Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Just Post It

Writing a book is one thing. That only takes a few years of dreaming, scribbling, typing, banging your head on the desk and waking up in the middle of the night with the most original idea ever, only to discover in the morning that your bedside notebook is scrawled with stuff like “elephant – maggots – how many?”

Making it fit for anyone to read is quite another thing – more months of editing, editing again, polishing, re-editing, re-polishing. Maybe even giving the manuscript to a friend for their opinion, only to have them say ten weeks later, “Sorry, I've been, like, really busy. I'll read it soon, promise.”

But then comes the difficult bit. If you want your book published (though there's certainly no law forcing you to want that) you have to pluck up the courage to submit it somewhere. OK, so you could spend the rest of your life shifting commas about because you're scared of rejection – that's no skin off anyone else's nose – but if you want to see it in print, you have to send it out.

So... let's say you've written a book, agonised over the synopsis, constructed an elegant covering letter, formatted your first three chapters to perfection and printed them off, because lots of agents still don't take email submissions. Next comes the most important part of the process:
  • Go to your office stationery cupboard when no one is looking and select two good-quality envelopes.
  • Print one of them as an S.A.E. or, better still, write it out with a lucky pen.
  • To be on the safe side, consult a graphology website and ensure your handwriting makes you look artistic, intelligent, a delight to work with, and not insane.
  • Address the other envelope, put your submission into it and seal it up.
  • Unseal it to make sure the S.A.E. is definitely there.
  • Stick it back down with a piece of sellotape, because the glue now doesn't work.
  • Oh, God, what if the agent really hates sellotape? Check their website in case they mention it.
  • Affix postage, go to the postbox and nervously walk up and down for a while, worrying whether you have put the synopsis in the right place. You put it after the letter and before the sample chapters. But what if it should have gone at the end?
  • Approach the postbox. Discover that it was designed before the advent of A4, so you have to bend your pristine envelope in half.
  • Oh God, what if the agent really hates creased envelopes? What if she sees the creases and just slings it straight in the bin?
  • Gormlessly stand there for a while with your hand halfway into the postbox.
  • Will yourself to let go. Think: Just post it. Drop. The. Envelope. Go on, just drop it. Seriously. Drop it. No, seriously. Arrgh! Just POST IT! Just let go! NOW!
  • Wait! The S.A.E. is definitely in there, isn't it?
  • Of course it is. You checked.
  • But what if, when you checked, you actually took it out and forgot to put it back in?
  • FOR GOD'S SAKE, JUST POST IT!
  • Someone behind you coughs impatiently, so let go and listen to the envelope flopping into the darkness, beyond your control. Go pale as you have a sudden flashback to proofreading the submission letter.
  • Rush back to your computer and open up the file. See that it begins “Der Ms Bloggs.”
  • Go very red and start to weep.
  • Correct it and send to the next agent. And the next, and the next, while writing another book.

And if you really, really want to be published, keep sending until you get an acceptance or you die. Whichever comes first.

17 comments:

Roderic Vincent said...

Hilarious and painfully familiar. Brilliant post, Caro. I'm glad I'm not the only one that's mad.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Very funny - and horribly true. I've definitely looked at my signature, thinking: does this look like the writing of a crazed woman, and will they guess? I remember standing at the (inevitable) Post Office queue with my full ms, thinking - 'all this time, all this worry, all this work is in this package in my arms' and feeling emotional.
And the whole process happens in reverse when it drops back on your mat - the scrutinising of the pages to see whether (and how far) they've been read; the translating of 'I just didn't love it enough' to mean 'but I could, if you just did one more revision'; etc. etc.
Susiex

CarolineG said...

Genuine LOL there! Brilliant stuff, Caro.
We're all mad as snakes, us writers, aren;t we?

Jeannette said...

Ha! I see that submitting a mss is very similar to submitting poems. My one remaining question is, why doesn't the literary world use email like everybody else?? How are we going to get published when all the post offices are finally closed?

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Oh God, Caroline - you were the person standing behind me at the postbox, weren't you?! I have to confess on my rounds of submissions with novel one, after a while I got so neurotic that I would only post from the post office...
Just in case....
the post box I use is no longer in use, despite its tag telling me it is, or
it might become a victim of a rebellious arsonist (it happens!?) or
I would fall prey to the one postman who thinks 'ah hah, this looks like a ms, think I'll ruin her day. So yeah, we're all mad as a box of frogs. Fx

Samantha Tonge said...

LOL, Caro, very funny!

God, some of those really hit home with me.

As for the notebook bit, yes, i am always making bizarre notes and then forgetting what they are about - it is so annoying!

Gillian McDade said...

I love this! And I can identify with the opening and re-sealing envelopes just to check the SAE is there. I even re-opened one to check I'd written my name and address correctly on the SAE.
I've also shredded a cover letter because I signed it in blue ink instead of black!
And I always use the natural stickiness of the envelope plus a mountain of sellotape, to make sure it doesn't open in the postbag. Yes, writers are crazy.

Sara said...

So funny Caroline!!

"Elephants - maggots - how many." Hilarious and so, so true!

Samantha Tonge said...

I always use brown parcel tape to seal mine, loads of it, LOL!

I never post an A4 envelope through a postbox though, i do it over the counter, because i honestly believe if it is creased in anyway i'll be rejected. Tis sad...

Geraldine Ryan said...

Hilarious!!!!

Poppy said...

brilliant!!

Katy said...

Brilliant post, Caro, thank you. So funny and all so true :-)

Caroline R said...

Phew, I'm glad you all enjoyed this. There's always a danger with this kind of post that it'll turn out to be just me, and everyone else will be completely sane.

Lydia said...

You don't have any worries there, Caroline: the words and sane and writer shouldn't ever appear in the same sentence.

Abstaining Irene said...

I like your advice...humorous and brutally true. Hope one day I've finished a novel and am standing at the post box with sweat dripping down my neck in anticipation.

Jacqueline Christodoulou said...

Fabulous!
I've sent so many off now that I have a ritual!

cherys said...

Brilliant Caro. Unbearably accurate. You been spying on our postbox?