For Aspiring Writers

I once received a rejection slip from Darley Anderson. In truth, as rejection slips go, this was a good one. There wasn’t a coffee stain in sight, and Emma, bless her heart, had taken the time to write a comforting note of condolence and encouragement alongside a decipherable signature. . . at least, I think it was Emma.

In a further effort to cushion the blow, the letter also explained that Darley Anderson receives more than three-hundred submissions a week; yet takes on only two or three new writers a year.

Work it out. . . that translates to odds of over five-thousand-to-one against. They are roughly the odds you’d get on Weston-Super-Mare football club winning the F.A. Cup, and that’s just representation; forget publication.

That was the way it used to be for writers, in the bad old days. We were not only delusional, we were also hopeless optimists, because, prior to ebooks, we never had to test our abilities against the giants of literature in the way that dear old Weston-Super- Mare F.C.occasionally does against the giants of football.

When they lose five-nil to Basingstoke, who lost eight-nil to Aldershot, who lost five-nil to Bradford, who lost seven-nil to Leeds, who, last time out in the Premiership, lost five-nil to Arsenal, they know exactly where they fit in the pecking order.

They know that, if a miracle does occur and they ever do come up against Arsenal, if they lose by less than thirty goals to nil they’ve got a result.

It’s unlikely that such a scoreline would occur of course, because that’s the trouble with statisticians. They flatly refuse to factor in things like unsung ability, and good fortune, and hidden genius, and bursts of creativity, and rising to the occasion, and sudden inspiration, and downright tenacity.

Then there’s that dreaded accolade of potential, and the knowledge that even my beloved Arsenal occasionally find the back of their opponent’s net to be as foreign as most of the team.

So don’t listen to statisticians. What do they know?

And don’t worry if the sales move slower than a Newcastle keeper at The Emirates.

Just take the royalties, however humble they may be, and smile.

Because now you’re competing with the giants.

Thanks to technology you’re competing with Grisham and Brown and Bronte and Dickens and yes, you’re even up against the Bard of Avon himself.

Who cares if they rack-up sales quicker than Danny Welbeck racks-up goals, on an away day to Weston-Super-Mare, because now you’re in the same game.

And when you see that first fluke goal go in, even if it is off the referee, three despairing defenders, and both posts, you can finally tell the world that it was you, and you alone, who made it happen.

How to deal with reviews

A review often tells us more about the reviewer than the work under consideration.

However, leaving aside those vitriolic individuals who appear to take a peculiar delight in the cruelty of posting a scathing review, and those reviewers who seem to want to somehow validate their own lives by castigating the hard work of others, reviews are essential for any author who wants his or her work to succeed.

All reviews, good or bad, must be taken at face value and appreciated, because the reviewer has taken time and effort to provide valuable feedback. We can learn something from them all; even if it is only that we have ‘thin skins’.

We read, we glean what we can, and we move on.