My Sixteenth Novel
I had hoped that by now, Spring 2017, I would be posting a blog about the launch of my latest novel, 'Good Girls'. It has been finished for many months. Indeed, I am already well into that enjoyable early phase of my next work-in-progress, when everything still feels possible as opposed to flailing out of control and needing pinning down.
The dispiriting truth about 'Good Girls' however, is that it has yet to find a publisher. With fifteen titles under my belt - averaging a novel every two years over a thirty year career - not to mention many hundreds of thousands of sales, this has come as a shock. 'Good Girls' is a fine book. I chose not to sign a contract to write it because I wanted more time than a contract would have allowed in order to make it as good as it could be. It is far better, I must reluctantly admit, than several books I have had published in the past. My agent (Agent of The Year, no less, and widely respected) loves it. Between us we have been working hard to find a willing home. But so far to no avail.
My agent, digging for consolation, has pointed out that I am fortunate not to have suffered rejection before. And yes, I suppose that's one way of looking at it. E... f course I HAVE suffered rejection in my life - some of it truly terrible - but never in terms of getting novels published. Every book I have written has been greeted by an editor with open arms.
So this hurts. I mean it REALLY hurts. In fact, it is something of a body-blow to my intrinsically fragile artistic confidence. On top of which, I feel bad to be letting down all the readers who DO like my stuff - many of whom have written to me in bafflement asking why there is still no new Amanda Brookfield on the shelves four years after the publication of 'The Love Child'.
Self-publishing of course remains an option. But after 30 years of mainstream publishing houses - Weidenfeld & Nicholson, Hodder & Stoughton, Penguin - with all the attendant marketing support, branding assistance and publicity strategy that such places provide - I am not yet ready to go down what will be a much narrower, personally highly arduous road in an already extremely overcrowded arena, when all I really want to do is focus my energies on writing my next novel.
Whenever something goes wrong in my life my instinct is always to try to understand why. Understanding may not provide solutions, but it can offer a certain solace. So here are my thoughts on why no one has yet stepped forward to publish my sixteenth novel:
- When reading a work to which they hold no contractual obligation, bombarded editors at publishing houses are predisposed to look for reasons NOT to take a manuscript rather than the other way round. (This is why a lot of poor books make it onto the shelves).
- 'Good Girls' will not be a Global Bestseller and make them squillions. (No,it won't).
- Each publisher probably thinks that because 'Good Girls' is a strong, well-written story, "somewhere else" is bound to accept it for publication. (No, by definition, that is not the case)
- My clutch of extremely - maddeningly - complimentary rejection letters tells me that Literary Houses judge 'Good Girls' to be too "commercial", while Commercial Houses think it too "literary." i.e. It is a novel that does not fit neatly into an easy marketing 'box'.
- The story in 'Good Girls' unfurls gradually, taking the reader to some unforseeable, very dark, as well as richly rewarding places. In other words it is a novel - like all my novels - that requires a certain immersion and commitment for its power to be felt. But we live in a world that is increasingly about the Quick-Hit: Quick fame, Quick money, Quick thrills, Quick Entertainment.
All of the above notwithstanding, and despite my battered confidence, I remain certain that the many thousands of readers who have enjoyed my previous 15 books will like 'Good Girls'. Some may even love it. But because I am not (yet) a global bestseller they remain a minority; and the harsh truth is that as our world sweeps on in its noisy, mighty, unstoppable way, it is always the minorities - the smaller quieter voices - who are the first to be drowned out.
There. I have fixed my glare upon my problem and I am comforted.