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What no one tells you about getting published…

(A love story in twenty-five parts)


When the Royal Literary Fund asked me to write an article on this topic, I used Matt Haig’s poem ‘Instructions for my funeral (A love story in twenty-one parts)’ as my inspiration.

  1. You’ll be overcome by euphoria: your childhood dream has come true, and you will feel as if you’ve made it.
  2. You’ll receive a bound proof in the post and your heart will beat a little faster, as if you’re looking at your first born after they’ve grown up and moved out.
  3. You hope that the literary world will receive you as the next Margaret Atwood/Martin Amis/Malcolm Gladwell (delete as appropriate).
  4. It won’t.
  5. You’ll be crippled with self-doubt and anxiety and think you’ve written the worst book in the world.
  6. You haven’t.
  7. You’ll meet up with the marketing team and they’ll delight you with their plans for telling the literary world how brilliant your book is.
  8. They’ll do almost nothing that they have promised. 
  9. Instead, you’ll be required to tweet, write blogs, attempt to get articles in newspapers, and host competitions on your own Facebook page.
  10. On the day of publication, you’ll drink a glass of fizz and post a picture on Twitter of you drinking a glass of fizz, and your words will be washed away in a torrent of other writers’ words. 
  11. There will be a book launch that you have organised but your publicist will take credit for, and a few people, not just your mum, will turn up.
  12. There will be reviews. Some will be excoriating, some will be wonderful, some will be mind-blowingly annoying. One reader will give your book a one-star rating because Amazon didn’t deliver it on time.
  13. If you’re lucky, someone will understand what you wrote and why, and may even see a deeper meaning that you missed. 
  14. A reviewer will claim you’ll win the Booker. 
  15. You will go to literary events. As you sit on a panel, you’ll realise that you’re talking to an audience of writers and wannabe-writers, but not readers.
  16. You will look at your beautiful book and remember the hours, months and even years you spent crafting it, thinking of exactly the right word to put in the right place, and wondering what the characters thought and felt. Acquaintances will ask how many copies you’ve sold.
  17. You’ll wonder how many copies you’ve sold.
  18. The sales team will ask if it’s written by Lee Child or James Patterson and when the answer is no, they won’t attempt to place it in WH Smiths.
  19. You’ll realise that publishing companies are run as if writers are landed aristocrats from the eighteenth century with private incomes, and they will pay you random amounts at random times, but always less than the minimum wage.
  20. You’ll discover that Amazon is as powerful as God: if Amazon decides to sell your book for a penny, all you can do is pray.
  21. Your editor will take off her velvet gloves and say that your book needs to win the Booker, or there will be no more book deals. 
  22. Your book does not win the Booker. 
  23. Belatedly you realise that your editor doesn’t care about your writing unless your book a) makes money, b) brings them kudos, c) wins prizes, or d) all of the above.
  24. After some soul-searching, you’ll understand that what counts is that  you a) love writing, b) can develop your craft by yourself, c) are able to recognise useful feedback, and d) value your own writing. 
  25. Because your childhood dream has come true, and you have made it.

Head over to the Royal Literary Fund’s Showcase website for the full audio version.

What do you think? Was there anything that surprised you? Or if you’ve been published already, what was your experience like?

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