Thursday, January 26, 2006

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


Blogger redchurch said...

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!

3:30 PM  
Anonymous NeilA said...

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

3:45 PM  
Blogger Katey Schultz said...

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.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spotted this, and thought it might be interesting:
Best wishes,
a Regular Reader of your blog!

8:05 PM  

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Helen Leggatt said...

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

11:48 PM  
Blogger Dr Ian Hocking said...

Thanks for your comment, Helen, and feel free to link to me on your blog!

8:27 AM  

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