Following advice, not following advice, and giving advice guilty side-eye whilst ignoring it.

There is an overabundance of ‘how to get published’ advice out there. This is a fairly stupid thing to say, some would advise, given that this very blog could be seen as ‘how to get published’ advice.

advice - sarcastic comment

Except that CLEARLY this is not ‘how to get published’ advice. At best, this is ‘how to sort-of, sometimes cope with NOT being published, and only occasionally embarrass yourself’ advice. On which I occasionally implore you not to follow my really quite questionable advice.

But that’s mostly because I – as an unpublished person – shouldn’t really know the first thing about getting published. And you should never follow advice from someone who has not actually achieved whatever it is they’re advising you about. Except that, actually, I do know quite a lot about how to get published. I kind of know how to decide which way I should pursue publication, I know what resources are most helpful, I know how difficult it is and why that is, I know how long the odds are, I know how valuable determination is, I know – more to the point – how valuable actual writing talent is (as much as anyone can). I’d actually be willing to bet I know as much about getting published as some people who are published. I have the theory nailed, I’m just having…issues with the practical.

And as someone who has re-taken the practical as many times as I have – somehow getting ever closer to success without actually moving – I have been thoroughly and persistently bombarded with advice. Now much of this I have actually sought out, and most of it has been immensely valuable: I only gained whatever knowledge I have by pilfering it from other sources. BUT, it has to be said that occasionally there are moments when it’s actually worth ignoring the advice.

Here have been a few of these moments from my perspective:

  • When told that I shouldn’t send off a submission a day, but craft individual submissions carefully and individually, wait for the response to each one and incorporate any (unlikely) feedback into my manuscript before carefully crafting the next submission. Didn’t follow because:

I ain't got time for that

  • It’s universally accepted that you should not continue to email an agency (or frankly, anyone at all) who has rejected you. And whilst in 99.9% of cases I think this is spot on, I have recently – and just the once – ignored it. Because shy bairns get nowt, and sometimes desperation wins out (it hasn’t).
  • Don’t submit to agencies who aren’t advertising for submission. Well I’ve done this twice, once with initially positive results that then went south, and the other with no result at all – but if the worst that can happen is being ignored (which is what happens with many agencies who are open for submission), then I don’t see the harm in it, even if it’s more than likely a total waste of time.
  • Don’t get too downhearted about rejection. Pretty much every rejection I’ve received contains this advice, and whilst it is stellar, it’s also near impossible to follow. Plus, as my boyfriend recently pointed out to me during a more recent meltdown, the extent to which you are upset about something is directly proportionate to how much you care about it. And, you know, caring is A++.

So yes, I reckon the trick is to listen to all advice, take it usually but ignore it when you have reason to. For life generally, really, but – you know, as is relevant – for publishing. There is so much advice out there that you can’t possibly follow all of it, and nor should you – and that’s worth bearing in mind.

Though, to round this off, I’m going to leave you with Matt Haig’s Some Fucking Writing Tips – for some advice that is useful, interesting and – most importantly – hilarious.

Next Post: To be quite honest it’s getting harder and harder to think of posts that seem relevant when often what I want to write is ‘Yep. Still being rejected. Still not JK Rowling.’ So I think I’m going to do what I often do in such creative block situations, and fall back on other people – I’m going to have a dig around a few of my favourite contemporary authors sites and see what they have to say about trying to get published. And then, in all likelihood when I read that they just got published no problem and that’s why they’re successful, duh, throw myself a little Pity Party. All invited.

Submissions Last Week

None, but a guilt-free none this time, as I’m waiting for another full MS response.

Current Rejection Tally: 11



Moan, moan, apologise for moaning, moan…

So it’s going to be a short one today, for the following reasons:

  1. I had written a longer post about feedback, in which I basically banged on about how regardless of what anyone says to you, you will not receive real feedback from agents. The post was, frankly, not that interesting or funny, and I wasn’t overly happy about putting it up, but didn’t have time to try something else. Then, as I was finishing writing it, I got a rejection email from the second agent to have asked for my full manuscript, containing really quite a lot of feedback.
  2. This rejection, for reasons that don’t make a whole lot of sense even to me, has been by far the most crushing so far. Some combination of the professional-but-personal tone of the emails I had received from this agent, and the fact that the main issue they had with the manuscript is actually a pretty major problem that I can’t quick-fix, and the fact that the email was so long that for an instant I thought it might not be a rejection, has all melted together to make me feel, really, pretty lousy.
  3. What should balance out this news is that the day before this rejection, I received another request for my full manuscript. Whilst this is unquestionably excellent, I’m afraid I’m just not as excited about this agency as the last one (trust me, I am telling myself that beggars can’t be choosers in a continuous stream), and am also starting to get distinctly wary of letting my hopes get all high again.

So essentially this is just a boring update post I’m afraid. A little bit too much has happened in a short space of time for me to actually wrap my head around, let alone form into a coherent blog post. This morning I was seriously considering packing in for the first time (ooh, just listen to those violins), so to save you all reading any more confused whingeing and me making any more of a prat of myself, I’m gonna leave it here for this week.

i just have a lot of feelings.gif

Come back next Monday for an actual post, and the longed-for return of my sense of humour.

Edit: Goodness, wasn’t that just a mess? Sadly now I really don’t have time to put anything else together, so I’m afraid we’re just going to have to make do. Suffice it to say I’ve managed to claw myself a good way out of the above self-pity pit in the days since it was written, and next week will return with a real post, perspective and – I can almost promise – no complaining!

Next Post: I think I’ve now pointed out enough occasions when I have blithely ignored even my own advice, that it’s worth considering when – and when not – to follow writing / publishing advice generally. I actually once made a short film about this as part of a university project, so depending on my levels of self-consciousness next week you may even get to see me doing my utmost to avoid being on camera!

Submissions Last Week

*sigh* I really am just the worst resolution-keeper ever. I only sent off one, okay, but – as you can see above – I was sad and traumatised and very, very confused! Also the third agent to have requested my full manuscript has asked to read it exclusively, so next week will be more of this, but with less of the guilt and excuses.

Current Rejection Tally: 10

“Agents, really? You know if you *insert alternative publishing route*, you get to *insert something that sounds tiring*”

In essence, when you want to get a book published you have three options:

  1. Send it off to agents

Pros: If you manage to get an agent they’ll handle approaching publishers and selling your book for you. Many publishers won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, and you’d need an agent to get your book looked at there. They’re professionals with industry contacts, who have done this many times before.

Cons: As the astute readers among you may have noticed by now, getting one ain’t that easy, and they take an approximate 15% cut of anything you earn (if / when you’re actually making any writing dollar).

  1. Send if off to publishers

Pros: In some senses you’re skipping the middle man, saving yourself 15% and still leaving the actual selling of your book to someone else; they print it, market it, do all that other boring-sounding stuff and leave you free to get on with actual writing.

Cons: Once again, easier said than done – there are cases of unagented writers getting publishing deals, but I would argue they were the exception rather than the rule. Also there’s (I’m told) a whole bunch of business-y, contract-y, official-sounding legal stuff with the publisher that you’ll have to handle yourself.

  1. Self-publish

Pros: You don’t have to wait for anyone’s approval or acceptance, you can literally just pop it on Amazon at any given moment and your book is out there,  ostensibly being read.

Cons: You have to do everything yourself.  Proofreading, formatting, marketing, designing, selling etc. Which will arguably be less professional-looking than a team of people whose job this is. On top of which, without the might of a publisher behind you, you’re unlikely to be able to throw your net anything like as wide (though, again, there are exceptions to this rule).

Now this is very simplified, and in our marvellously modern day and age, there are weird hybrid options like crowd-fund-y Unbound, attracting enough attention on something like Wattpad, acquiring a big enough following on some other forum (blogs/YouTube/social media etc.). But as an overview, I’m pretty pleased with myself for that.

pleased with self

I went with option one for a variety of reasons. Not least is my tendency, just as a person, to refer up when I don’t know what I’m doing. If my computer breaks, I’ll try maybe two or three things before turning to my boyfriend with a whingey, “Peeeeeeete…” Once our boiler broke when Pete was out, and I again tried a couple of things before throwing a tantrum and Skyping my dad. Big life issues go to my mum, worries go to my friends, financial stuff to my dad again, printer issues at work go to literally the nearest person…you get the point. I am never too proud to ask for help.

The second, more haughty reason is that chasing publication is something I’ve been (if you’ll excuse the cheesiness for a sec) dreaming about since I was about twelve, and most of those fantasies involve holding a real, professionally-made book in my hands. I don’t have the slightest problem with e-readers, but hopefully you’ll admit that the mental image loses something when the thing in your hands is a Kindle, and doesn’t have your name on it.

But the third reason is simply that I don’t want to do all that other stuff. I am a chronically and impressively lazy person, and the reason I write is because I love writing. I don’t really like proofreading, I can do without formatting, I’m terrible at designing and I frankly loathe marketing (that’s what customer service will do to you – the very word ‘upsell’ sends an honest-to-God shudder down my spine).

And like, writing is hard. The last thing I want to do – when I’m sitting in the carnage of a post-novel-writing study, in my dressing gown, distinctly un-showered and with a fairly manic look in my eyes – is get cracking on publishing it myself.

no problem.gif

This is all – of course – totally subjective. You may be (in fact, in all likelihood, you are) a far less lazy and whingey person than I am – maybe the idea of learning all the tech-y stuff behind e-books sounds like an exciting challenge? Maybe the idea of spending hours on Amazon trading reads with other self-published authors sounds fun? Maybe drinking a fourth coffee whilst trying to translate a publishing contract into actual human English sounds invigorating?

But I’m afraid that if I can persuade someone to do all that stuff for me (and the persuading part here is proving irksome), then they can have at. I’ll be over here, with my tea and my manuscript, spending my time wondering what’s another word for ‘glanced’.

Next Post: A feedback myth-busting is, I think, in order. In my little rant the other week I mentioned the level of feedback one can typically expect from agencies, but I’m thinking maybe going into a bit more detail and covering some of the positive stuff, as well as just moaning. Of course, balanced with hilarious gifs (hey, they’re hilarious to me).

Submissions Last Week

guilty face.gif

Okay, I only sent three off. In my (pathetic) defence, it’s been a super busy week and the next agencies on my list wanted, like, complicated things that I didn’t already have prepared! …I’ll do better next time…

Current Rejection Tally: 9


Square One. Again. Naturally. (Well, Actually Square One and a Half)

You guys are gonna get so sick of me writing posts about rejection. But then…in my own defence, it really does say this on the tin.

You remember that Good News post a few weeks back, in which an agent had asked for my full manuscript and I was trying not to get too excited, in case it came to nothing? But really, I was doing that thing where you’re not doing well in a game, so you start saying things like ‘God I’m such a loser’ and ‘there is no way I can pull it back from here’ whilst actually quietly hoping you could still snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?

Sadly, the universe wasn’t fooled and my full manuscript was met with another rejection.


So originally this post was intended to lament the tragedy of having hope given to you, only for it to be snatched nastily away as soon as you get attached to it. In spite of all my vocal caution and ‘I don’t want to get too excited, but…’, I was pretty darn bummed. I entirely ignored all of my own advice and spent that evening and much of the next day curled up in a blanket with unwashed hair and a steady stream of biscuits, binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was all a bit tragic.

But I had started to bounce back. A friend had provided me with a surprisingly helpful metaphor – that my submissions were like job applications – a job which I had been applying to for literally years. And having my full manuscript requested was like finally getting an interview for that job. It’s a weird balance, because on the one hand you’ve managed to progress further than ever before; but on the other, failure here lands you right back where you started. A similar (though less mature) metaphor, that I feel better communicates the sheer frustration, is when you’ve spent a truly embarrassing amount of time going over and over the same level on a video game (in my head this is Super Mario) – you finally make it to the boss at the end of the level, only to not get a single hit in before being squashed under his great spiky turtle-shell. That can induce some primary school-level tantrum-ing, right there.

So with thoughts like these having helped me salve the wound a bit, I was planning to end this post on a ‘but you can’t give up that easily’ note, and maybe an entertaining ‘I regret nothing’ gif. Unfortunately I was feeling too sorry for myself to write this post on my usual schedule, so it hadn’t gotten any further than mental planning.

And then…


Another agent requested my full manuscript.


That was pretty much how I felt, too. Whilst still being thrilled to itty bitty pieces about it, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling distinctly ‘once bitten, twice shy’ this time around. None of the giddy phone calls or group messages this time. I’ve told anyone who has directly asked me how this blog / my submissions  / my general level of sanity is going, but haven’t made the same kind of song and dance about it. I even considered not writing about it on The Rejection Box until I knew the outcome either way – to at least save myself the mild public embarrassment. But then I realised that was literally the opposite attitude to what this blog is supposed to be about, and so here I am. Happy, but wary.

And that’s really all I’ve got to say this week, I’m afraid. I’m sorry for the lack of useful information or advice in this post, but my brain hasn’t fully wrapped itself around what’s happening yet, which makes writing about it in any kind of knowledgeable way feel a bit false. I’m less sorry for the lack of ‘please don’t think I’m ungrateful’ platitudes, because really, who enjoys reading those? (Please just assume I am always worried about coming across as an arsehole, until further notice.) I’m also getting more and more conscious of the need to avoid repeating myself, or continuing down the rejection->possible success->more rejection->more possible success cycle, so please excuse this meander-y, slightly useless update of a post.

Maybe go look at that hilarious David Tennant gif again, and click off this page with that as your abiding memory. Okay? Okay. I’ll keep you posted.

Next Post: A (possibly slightly belated) explanation of exactly why I’m sending my book off to agents, as opposed to the alternatives. I know very little about self-publishing, but the very little I know will probably make a daring appearance, as well as at least three mentions of how much I hate marketing.

Submissions Last Week

Bit of a cop-out here. None this week – having reached around the 25 submissions mark, I was considering taking a week’s break to see if I could chase up some more responses. Then I got the request for the full MS and, even though this agent hasn’t asked for exclusivity, it justified my need for laziness I’m afraid. But I really will crack on again from next week, I promise.

Current Rejection Tally: 8