I often wonder how much content the blogosphere would be left with if everyone with a form rejection letter-shaped chip on their shoulder suddenly stopped venting their misplaced anger, bitterness and contempt towards the “evil gatekeepers” who they believe are hell bent on preventing them from achieving their published writer dreams. What would happen if every blogger, Tweeter or Facebooker who thinks that all agents and editors do is sit around all day with just two things on their mind – money, and new ways to keep us ordinary folk from joining their exclusive, published writer club – suddenly got off the Bad News train?
(Why it never occurs to these rejected writers that the problem is not publishing, but them, that they might just not be good enough, is a mystery to me. But that’s a matter for another day…)
Right now, the self-publishing evangelists would have you believe that it’s easier to get struck by lightning in the jaws of a shark while holding a winning lottery ticket than it is to get published, and statistically, they’re probably right. But as I’ve said before, the statistics take into account all of the books and all of the writers. If you’re a good or great writer, and you write a good or great book, and you write that book at the right time and the book ends up in the right place, then your chances are significantly improved. Then, instead of a pie in the sky dream of publication, your chances of seeing your book on the shelves becomes not only possible, but likely.
I can say this with some certainty because today, I have one very happy and very deserving Twitter friend who is waking up this morning with probably just one thing on her mind: the launch of her debut novel, which is taking place in Dublin tonight.
Well, I’m not friends with Murakami…!
I first met Maria Duffy on Twitter. When you’re an Irish woman writer, aspiring or otherwise, the best thing you can do is to start following Vanessa O’Loughlin (@inkwellHQ) on Twitter, because as the owner of Inkwell Writers workshops and services and the founder of Writing.ie, she tends to know us all. I have a vague recollection of Vanessa “introducing” me, on Twitter, to Maria and telling me she had just signed up. With “writer” in her Twitter username – @mduffywriter – I knew we had a common goal: to achieve our published writer dreams, to pursue them at all costs despite occasionally overwhelming unlikeliness.
I first met her in person at an Inkwell “Getting Published” workshop soon afterwards, where Maria spoke of her novels and her hope – her dream, really – that she would one day be published. The next time I saw her was at another Dublin writerly event, this time at Irish PEN, where she whispered her exciting news to me: she’d got an agent. And not just any agent, but one who has had phenomenal success with a dizzying array of Irish women writers, many of them household names. Then, a few months later, the big news came: Maria had signed a two-book deal with Hachette Ireland and her debut novel, Any Dream Will Do, would be released in November.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. Of course I’m jealous. But only a tiny bit. What I really am is hopeful. What I really am is encouraged. What I really am is happy. Because Maria’s success means that people are still getting deals. Writing dreams are still coming true. Readers (and so, editors) are still looking for the kind of books I hope I write.
One of the first things I’m going to do when I get home (from here) is visit my favorite bookshop to pick up a copy of Any Dream Will Do. But for now, I’m just going to tell you about it. Because despite what the self-publishing evangelists, digital revolutionaries and the Angry Army of the Rejected would have you believe, writers are still getting published. Writers are still getting book deals. Traditional publishing is still happening.
Writing dreams are still coming true.
So don’t give up yet. Next time, it could be you.
Congratulations Maria. Enjoy tonight! x
UPDATE: Everyone is loving the Good News Train! Click here to read what my editor, Sarah Franklin, has to say about this (nutshell: self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to automatically sign up for a Angry Self-Publishing Evangelists membership card) and click here to read what Jane Smith, she of the almighty How Publishing Really Works, has to say about how hard Maria’s worked to get to this point.