Monday, 5 December 2011

That's not real publishing (Part 2)

"You can’t sell books to thirteen-year-old boys."
Clearly I was doomed to obscurity.

In Part 1 I detailed, in rather tongue in cheek fashion, my overall view of the publishing industry. Now I am going to reveal what happened in my contact with publishers. I must add that prior to any personal meetings I showered in disinfectant and then dressed in sterile clothing and surgical face mask so that I didn’t pass on any writers’ germs to this highly precious and protected species.

Barry owns the publishing company The Chicken House and is the man credited with signing JK Rowling to Bloomsbury. I had three minutes to pitch my novel to him: he bit. A few weeks later he asked to see the full manuscript, but I hadn’t finished writing it. He agreed to wait and a few weeks later off it went and great expense.

I waited.

And waited.

And phoned.

And three weeks after my call I received my manuscript and a polite rejection letter. Barry liked Pike’s Quest but thought that the word play and humour was too complex for his readership. This was both good news and bad: Barry Cunningham, discoverer of Harry Potter, liked my writing! The Chicken House publishes Young Adult (YA) material, and having written a 60,000+ YA novel I was being told that it was too complex for my target group.

In February 2010 I met Marlene Johnson, Managing Director, Hachette Children’s Books. I had five minutes to pitch to her. By this time, Pike’s Quest was not only complete but substantially revised and edited. Marlene listened intently and laughed a lot as I gave her an overview.

“How old is the hero?” she asked.


“So the book would be suitable for boys aged twelve to thirteen, then. They are aspirational, you see. It sounds hilarious, but you can’t sell books to thirteen-year-old boys.”

And that was that: “you can’t sell books to thirteen year-old boys”. Clearly I was doomed to obscurity.

The only other publisher I managed to get to read Pike’s Quest was Proxima. They were brand-spanking-new and primarily an e-publisher. The response time was very fast and Steve Haynes, the editor, had clearly read it all. Although he had some nice things to say, he just didn’t get the overall joke. What I regarded as a light-hearted adventure he regarded as having an ecological theme that may put readers off. He didn’t like the fact that two of my comedy characters had specific speech patterns – Gran speaks with a Somerset accent and is the only person in her village to do so (rather like Samwise in the LOTR films) and Lord du Well has a pronounced lisp. Anyway, it was a rejected.

Thus I continued my hunt for an agent.

I continued sending off batches of three – four chapters, a synopsis and a biography: some came back within four to six weeks, some took longer. One took nearly a year and had only a scruffily hand-written note saying, “Not this time” (Mic Cheetham agency, be very ashamed). That was unusual though, as most had quite positive comments but firm a ‘no’ attached.

I began to wonder if these agents were reading the same material that I had submitted: the material that I had written, finely honed and read out to others, and which had them in fits of laughter.

It was during this period that I had something of an epiphany. And that shall be the subject of  Part 3


Pike's Quest

Amazon for Kindle on these links - UK - USA - DE - FR - IT - ES  

To read the blurb, click HERE

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