During a family gathering over one of the many holidays we’ve been inundated with recently (who’s getting fed up with them now and who’s lost track of time? IS it Boxing Day again?) I had a ‘conversation’ with my brother-in-law about my writing.
*ahem* here it is - abridged and with many seethes omitted:
BiL: ‘How’s the writing going?’
Me: ‘Oh, well, I haven’t done much lately, haven’t really… um (…how DO you explain about shattered confidence leading to non-production of wordage without sounding like a proper precious ponce – especially when there’s another 15 or so members of your extended family listening in with bated breath?) I haven’t had anything positive back from an agent yet.’
BiL: ‘You know, you should send it off to some publishers, forget about the agents, just send it straight to them, cut out the middle man and you’ll probably even save having to pay them a fee too.’
Me: (No sh*t, Sherlock…) ‘Well, it’s not really as simple as that, you can’t approach a publisher without getting an agent first, and that’s not an easy thing to do. I’ve sent off loads of enquiries already… I have still got a couple -’
BiL: ‘- you should just print it off; take the whole thing to them, plonk it on their desks, and wait for a reply. You know what… J.K Rowling didn’t -’
Me: (I’m allowed one seethe, surely?) ‘- it’s really not as straightforward as that, agents are inundated with manuscripts every day and I don’t think I’d get to see a publisher just because I happen to turn up at the door with a printout of my book, it doesn’t work like that.’
BiL: ‘I think you’ve got to be more proactive. If you believe in what you’re doing, your confidence will shine through and they’ll take you seriously. If I didn’t believe in my work then nobody would be interested. That’s the way it goes I’m afraid; if you want to make a success of something you’ve got to be determined.’
Me: (trying not to cry… or seethe too much) ‘Well… okay then, maybe that’s my problem (translation: can we shut up now and drink some wine please?).’
BiL: ‘You know what you should do? If you published it on line, that’s where yo’ll find your audience, you’d be out there and they’d see how good your writing is.’
Me: (fascinated to know how he knows what my writing’s like when he’s never read any of it) ‘Online where exactly?’
BiL: ‘On the internet, that’s when you’re going to get agents and publishers reading it. I bet they’re always online.’
Me: ‘I’ve got a blog. I’ve got all the opening chapters of every book I’ve written on it. And the only way an agent is going to see anything I’ve written is if I mail them and link to my blog.’
BiL: ‘Everybody’s got a blog these days. You want to just publish all your books on the web, that’s the only way to get anyone to read them. Everybody’s on line these days – you’d be surprised what you can find on the internet.’
Me: (No. Actually I wouldn’t) (oh, and seethe) ‘If you mean self-publish, then I have been thinking about it lately but I’ve always been wary of it; I’m scared it’ll make me look like I’m blowing my own trumpet and not having anybody with authority actually validating it and championing me… I think I’d still rather wait and get representation.’
BiL: ‘So if you can publish a book yourself then what’s the problem? Once you’ve got a book in your hands you’ve made it. People start reading it, then they’ll see how you write… that’s the way to get noticed, you’d soon get an agent or a publisher interested then. They’ll find your book online.’
Me: ‘But they’d have to do a search to find anything online. That’s what everyone has to do – they wouldn’t just happen to find it by accident. And anyway, I think they get enough manuscripts sent to them without needing to search on-line for one that isn’t even good enough to secure an agent in the first place...’
BiL: ‘Ah, you’d be surprised. For instance, if, say, they wanted to publish a book about a gardener who drives through Tuscany and all the adventures he has, they could find it no problem… just type in "book... gardener... Tuscany..." publishers are always on the lookout for the next big thing and they've just got to look on the internet to find it. Who knows, it could be you. You just need to get yourself out there. Get seen, you know?
Me: (through teeth so gritted they'd be grand in a snowstorm) ‘Wine anybody?