The e-word is an evocative one in the publishing world – at least in my experience. One of my first literary efforts was met by an agent’s saying he could not summon up any enthusiasm for the piece. It was both damning and discouraging – the right of an assessor and the plight of an aspirant.
The general advice to writers is to keep at it. If you don’t have that in you, it’s over.
Hunter Davies, in a Sunday Times Magazine article on July 19, lovingly and entertainingly traces the literary aspirations of Denis Pethebridge, who meticulously catalogued 338 rejections slips over 30 years. A second scrapbook was started in 1967, Davies writes, ‘but these precious later records appear to have been lost’. Pethebridge did eventually see his name on a novel, George – A 20th Century Miniature. Davies writes, ‘It is clearly a vanity publishing, cheaply done, with lots of blank pages’.
In the article Davies notes that the eulogy at Pethebridge’s funeral ‘suggests he enjoyed a happy, fulfilled life. It obviously became a hobby, a pastime, an amusement for him, which doesn’t appear to have left him bitter’.
The past two years have seen me on a trail seeking a publisher for my latest book, Three Angry Men. I knew it would be a hard road: neither my father Ken Scully (who also wrote under the name of John Dawes) nor I are sufficiently famous or successful for celebrity status. The latest knock-back came from a publisher who had elicited a series of long and complicated submissions from me. Having eventually discussed the project with her colleagues four months after our first contact, she admitted that in the end ‘there was no enthusiasm for it.’ There followed the traditional hope that it would find a home elsewhere.
As I have said before, it’s a buyer’s market and publishers need to shift their product, so you can only take such blows on the chin.
I suppose I have lost the enthusiasm for putting it out there. I am exploring the process of publishing Three Angry Men on this website. This, I hope, is more than vanity. It is a book that is dear to me, one that a number of people, including a few editors who have knocked it back, have conceded is well written.
If no money is to be made from it, I see no need to charge for it. There are, of course, a series of enquiries and permissions to follow. I hope I can retain the enthusiasm for that.