Every Book Idea That Has Been Rejected (...And One That I Rejected)
I might have four books under my belt but I have a lot more rejections so I wanted to share this part of the process of being an author and how I am grateful for them now in hindsight.
Whenever you tell anyone that you are an author, people are hugely impressed. It is one of those titles that are very much revered and as much as I understand why, I often feel it undermines the reality of it.
A little bit of my backstory on how I became an author (apologies, to anyone who knows this story). I wrote Am I Ugly? (then titled Operation Thirteen) when I was 12 years old in English class for an assignment when we had to write an autobiography. English was my worst subject and I was given B+, which being the perfectionist I was, was embarrassing. The reason for my low grade (I understand it wasn’t actually low) was that I submitted 10,000 words instead of 1,000 because it was simply impossible to summarise my then 13 surgeries in 1000 words. At the time, my Dad told me that I should publish it, but knowing English was my worst subject and how dyslexic I was, I dismissed these comments as a parent thinking too highly of their child. It wasn’t until I was 19 years old, in a hospital bed and bedridden that I realised I might die with nothing to show for my life other than an education that would then become useless on my deathbed. Education, in my mind, was the road to lead you to your destination but what happens if you die before you get there? Then all that education would be for nothing.
So I dug out that autobiography and decided this would be my legacy. I might not change the world but at least I wouldn’t be forgotten and more importantly, my thoughts and record of events would still exist. I never intended to publish it but when you write 200,000 words, there is a sudden urge where you want people to see it and so I began my search for an agent. How I landed with my current literary agent is a long story and I can tell it another day, but this story is to tell you that I didn’t have a life goal of being an author, it was more that I had one thing that I really wanted to say and it started with just wanting that one book being published. But then, I didn’t die. And I found more things to say and so my adventures to not be a one-hit wonder took me down this path of rejections. For the record, even the books that have been said ‘yes’ to like The Joy of Being Selfish and Am I Ugly? were said no to by pretty much everyone else so even when you get that almighty book deal, rejection is unavoidable.
Sophie and Her Scar
I actually got an agent for this book before I got an agent for Am I Ugly? To clarify, you don’t normally get separate agents for separate books but you do usually have a separate children’s and adult book agent. Therefore this picture book idea got me an offer from a children’s agent before I even had one for my adult book. I had written this children’s book about a little girl with a scar upon watching TV one day. There was a competition for a children’s book to get a book deal and I had hit a roadblock on Am I Ugly? so I started writing it to just get my creativity going. Within a week, I had this picture book idea completed and started pitching it to children’s agents and one wanted to sign me. Upon being given the contract, I stopped myself and asked myself if this is what I really wanted or whether this was a distraction from my true goal - to get Am I Ugly? published. I decided it was better to get an adult agent first before a children’s agent so I said no to that person and went on a hunt for an adult agent. I would then find one in America and after a few mishaps, eventually landed at the agency I am at now. I showed them this idea and was told that rhyming books are really difficult to sell and that, as predicted I should put my focus on Am I Ugly? Even writing this today, I haven’t thought about this book since 2016 when I wrote it and I still think a picture book including scars would be a great book! Maybe I’ll talk to someone about it haha…