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The Failed Novelist

9 Apr 2017

This week, an article in The Guardian entitled How I Really Feel: The Failed Novelist stirred up quite a conversation in writing circles. The response was mostly split between those who believed she’d given up too easily and those who sympathised on how crushing rejection can be. Most people, however, were agreed that part of the cause for this author to fall crashing down to Earth was because she’d fixed her expectations too tightly on the big six publishing idyll and having agent representation.


Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good to set your sights high and there’s no reason you shouldn’t strive for that goal, but I also believe in having a plan B, because there is a huge wall around the publishing industry and it takes a mountain of tenacity and tools to break through, if ever you do.


I sympathise with the author on how frustrating it can be, striving for a goal that seems so unobtainable, and especially when it's so difficult to secure even the smallest of recognition that you are making progress. In most other professions there is usually some sort of concrete reward to keep you motivated, but with the aspiring novelist that's often not the case -- you must motivate yourself in blind faith of your own abilities and determination.  Even so, many well-known authors didn’t find a publishing deal until four or seven books in. It seems to me fantasy overtook pragmatism here, and it has burned this person badly. However, what interests me more is, with all the many options available today, how this author ended up believing that having an agent and a novel published by one of the big five was the only course of play and anything less was not even deemed a worthy consideration.


Part of it, stems from the belief that the only way to prove you are any good at writing is to be traditionally published. And many people would argue that is more to do with the author’s need for validation than a real expectation of society. Perhaps, but you speak to anyone who isn’t a writer and, as much as we in the community can tell ourselves that it is more respected these days, many people still write-off self-publishing as a load of old chaff. Often, this theory is supported because at some point in their lives they have had a friend or colleague ask them to read their book (because hasn’t everyone written a book by n