Last week I attended Whitlit, a week long literary event held in Whitstable. It kicked off with a Writer's Workshop on Saturday. It was a full day and though I didn't learn much new, it was good to network and refocus my aims. One thing it did do was reaffirm my decision to publish independently . I listened to the publishing 'experts' complain about the vast amounts of submissions and their terribly heavy workloads. They groaned about the competition, hurdles to jump over and people to convince, all to attain a relatively tiny percentage. I wondered why I ever bothered.
Where am I in the stage of publishing WOTW? I wrote it originally about 8 years ago. Fiddled with the draft till I liked it. All the knowledgeable sources said, "You need an agent first." I duly sent off my letter, synopsis and 1st chapter. Those few short years ago it was snail mail. I remembered the SAE (£4 a time) so I'd get a reply, if not my work back. I tried variations on a theme for my letter, 'straight to the point', 'humble' 'witty' even 'slightly sarcastic' hoping the shock might motivate an agent. Nothing. My postman must have got postman's thumb shoving my returning post through our slim letter box on an almost daily basis.
I decided to increase my chances and included publishers in the next batch. I could wallpaper the downstairs loo with the letters of rejection. Being a sad individual I kept them to start with, so I could hold them up and say ' at least I tried',
It hardens you when you get mountains of rejections. I got sick of hearing those lucky bastards who complained, " I sent it to two publishers/agents before I was accepted." Or, " I sent it off and was offered a contract immediately." I hated them. Was I bitter and jealous? too dam right!
More and more I heard whispers saying ' you only get published if you're a famous author already, or a celebrity who has a ghost-writer ( you know who you are). Depressed? understatement. I changed my tactics and decided another strategy was required.
I attended the World Fantasy Conference in 2013 at Brighton. Over 50 fantasy/Sci Fi publishing companies attend the conference. It's usually held in the USA so this was one lucky experience. It was brilliant! If you're a fan of Fantasy & Sci Fi reading go there. I loved seeing the late Sir Terry Pratchett with his trademark hat , albeit on a dais ten foot from me, along with some of my literary heroes in the fantasy world including Tessa Farmer, Tad Williams, Neil Gaiman and Tanith Lee. I was kissed on the cheek by a flirty Brian Aldiss and loved that too.
I managed to produce 10 copies of WOTW in clear folders along with the letter, synopsis and cover. It felt a bit cheeky and I wondered if I might get thrown out the conference. I left them on various tables round the event. I overheard one fifty-something American say to his wife whilst holding my folder, "Have you seen this? what a clever idea." His voice held a tone which I hoped was begrudging admiration. I was so pleased someone picked it up. I was torn between hiding from my heinous crime and shouting out loud ' Here I am'. I did the latter, god what desperation does to an individual.
Nothing came from my efforts but I achieved nano-fame in a couple of ways. Arriving early for the famous authors interview, I was mistaken for one of the celebrities and asked to sign a canvas of celebrity writers signatures which was being auctioned later. I couldn't refuse and who knows some day I might be able to claim it as a bonefide author.
The second was at the mass signing session. A huge room was set up with tables lining the walls and pristine white linen table-cloths. Grabbing a friend I made during the conference, I propelled him to an empty table. He had the foresight to print a number of his novels into books. I plonked him down and sat next to him in the disguise of being his agent. Fans came and purchased his book, he signed them and I was asked to sign conference programmes, once they found out I had something on kindle.
Since then I've been to Deal Noir, a crime writers event (in Deal) and in April the London book Fair. I'd heard so much about it. How agents and publishers aren't available because they are at the fair. It was a real mix of people, companies and themes from massive million pound deals between publishers and booksellers to translation services and self-publishing gurus. It held my attention until my feet ached about 1pm. It was interesting but not very useful to me. I don't think it is meant to be but there were individuals who'd independently published trying to sell their wares. In the main their stalls were quiet.
Despite their forlorn appearance my road to publishing continues.....