A writer’s angst

When I heard that British writer Preti Taneja (she won the Desmond Elliott Prize for her first novel, We That Are Young) was turned down by all the big names in the publishing industry, I realised that my angst over finding a traditional publisher for my book was misplaced.

Preti’s novel was published by a small publisher in 2016, and the publisher could not understand why there “hadn’t been a bidding war for the rights.”

Preti’s prose, according to the judges, contained “prose as sensual, perfumed and parti-coloured as a wedding basket of ladoo, inset with gems of pure poetry”.

I do not consider myself in Preti’s league, not by a long shot. Then why in the world was I resentful of publishers who did not bother to respond to my book proposal?

I did wonder whether my book proposal was good enough, although I did all the right things by reading HowTo articles. No one asked for the manuscript (in India traditional publishers accept book proposals directly from authors). A friend, who was published by Harper Collins, told me that my book proposal was probably lying in a slush pile somewhere. Harper Collins hasn’t responded even though it has been over 8 months.

I completed my first novel in December 2017. I had written the first draft some years earlier, but the manuscript had been lying around gathering dust. I finally took it up in the summer of 2017 and finished it in six months. Once the 300-page novel was done, I knew I wanted to write 5 more books, two of them non-fiction. God willing, I will do it. It could take years, maybe ten. That doesn’t matter because all that matters is that I love what I am doing.
Nita reading

(This post was originally written for a writing group but as I am not a part of that group now, references to it have been removed)

29 thoughts on “A writer’s angst

  1. Lidy

    Yes you can do it. Read an Writer’s Digest article years ago about the number of times best selling and critically acclaimed books were rejected by publishers. :-O Guess it’s necessary to go through being rejected because eventually your work will be found by someone who truly believes in it and will support the hell out of it.

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  2. Lee Lowery

    Many authors endured long waits and rejection before landing the right publishing home. Hang in there and keep believing in yourself!

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  3. Nick Wilford

    Enjoying yourself is the most important thing! Whether a book gets snapped up by a big publisher only has a little to do with its quality – there are lots of other factors involved like trends and just how a publisher feels on any particular day. We don’t need that validation to know we’re doing something worthwhile. Sounds like you’ve been bitten by the writing bug, so have fun with all your upcoming projects!

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    1. Nita

      True, market trends are important. And also the state of the publishing industry. Today, the economics of the publishing world have changed, and publishers prefer safe bets rather than venture into the unknown. And I don’t really blame them.

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  4. Joey

    I would occasionally re-read my novel and think “this is better than a lot of big publishing house books I read.” I self published about a year ago, about 30 people have read the book and a dozen of those have expressed positive feelings about it. So it’s a success even though my daughter frequently tells me that I should “write another one and get it published for real.”

    That only hurts my feelings a little.

    I think you need to seek satisfaction from within. Even Harper Collins authors have insecurities. They must, don’t you think?

    Good luck with you goals! You most certainly can do it!

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    1. Nita

      Congratulations on the publication of your first book! And well, it is publishing for real, because finally it depends on the quality of the book, not a stamp of approval by a traditional publishing house. I think what is needed is marketing. Perhaps if you do that, your sales could increase. And yes, of course even authors published by traditional publishing houses are insecure. I have a good friend who has been published by HC, and she is most dissatisfied with her sales, and complains that the publishing house does not do proper marketing and distribution. Finally, it boils down to that.

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    1. Nita

      The more I hear about agents, the more dismayed I am! I guess we are lucky here in India, in the sense we can directly communicate with publishing houses. But the downside is, they may be even busier than the agents!

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  5. Tamara Narayan

    I don’t know if Harper Collins would respond to authors who send in their manuscripts or letters. The big publishers usually work with agents. Good luck with whatever path you chose.

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    1. Nita

      Tamara, it’s different in India. Harper Collins accepts direct submissions from authors. There are hardly any reputable agents in India, that is the reason, and the majority of authors work without agents.

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  6. J.S. Pailly

    I’ve heard so many stories of great writers being turned down over and over again by the major publishers. It’s not an exact science, the way agents and publishers handle submissions.

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  7. Patricia Lynne (@plynne_writes)

    I always find it interesting to hear rejection stories from authors who have amazing books that thousands of people love. If anything, it gives me hope. Sure I may have gotten rejected by publisher A, but the next one might be the golden ticket I’m looking for just like another famous author.

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    1. Nita

      Yes, me too. And I find it particularly interesting to know that when book publishing first started there were no publishing houses and no agents. Writers had to pay for the publishing themselves, or try and get finance from some source.

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  8. mlouisebarbourfundyblue

    You have accomplished so much already, Nita! I’m still working on my first full length manuscript, although I have done other kinds of writing. Rejection is part of the game. Hang in there and keep writing for enjoyment! Good luck!

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