my time, leaving that poor WIP gathering computer dust… My literary creativity was at an all-time low. Non-existent. But I still read feverishly and enjoyed sharing children’s classics with my own kids.
Around fourteen years after I started writing this story, blogging came into my life, changing it completely!
My creativity was ignited again. I was responding to writing prompts and enjoying the whole process of moulding words into little literary artworks.
I was in touch with people like me. Bloggers who were writers, writers who were authors, poets, both. It was another world, this Blogisphere, and I loved it!
Again, my WIP whispered to me… “Let them read me… maybe you’ll want to finish me too…”
So, I took that step.
I published the first seven chapters of my story, on a weekly basis, to get the feedback from all these amazing writers out there.
And the feedback was so positive. There was a thirst for the next chapter to be posted, and the story seemed to hit a note with those who wrote it.
I just had to finish it. So many people wanted to know what happened next, and I didn’t even know that, as I had not really planned my story in such detail.
But, for writing, you need time. I saw two NaNoWriMo annual sessions pass and was gutted that I couldn’t take part in it. November is a busy month for a teacher. It just wasn’t happening.
I managed to squeeze in publishing a poetry book though, which I found simple, as I had so much material to use, but the writing… there just wasn’t the time!
By now I also had a small cavalry of authors who were also encouraging me to get back into writing.
I made a decision then.
If I couldn’t take part in the official NaNo, then I would do it myself.
I gave myself a target of 50,000 words, and chose the month of August to have my very own #RiNoWriMo – Ritu’s Novel Writing Month.
School holidays, and children who were older and able to keep themselves entertained, meant August was the best time for me to write.
It wasn’t easy, but I prepared myself by rereading all that I had written, correcting silly mistakes as I went along. I invested in a huge whiteboard which I decorated and made into a storyboard, and really planned my story, did character profiles, checked out locations etc.
It was all rather real!
And I wrote.
Boy, did I write!
During the month, I posted weekly on my blog, But I Smile Anyway about the progress of the novel, and whether I had hit my own targets.
My followers became my accountability partners, along with emails and messages from a few close blog pals, and they kept my momentum going.
My kids even heard snippets of it and were always asking what was going to happen to various characters, showing interest in this story of my making.
By the end of August, I had a manuscript that was nearly 70,000 words long, and still not finished, but not far off.
I was mentally exhausted, but so proud of myself.
I couldn’t bear to look at it for ages after. Partly because of the exhaustion, but also because my work life was really tough at the time, and I didn’t want to be half-hearted about the ending.
A few months passed, and Easter holidays came. I decided to have a reread of the last few chapters I had written, and (am I supposed to say this about my own manuscript?) I really enjoyed it!
It spurred me on to write more, and by the second week of the holidays, and eighteen years after starting, I finally had a fully completed first draft!
The first day I held a fully printed out version of my first ever first draft, was a truly blessed day! (Even though I saw a spelling error on the first page, as soon as I looked at it, d’oh!)
Since then I have had three trusted sources read it, give me initial feedback, I have rewritten and tweaked it, and even roped in a wonderful editor who has given me her comments, and I am partway through my hopefully final rewrite!
I sent a couple of queries out, got positive rejection messages too, and even entered the Twitter craziness of #PitMad a couple of months back, where an agent was interested too! She read some, gave some feedback and asked me to get back in touch when my manuscript was polished.
And there is even a possible cover on the table, but not finalized yet, as there is still work to do.
From rereading and rewriting, beta reading and editing, then the formatting and cover design if I decide to self-publish or choosing to write my synopsis and send letters out to agents, in the hope of getting discovered by a traditional publication house, to actually holding a physical copy of my book in my hand.
As long as it doesn’t take another nineteen years!