I know a little bit about rejection.
When ‘Shadows’ hit the shelves in July this year, it was one of the most significant days of my life. And it was 17 years in the making.
It came on the back of five other manuscripts, a short-story and two plays. And a big fat folder of rejection letters.
Fortunately, my love of writing was stronger than the frustration and pain of those rejections. Because, yes, it hurts to put your heart and soul into and story and be told it’s not what the market is looking for right now. Or that it’s too hard to break a new author into a particular genre. Or that you write too much dialogue.
Before ‘Shadows’, I wrote five other full-length manuscripts. With each one, my writing improved. I read more. I went to festivals. I spoke to other writers. I learned.
Because of my professional background (journalism and public relations), I knew how to write a good query letter to publishers, so I often got a foot through the door and at least had my work read. (For many new writers, rejection starts at this point – publishers say no before even seeing what you’ve done.)
Over the years, my rejection letters become more complimentary. My manuscripts made it further into the process, even got close a couple of times. But the end result was always the same: rejection.
And then I got an agent: Lyn Tranter of Australian Literary Management. That was a landmark day to say the least. Suddenly I had a well-respected agent on my side, taking my work to publishers, working for that elusive publishing deal.
Lyn signed me on the strength of a more traditional fantasy series I was writing at that time, and we got very close to a deal with a major publisher. But still no cigar. And let me tell you, rejection hurts even more the closer you get.
But I learned a lot through all these years of rejections. I learned more about the craft of writing and publishing industry. I learned that I loved writing so much I couldn’t stop, no matter how frustrated I got.
Which brings me to the happy part of the story. After that last rejection with the fantasy series, I started writing something just for me – working with an idea I’d had floating around in the back of my mind for a while. It was in a genre I loved but hadn’t ventured into as a writer: paranormal. And it was like I opened the floodgates. The characters came easily, the story quickly. I’d never had so much fun writing.
I wrote 20 pages the first weekend I started ‘playing’. I had 90 pages two weeks later. I showed my agent. She loved it. I kept writing. And then I had a full manuscript and a plan for a four-book series. Not long after, my agent mentioned it to an editor from Text Publishing. She was interested and it went off to be read. People at Text liked it. Loved it even.
And then the biggest moment of all: I was offered a contract. I still don’t have the words to describe that moment (although ‘I thought I would explode’ comes close).
More than 12 months on, Text has signed all four books in my ‘Rephaim’ series. Indigo (art of Orion Books) will publish ‘Shadows’ in the United Kingdom in January, and ‘Haze’ (book 2) in June (when it also comes out here and in New Zealand). Tundra Books (part of Random House) will publish ‘Shadows’ and ‘Haze’ in the US and Canada next year.
There’s no finish line in the publishing world; books still need to sell. But I’ve reached a place that for so long seemed beyond my reach – and I make sure I stop occasionally and remember just how grateful I am.
The whole of point this post is to reinforce that well-worn piece of advice about never giving up. Because, honestly, the harder you have to work for something, the more precious it is.
Now, Inky wanted to see some dog hugging (after Monday's tree hugging), so he's me hugging my dog Freddie. :)