Snakes and Ladders

Well, I must con­fess to a couple of shitty days, work-wise.

First up, I noticed that some joker — no, I won’t provide the eff­ing link — has placed Déjà Vu in his top five worst books of 2005. At that point, I wasn’t hav­ing a bad day. It was just mid­dlin’. Next, I get one of those stand­ard ‘Sorry, try again,’ emails from MacMillan New Writing; I’d sent them my com­edy nov­el ‘Proper Job’, which an agent recently wrote was ‘fresh, lean, ori­gin­al and invent­ive’ (though, to be fair, that same agent did go on to say that humour is vir­tu­ally impossible to sell, and I should give up imme­di­ately). By then, I would describe my mood as ‘mildly piqued’. Gumblings: Hah! What do they know? I’ll show ‘em. Etc.

Then, to round off the day, I get a call from the agent who is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing Déjà Vu. You might remem­ber from a pre­vi­ous post that Scott Pack, chief buy­er for Waterstone’s, saw this blog and asked for a copy of my book. He read it and enjoyed it. Amongst oth­er things, he said, ‘the thrill­er ele­ment would hold its own with most of the books we sell in quantity…the char­ac­ter­isa­tion was very strong…the end­ing left me impressed as I put the book down’. Scott then con­tac­ted some lit­er­ary agents, one of whom con­tac­ted me. We chat­ted on the phone and I sent him a copy of Déjà Vu.

So away. The agent called me back yes­ter­day with the ‘thanks but no thanks’ speech. Very polite, and refresh­ingly hon­est. He got half way through the book and decided that he would not be able to cham­pi­on it at meet­ings.

Arf. Mood meter drops some­what.

I’m appro­pri­ately jaun­diced about this industry. I mean, it’s get­ting on for elev­en years since I sold my first short story as a teen­ager, and in that time I’ve writ­ten four-and-a-half nov­els. I’ve read a num­ber of good books and a num­ber of crap ones. I’m aware that pub­lish­ing is a lot­tery, and I’m aware that a writer is, essen­tially, a fool­ish per­son who works — often for years — in the face of long odds. The writer doesn’t expect the reward of fame, or for­tune. Like a car­penter or any oth­er manu­al work­er, he only wants people to buy his stuff so he can afford food while he’s mak­ing the next thing.

Me: “Can I interest you in this lovely mahogany num­ber? I made it myself. Took me five years, and the side­board-crit­ics love it.”

Customer: “No, thanks. We just bought a side­board from Ikea.”

Me: “Why? They’re flat-packed. They’re mass-pro­duced and lack heart. Look, I’ve carved little mice into the legs. They’re prac­tic­ally scam­per­ing. Here, micey -”

Customer: “But our side­board has a vaguely sexu­al Swedish name. It’s called Smegsmog. And everyone’s talk­ing about it. The Stockwells at num­ber five just bought one, for Christ’s sake.”

Me: “But what about the side­boards of tomor­row? What if they only came from Ikea?”

Customer: “Good-bye. You might shift more units if you served meat­balls.”

Anyway, reas­ons to be cheer­ful: (1) If Déjà Vu attrac­ted one agent, it might attract anoth­er; (2) Wonderful girl­friend, who seems to believe in me des­pite these con­stant mes­sages replies of ‘not good enough’ from pub­lish­ers and agents; (3) Good health; (4) Blog on which I can moan.


Progress on ‘Flashback’, sequel to ‘Déjà Vu’:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meterZokutou word meter
75,246 / 120,000


Written while listen­ing to Don’t Phunk With My Heart from the album “Dont Phunk With My Heart (UK single ver­sion)” by Black Eyed Peas

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

5 thoughts on “Snakes and Ladders”

  1. You were only jok­ing about Ikea but you struck a note of truth:

    It’s not as much about the goods as it is the brand.

    What brand are you? What brand is your book?

    As for Grumpin’ McGrumpinstein, I think that’s the real job of every writer. I’m with ya there!

  2. Hi, Ian. Just thought I’d stop by.

    Hang on in there. It may be hard to see from your per­spect­ive, but you’re mak­ing pro­gress. You’ve done well with Deja Vu, and can use it as a step­ping stone (as you have been doing).

    Like car­pentry, pub­lish­ing is all about who you know. Other than keep­ing on writ­ing, the only advice I can give is to get along to as many parties, con­ven­tions and launches as you can. I’ve seen how it oper­ates from the inside, and yeah, it’s put me off enough to only attempt to get any­where once I’ve a mas­ter­work in the bag, which maybe isn’t so hot an idea. My writing’s cer­tainly slumped a bit quant­ity-wise over the last year or so.

    In short, keep on ‘em, lad. And the micey com­ment made me laugh

  3. ok buddy, hang in there. i’m glad you ended this post on a rel­at­ively good note. check out my friend mendy’s VERY FIRST entry (there are only a hand­ful up now, so just scroll down) titled Start Where You Are at and see if that doesn’t inspire you to keep on keep­in’ on. it’s a tough life, but as she says, she is one of the wealth­i­est people she knows (and she’s not talk­ing about dough, here).
    good luck and keep with it. some­thing will give even­tu­ally.

  4. I’ve enjoyed read­ing your blog and in par­tic­u­lar your struggles get­ting in to book stores! I write because I love writ­ing and because I love to make people laugh but don’t have the guts to get up on stage!
    Keep up the good work, hope you don’t mind if I put a link to your blog on mine!
    Helen Leggatt

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