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The Rejection Game

There is a saying in the publishing world that holds a lot of weight to it:

You can’t get published unless you have an agent,

and you can’t get an agent unless you have been published.

I wrote my 1st novel when I was 23. I remember carefully researching literary agents that would represent my work and make it a success. I wrote a cover letter, a literary cv, a detailed synopsis and bought the Stamped Addressed Envelopes - I posted my material in the hope of hooking an agent. I couldn’t wait for the replies to come back, and for my dream of becoming published to finally become a reality.

Weeks passed until one day I arrived home and discovered one of my Stamped Address Envelopes in the mail box. I was so excited. How naive I was not to realise that SAE envelopes mailed from a literary agency meant only one thing - REJECTION!

I started to collect my rejection letters and I’ll be honest, my first book gained me 31 and my second book gained me 23. I had success with small time publishing but I wanted to be an novelist, to share my story with many and to see my work in print and in a bookshop. I really believed in myself, and had read enough published novels to know that I was capable of writing better than many who had been successfully published.

The rejection game made me disillusioned. I was beginning to accept that maybe it was a dream not worth chasing. But, I knew that the moment I gave up on the dream that the dream would die. For a long time I wrecked my brain trying to think of the plot that would give me that best seller, but time and time again the ideas eluded me, or a little background research only revealed that someone had already written something similar to what I was considering.

About six years ago, a friend asked me if I’d ever considered writing a children’s novel. I dismissed his suggestion right away. As a teacher my writing was my escapism from the strains and the stresses of the day job, the last thing I wanted to do was to write for children as well.

But, my opinion changed one day when I went to visit the Dark Hedges in County Antrim (The Road To King’s Landing in The Game Of Thrones), when I suddenly had an idea for a children’s story. That night I went home, drafted the outline of the story and was convinced I was onto a winner. For months I would get up at 5am and write for two hours, head off to teach at school and in the evening spend another three hours working on the script. After several months I had finished the script, and took a chance by bringing it into my classroom and read it to my children.

I didn’t tell the children that I’d written it, but I wanted to see if they would laugh at the story or find it boring. I started to read the script and from the very first line they buckled with laughter and I knew that I had written something good. My children were obsessed with the book and other teachers were asking for it. But, I kept it close to my chest and knew that I had to take the plunge and get this book into the hands of a very successful agent.

I contacted three well known children’s literary agents and… naturally awaited for their rejections.

Three days later, I got a reply from one of England’s best literary agents. She wanted to read the whole book. I sent it off at once and that night she rang me. She was excited and for over an hour she asked me questions as to how I saw the next books in the series progress. She asked me not to approach any other agents but to give her a day or two and she would get back to me. A few days later she wanted to meet me face to face, and we arranged a meeting.

During our meeting she made it clear that she wanted to represent me exclusively. She wanted me to work with one of her editors, which I did and then she started to ‘Field’ the script to publishers. Her belief in what I had written was high. I was so excited knowing that I had broken through the glass ceiling and was on the verge of living my dream. I even celebrated with friends knowing that it was about to happen.

Days, weeks, months went by … Then I got the phonecall from her. No publisher was interested! I remember the numbness that I felt and the silence between us. She rattled off the names of publishers who’d she’d contacted and their feedback appeared cold and similar. My agent had tried, she was a lady, and even though she was established the industry had beaten her. In the end, she couldn’t make my dream happen.

I was gutted beyond description. I considered releasing the book myself, but discovered that children don’t tend to by e-books.

To have come so close - yet… It was a hard lesson to learn.

I put the pen down for over a year. I was about to give up on the dream until one day… as I listened to a street preacher in Chicago an idea was born. An idea that excited me more than the children’s book, an idea for a story that I knew would entertain many people.

In the end I have joined the self publishing revolution and It has been an incredible start. My book is selling well and the reviews are excellent. The feedback from readers via social media has been excellent and I know that this book will only go from strength to strength.

So, if you haven't read Pontifex Maximus give it a go - from what my readers are telling me - you won't be disappointed.

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