A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

On Failure by Matt Ralphs

 Who’ d be a writer?

When I set my sights on becoming a professional writer (and by professional I mean that’s how I earn my money) I knew what I was letting myself into. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew there were no guarantees of success, even of the most limited kind.

My insight into the challenges of making a living from writing came from my career as an editor for a fairly big name publisher. I read and rejected submitted manuscripts every week. I knew that having an agent was no guarantee of getting a publishing deal. Hell, I knew having a great manuscript wasn’t always enough – sometimes editors can love a submission only to be told by marketing or sales that the concept isn’t commercial enough, or that there’s already something similar in the schedule. There are any number of reasons a manuscript can be rejected, and there’s little the submitter can do about it.

And even if a publisher takes on a book, they still have to convince the shrinking number of bookshops to display it on tables instead of the dozens of other releases they’ve been offered that month. And it’s a near-fatal blow if the bookshops say no, because it means the browsing book-lover is unlikely to come across your labour of love to pick up and buy. And even if the book does end up in a bookshop, the public simply might not want it. For a writer the whole process from sending the book to agents to getting it into shops is one of battling indifference and rejection from the various parties on the way.

Yet despite this, I and countless others ignore the frankly terrible odds and make a stab at it anyway. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some success. I’ve had a few books published, including two novels – MG adventures Fire Girl and Fire Witch – that I’m very proud of.

I’ve also had plenty to rejections, and I fully expect to have more in the future. The fight to be a published author does not end just because you have a few books with your name on. The bottom line is publishers have to judge by the bottom line. A wonderful idea, a brilliant concept, a unique prose style are not necessarily going to convince a publisher that the writer is going to make them money.

Rejection is a bitter drink that every writer has to swallow. But over the years I’ve learnt that rejection – be it from an agent, an editor, or competition judge – is not the same as failure. Giving up on your stories and your dreams of becoming (or continuing to be) a writer – now that’s failure.

So, who’d be a writer? Me, thank you very much, and I’ll consider myself lucky to be one, no matter how hard it can sometimes be. Besides, if it weren’t for the failures, success, when it comes, wouldn’t taste so sweet.


This entry was posted on December 16, 2016 by .

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