Sir Isaac Newton stated that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For authors that gets translated into ‘for everyone who likes your work, someone else will hate it’. There doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason about it; it’s just a thing.
This state of affairs was brought back to me recently when I decided to seek out a publisher for superhero club, my mid-grade children’s book about bullying, friendship, self-acceptance and transformation. Originally, it was published by Musa Publishing and when they folded I self-dubbed it to try and get a wider audience. It was also considered for use in a therapeutic / workshop setting for young people who may have experienced one or more of the issues touched upon in the book.
The first publisher I contacted was quite enthusiastic and promised me a response within eight weeks. However, their actual response consisted of ‘thanks, but we rarely take on new books right now’. And yes, of course I sent them a query first before submitting the manuscript.
The next publisher felt the book was… ‘a little unfocused and didn’t necessarily know which age group it was being aimed at. We need to make sure that we’re directing the content specifically at a certain age group. Otherwise, the book simply doesn’t work.’
Having had it previously published (and edited and focused by Musa), I found this a tad surprising. Not that the other publisher is wrong, from their perspective, just that it differs from Musa’s and the readers who were kind enough to leave reviews.
Interestingly, despite having four of my Spy Chaser novels published since 2005 by Joffe Books, the first part of the above feedback that caught my eye was the book simply doesn’t work. All of which goes to show that:
1. Opinions vary (informed and otherwise). It’s important to really believe in your work, even if other people do not, and use any feedback to improve your manuscript or perhaps your pitch.
2. Having your work published will not change you. Sure, there might be some money in the bank, and yes, you can see your work for sale. But any nagging insecurities will stick around like unwelcome guests unless change your perspective. See item 1 above for details!
3. Sometimes it’s time for new stories, not just on the page but also the ones we tell ourselves. Our fixed ideas about what a writer is and is not are, in fact, mere acts of imagination. And if you’re going to start imagining, why not imagine some positive things!
4. All writers have to start somewhere and are capable of developing their craft.