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Friday, 11 November 2011

Just a brief update. A couple of months ago I sent a proposal to the U of Nebraska Press, comprising the usual covering letter, outline and other details, as well as two sections from the narrative I concocted from the blog - that is, the blog postings I wrote while in the red house. They don't want it - or, to put it in their rather gentler words - they'll 'have to pass on this project.'

I have had hundreds - literally hundreds - of rejections in my career. I've published over a dozen books, written 200+ TV scripts, goodness knows how many newspaper and magazine articles, plus a radio play and a number of short stories, but all of that probably still gives me an average of about one sale per fifty rejections, perhaps an awful lot more. I used to keep records, but stopped years ago. I've three, four, five unpublished books in my drawer, any one of which will have gone out to three of four dozen agents, a similar number of publishers, and attracted a bewildering array of reasons why said agents or publishers would 'pass on this project'. You need a sense of humour and a sense of ... destiny? Well, something like that.

More amusing than outright rejections have been the many excuses I've had as to why certain editors or agents have sat on my work (in a manner of speaking) for a month, two months, six months, in one case a shade over two years. I've had half a dozen mags go out of business while deliberating over my proposals; I've had two editors die, one by suicide; another wrote to apologise because her flat blew up - she too died, but that was later, well after I'd stopped sending her material. And of course I've had copies simply lost. I think the most painful rejections have been when publishers have agreed to take a book and then changed their mind - after I'd more or less spent the expected fee and accepted congratulations from all my friends and family. That really, really hurt. I didn't mind half as much when an entire TV documentary series I'd written for was trashed. I'd already been paid. Only my vanity was bruised.

This latest rebuff sort of floored me for a hour or two (yes, I'd allowed myself to hope) but it also awoke from somewhere within me a determination, this time, to keep away from conventional publishing outlets. I have a series of books (Now Then, Lad, et al) earning me a fair living just now; I have six months of every year to myself, am free to write what the hell I want to write, and have acquired a small but valued audience through the blog. I think I shall endeavour to entertain and nurture this readership and forget about the publishers. Later, after I've completed this fifth volume for Mike Pannett, I shall investigate e-publishing and/or start posting miscellaneous pieces of writing on here. What I'd like in the meantime, from anybody who has the time, is some idea as to whether any of my readers would be interested in reading passages from my unpublished work. I really would like to hear. I do not intend at this stage to offer such work for sale; it'll be free. However, I may at a later date try to float some of it in e-book form, for money. So do please let me know, either through Comments or by email (; or indeed Facebook, via the link in the top right.

The morning after my disappointment (which came at about nine yesterday evening) I found a very cheering email from a writer in S. Dakota. I've never met Linda Hasselstrom ( but we've been in touch for about ten years, sporadlically. Her take on the whole business was: 'plenty of people would give their right arm to live our lives, so let's make a pact that we won't whine about it, just smile mysteriously and go about our business enjoying ourselves as much as possible.' Tremendously cheering.

Okay, I am off to North Wales shortly and will report back on Monday - 'if the good Lord wills it and the creeks don't rise.'

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