Monday, May 04, 2009

Rejections, career thoughts and a literary sex-fest

Was rather sent reeling by a rejection by the last publisher I'd sent my poetry chapbook, Salt and Gold, to yesterday. I don't know why - I'd fully expected to be rejected, as my poetry collections always are. So I don't know why I was so horribly upset but I was. God knows why I even bother thinking of commercial publication for my poetry anyway. I mean they only sell out when I'm paying the money raised to charity, as in my first collection, Tidal. My second collection, A Stranger's Table, sold the grand total of eleven copies and the rest I gave away to friends as presents. One writing friend (so really there's no excuse and I'd never dream of doing this, ever ...) even said she'd buy a copy and give me the money later, and then after a couple of days she returned it, saying she'd read it, had thoroughly enjoyed the collection but she'd finished with it now and didn't need to pay. Lordy, no wonder I actually have very little confidence, no matter how much I walk the walk. As it were. But really, I should have learnt my lesson from all that. I think what I'll do from now on is simply self-publish my poetry collections online, and then people can ignore them or read them as they fancy. Without me having to put myself through the mill like this. It's not pleasant, believe me.

All this trying to find a way through the poetry minefield has reminded me that I started writing fiction in 2000, and said then that I'd give it ten years of trying to find a commercial publisher before having a very big rethink of the attempt at a writing vocation I've been trying to follow. Well, it's 2010 next year, and maybe I have to start preparing myself to tackle that rethink. Not that I haven't found a commercial publisher - I have. Three times. Four if you count the eBooks. But none of my previous publication "successes" have actually been at all successful. By any measure. Yes, several people do enjoy what I produce - and I'm hugely grateful to them for that. But I've never made any money from A Dangerous Man at all, Maloney's Law is selling very poorly and a couple of key gay reviewers have really disliked it which I don't think has helped, and the eBooks of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice and Thorn in the Flesh are also selling poorly. Or, more truthfully, not selling at all.

I do have the upcoming release of The Bones of Summer in June, but I'm trying not to be too hopeful about it as previous experience tells me that - for whatever reason, and to be honest I don't know what that reason is - I'm not as popular a writer as other gay fiction authors, and I simply can't keep up with their sales or readership levels. Meanwhile, there continues to be no news on the sale or otherwise of The Gifting. For that book, I plan to send it out one more time only over the summer, to a small publisher. If that fails, for my own sanity (not to mention Lord H's), I need to draw a line under it, self-publish it, if only for my own sense of completion, and then move on. As and when that scenario occurs, I also believe it to be time to part company from my agent - I simply can't take the agonised half-hope that by default having an agent brings, alongside the terrible sense of gloom when reality sets in.

With all that in mind, last night I went through my list of favourite websites and blogs of successful writers I keep on my system and deleted those who I don't think are doing or will do me any good, or who are making me feel even more despairing about the writing life (through, I hasten to add, no fault of their own) than I need to be. So if anyone out there discovers they've lost a blog follower, I apologise in advance if it's me, wish you all good luck in your career but I suspect you don't need the support as much as I need the space.

Anyway. Enough. To today. I had a lovely lie-in and didn't get up till 8.30am. Which is an extra two hours snoozing, hurrah. I then added some more words to that key battle scene in Hallsfoot's Battle, which brings me to the higher echelons of 116,000 words. I have a rough idea as to how the rest of the scene will go until the final victory arrives, but I'll take it slowly and see how it pans out. Oh, and here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 122

What is lost
can a second time
be remade.

Damaged stone
can be recut
and vanished words

All through everything
you have done

or failed to do –
the tears at night
and the dim courage

of dawn,
God has never
ceased to listen.

Which somehow, bearing in mind the day's thoughts, probably makes sense. Of some kind or other. This afternoon, I popped up to the hospital as the neighbour isn't too good at the moment and had another chat with Gisela who was also there. Poor Henry though - I have a feeling he was rather overwhelmed by the amount of chat and general noise G and I can produce, but hell that's Surrey Gals for you, eh! I also took the opportunity to visit Tesco's next door to the hospital on the way out and bought lasagne and garlic bread and birdseed. Well, you have to keep those essentials in stock always, you know. It's astonishing I didn't buy chocolate really, but in my defence we do seem to have vast quantities of chocolate in the flat right now.

Tonight, I'm hoping to get round to watching my video of Boy Meets Girl, then there's Ashes to Ashes and I absolutely must video Compulsion, the bonkbuster sex-fest with Ray Winstone that's on the other side. Lordy I can't miss that. I would say it's because it's an update of that wonderful Jacobean tragedy, The Changeling, which is so utterly my period, dahlings. But that would be lying - hell, it's got sex in it. What more could you want??

Today's nice things:

1. Taking steps to alleviate pain
2. A lie in
3. Writing Hallsfoot
4. Poetry
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Race for Life - supporting Cancer Research


Jilly said...

I'm sorry you had a rejection, Amne, and I suspect how you react to them depends how you feel at the time. I wonder whether Carol Ann Duffy's appointment as Poet Laureate will do something for poetry sales in general?
I don't know much about the gay fiction market for fiction about men but is it dominated by male writers? If so have you thought of using initials rather than your Christian name? You've probably thought of it already so feel free to metaphorically throw something at the screen . . . . Hugs from someone who does enjoy your fiction though I'm not a poetry peson.

Anne Brooke said...

Thanks, Jilly! And I'm hugging the screen - naturally - I'm certainly not throwing things at it!!

Yes, I'm not sure initials would help - though if publishers ever ask, I don't really mind what I'm called. Weirdly a lot of gay fiction is read by women - maybe they just don't like my name?!



Anonymous said...

Anne, I wonder if you have much of a local network to support your poetry? I used to work for a small poetry publisher in Coventry, and certainly they sold very few copies of their chapbooks, but those that did sell were sold at local open mics, local poetry readings, etc. etc. If you can build or join a network of poets, focused around regular events, it does boost sales. Also, remember, self published/ traditional published is not such a massive division in poetry as it is in fiction (or god forbid, children's fiction). People don't sell more copies necessarily by being traditionally published. As in the publisher I worked for, the line was very fine between 'self published' and 'published by someone else but the someone else is my mate'. So I wouldn't worry too much if small presses won't take it - in poetry you don't necessarily need a traditional publisher at all. There are only about 4 or 5 who publish poetry in any quantity in the UK, anyway, and we all know how much of a closed shop they are. Poets can go the self-publishing route without fear, that's what I think anyway. Good luck.

Anne Brooke said...

Yes, that's certainly what I've found, BCW - wise advice for sure. Strangely, my best-selling work so far is the self-published version of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice. Very strange!



Anonymous said...

Hi Anne, This post makes me sad. :(
I don't know what to say because you are frigging talented writer. I didn't mention this before, but I've been doing some networking over here within the gay community re: Maloney's Law. Your name is getting around but by the sound of our heart, it seems a weak attempt on my part and I will try to do more from here. Either way, I'll keep promoting your work, if that's okay with you. HUGS Anne.

Anne Brooke said...

Oh so sorry, Val - didn't mean to upset anyone!!! I was trying to be realistic about it all, rather than hugely down really.

But thanks so much for your support - you're a superstar in any country indeed. Though don't forget to concentrate on your very exciting news and upcoming publication though!!


Love & hugs


litlove said...

I've got to know several talented authors through blogging and the story about publishing is always the same - endless chaos, rejections, disappointments, neglect and hardly ever the marketing that any book needs to sell in any kind of quantity. I don't know anything about poetry but thought the other commenter very wise. What strikes me is how amazingly prolific you've been in the past 9 years - that's incredible! And I think you still enjoy the writing (as much as anyone enjoys producing a first draft!). So to me that's pretty impressive success.

Big hugs! xoxox

Anne Brooke said...

Very true, LL - it's a difficult world out there. I'm just deciding to enjoy the writing without the stress of it - which explains the backing away from a professional approach.


Love & hugs to you


Jane Turley said...

I'm gobsmacked at your writing friend's behaviour; I hope you wrote an appropriate moral poem for her subsequent enjoyment!

Writing is such a difficult business. It would be lovely if just the satisfaction of writing was payment enough but it is so very difficult not to measure ourselves in monetary terms, especially when one has to make a living. Just to make you feel better; I haven't earnt a penny yet!

I enjoyed your article over at The View - realised I used to read the cereal packets too! I didn't study English at Uni though - having done A level Eng Lit and Theatre studies I was already blown out on the over analysis which you mentioned. I did History instead - although intially I'd intended to do Theatre Studies. Not doing Eng Lit has probably hampered my development as a writer (Only been doing last 3 years or so) but then History gave me other things - certainly a curosity about the past/things in general that feeds my imagination.

Good luck with the writing and I agree - get rid of those things that get you down - like that "friend". Gimme a George Clooney video and a bar of choccy any day to lift the spirits!

Anne Brooke said...

Ooh, glad I'm not the only secret cereal packet reader, Jane! And I think history is a wonderful basis for writing. Lucky you!

Love that George Clooney idea - great inspiration, mmm ...