Guest blog by Caroline Green: get published – without an agent

Guest blogger and LWC member, Caroline Green is a freelance journalist and children’s/YA writer who lives in north London with her husband, two sons and one very bouncy Labrador retriever. Her first book, Dark Ride, will be published by Piccadilly Press, in Spring 2011.

When you’re trying to get published, it can feel as though you’re repeatedly banging your head against a glass door. You can see where you want to get to, but you just can’t seem to get through. Increasingly bruised and battered, you start to wonder if this is one door that will forever remain closed to you.

I’d written one other children’s book before Dark Ride, my YA novel that’s to be published by Piccadilly Press next spring. I had high hopes of the first one, especially when the opening section won first prize in the teen section of a competition at the Winchester Writer’s Competition. But the same section didn’t result in a single call-in from an agent when I submitted it.

My second attempt was with Dark Ride, which was originally called The Joy Wheel. This had more luck and seven agents in total asked to see the whole thing. But each time, they ultimately turned it down. The plot was too complicated; the plot was too simple; the supernatural theme was too prevalent, it wasn’t prevalent enough. Or, more than once, ‘I’m just not confident I could sell this in the current climate’.

I had some long dark nights of the soul when I felt I couldn’t take any more rejection. As a naturally thin-skinned sort of person, each one felt like a punch in the belly. But like the ‘weeble’ toys of childhood, I somehow kept bouncing back, even though I secretly wondered if it would ever happen for me.

As a last ditch attempt, I decided to send the book directly to a children’s publisher, Piccadilly Press, who I knew had a good reputation and, unusually, accepted direct submissions.

I believed the chances to be so slim that I put the book out of my mind and tried to concentrate on something new. And even when I got an email from their Commissioning Editor asking to read the whole thing, I still didn’t allow my hopes to rise too much. I’d been here before, after all, again and again.

Then, about six weeks later, another email pinged into my inbox. This time the editor said she liked very many things about the book but felt it wasn’t quite there and would I consider meeting up to discuss? It was further than I’d ever got before and I was very excited to meet and hear the editor’s clear and sensible suggestions. I was to re-work the synopsis, removing a major storyline and replacing it with another.

A cat on hot bricks doesn’t even begin to describe what I was like while waiting to hear back from them. It was only about ten days, but felt like a lifetime.

Then, one Wednesday afternoon after I’d been playing a full-on game of Arsenal Monopoly with my youngest son, the email I’d dreamed of for years arrived. An offer. Piccadilly Press wanted to publish Dark Ride in the spring of 2011.

Independent publishers may not be able to spend money on big advances and major publicity but what they do offer is a feeling of working with people who are in publishing because they love books. There’s a warm inclusiveness and support that’s worth all the money in the world, in my view.

If you’re struggling to get recognition for your writing, let me tell you that when it finally happens, it really is worth all the pain. The whole experience has taught me something I never really believed before. It just takes one important person to love your work. If you’re sick of hearing how subjective it all is, please try and hear it one more time. It just takes one.

An inspirational friend, Suzy Greaves, once said to me when I was in the depths of despair about getting rejected, ‘If you carry on, you still may never be published. But if you stop trying, you definitely never will.’

Wise words indeed.

2 Replies to “Guest blog by Caroline Green: get published – without an agent”

  1. I’m really pleased for you, Caroline. I had a similar experience in that my first book was taken on by Usborne as a direct submission. So it can be done.

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