“nice deal” $1 – $49,000
“very nice deal” $50,000 – $99,000
“good deal” $100,000 – $250,000
“significant deal” $251,000 – $499,000
“major deal” $500,000 and up

Several publishers have published my non-fiction, but like many people I secretly yearn to publish a novel. I wrote one called ‘The Gritties’and have lucked out with a most fab agent to sell it. But this ‘sell it’ is proving harder to do than say: the manuscript is getting repeatedly rejected. Some of the calls seem very close: ‘almost-takers’ which are more maddening than immediate and direct rejections. Even though in my day job I am used to ongoing and regular feedback, there is something about creating a novel that is so deeply personal and about who I am, that responses like ‘stereotypes with no clear insight’ turn over in my mind for several days. There’s no way round it – I hurt.


‘Yeah well, strike up the violins and get over yourself , love’


Now the rational part of my mind knows writers need to be sensitive, and emotion to be at the core of great writing. Writers too, above all else, are originators, like Sian Cummins at yet-to-be-published . We will get ourselves heard. And feedback of course, is vital in all parts of life. It helps us:

  • survive : like when we say ‘no’ to our 2 year old as they scuttle towards the open fire
  • learn and improve
  • realize a context is not for us : the feedback may be along such alien criteria to us, we realize we share no priorities with the giver. At a Persuasive Speaking workshop someone once wrote as feedback ‘She did not cover minute-taking’. After puzzling over this, it occurred the critic had spent the entire day in the wrong workshop.
  • gain insight into the feedback giver.


Negativity and Ballast


Yesterday, at a great seminar , Helen Reynolds from Monmouthsire County Council described a successful experiment with councillors engaging directly in real time with their constituents through Twitter. Savvy Helen and her colleagues have realized how feedback comes from people who care, and that if you engage with these people and return the care, they often react more positively.

Which is why of course, the feedback on Amazon is consistently weighted towards the negative: no conversation about intention is facilitated here. The critics show they care about the books – but we the authors are unable to show how we care back.

No matter how painful, our world now is increasingly one of feedback, referral and recommendation. When I work with some of the bright and talented, but out-of-work graduates, on our university Employability programme, a part of me wants to scream :‘ For some of you the feedback you are getting currently on your prospects is truly dreadful. It is a reflection of current context – not who you are. Find your ballast’.

Ah yes, finding our ballast. We all need that. Those core qualities that say ‘this is who I am, what matters to me and what I am good at’. Our declaration of essence if you like, which will keep us upright and standing , however fierce the flak of the feedback. Ballast that can be restored and replenished by reminding ourselves of what we have achieved, where we have travelled from and who values and appreciates us. And which helps us sometimes to say :‘To hell with you! You may not want me or my ideas, but someone else will one day – and you know what? I will prevail’.

The more we know about the contexts in which we want to succeed , the more likely we are to prevail.


Hope for Writers


During the writing of this post, I came across this tweet from a Commissioning Editor:

‘All afternoon criticizing someone’s novel TO THEIR FACE. Writer said they appreciated it, but how? Always amazed at stoicism of writers’

Well , Commissioning Editor, sometimes bad attention is better than any at all – and who knows? – writers can be weird people and they may have been getting off on it. The writers I know all experience an overwhelming compunction to connect, provoke and entertain, while battling against all sorts of setbacks. But as Anis Shivani says in a recent Huffington Post provocation : ‘The writer must never, ever complain about revision; he must only express unqualified gratitude for it’.

But what I know is this. This digital context where you and I are now in conversation is advancing unstoppably. It is a context where some of the smartest people in the world are seeking progress, in my view. For we writers, technology and publishing perform similar functions: they are both enablers. And it is the will of writers to make our voices heard that ensures publishing exists. For many writers the urge to write takes precedence over the context in which we write. We know too that writers ( like Dickens and Shakespeare) can be commercially shrewd.

Technology and design are fundamentals on the web, well-established here; next, I sense it is the turn of writing to become important. Who knows, maybe one day soon the feedback between publishers and writers will need to flow in both directions… After all, this is how it works in most effective systems outside of publishing.

And my novel? Well there’s been enough feedback of a ‘plot disappears in second half’ nature to warrant a rewrite. I thought I was showing how the inevitable course of the miners’ strike of 1984/85 overwhelmed the feisty, resourceful miners wives. But the most useful feedback gathered by my agent says ‘You’ve just lost the plot’. Ballast restored by venting here, it will be onwards and upwards.

Like someone said ‘I blog instead of seeing a psychiatrist’. I wonder whether we will see groups of writers announcing :‘We blog – and sell from this blog – instead of having a publisher’ .Then it will be down to agents or publishers to collaborate with us to reach greater market.

Love to hear any feedback on this, please.

By szcz

5 thoughts on “Ouch! That Hurts : a writer fights back”
  1. Great post – so minds me of trying to get planning permission / late licence or anything else to do with the council !! BUT we are from Carmarthen and follow in Merlin’s footsteps !

  2. I mistyped this website and luckily I found it again. presently am at my university I added this to favorites so that I can re-read it later regards

  3. Thanks very much Noel for your comment. I had to look up entropy, and now I see it’s about information regarding uncertainty, can see your analysis is spot-on.

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