To try, or not to, that is the Q
You should see our dining table in this small house. It doubles as our study/studio and there are days when my wife and I compete for space upon its surface. Before guests arrive, we scoop everything up in piles and when they've gone, we struggle to find things. It could stop creativity, but then we've moved from a huge house where we had a vast studio space and I've been more inspired here
In my section, there are notes on two children’ books, edit-notes on my novel, the lay-out of two illustrated books aimed at adults as well as depressing scribbles on how to republish the successful Camino Voices. There's also notes on an art project underway and a pile of sketchbooks from which I’ve taken phone images for this website (see - art/drawings).
But is all this activity worth it?
There are so many talented people out there and most are younger than me. I have brilliant friends who’ve hardly made a splash, others who've gained world acclaim and I know people who are not that great but became rich and famous. It is so often down to luck and who you know. The other day a publisher told me that presentation and catchy ideas help. He was a genial chap who started in London with anti-establishment comics and has made a living producing counter-culture works ever since.
He said, "A good cover will sell a lousy book, a bad one hinder a great work.” I’d studied his website and admired his covers. He smiled, “I’ve a great cover-designer, this is the age of image and covers have to make you want to enter the book.” He thought the cover of Camino Voices hindered.
I put forward a manuscript I’ve been working on for a while and he instantly sat up. "You should see the 1,300+ manuscripts I decide to plough through each year. Be warned! This is a tricky business. A famous TV presenter I helped had all the connections, publicity, talent and the perfect subject, but we sold hardly any books and having invested so much, almost went bust. Yet somebody down the road from here wrote something which sold hundreds of thousands because of a (cheesy, me thinks) title based on a phrase which has become the in-thing."
I slumped. Yes, what is the point of it all? But, in the off-hand manner people in his profession adopt, he said, “I could work with you, you can certainly write, and wow can you draw. Get back to me in a few weeks with a tight proposal."
So it's down to cover and title! Add in good content and skills in the subject-area and you might stand a chance. Then there’s luck. It really is a gamble. The publisher spoke of a woman who is still paying for an advance twenty years later by giving weekly talks and signings because her book, though internationally lauded, never sold.
I walked out humbled. Back home, looking at my table, I wondered if it was worth the huge effort required to create a new book, but, believing in the topic I presented earlier, I started work. The publisher's warnings and advice will help temper my own enthusiasm, adding in a dose of caution as the months of work needed begin.
What a shame I didn’t meet his ilk years ago, he’d have set me straight. Four unique ideas I presented in the late 1990’s were rejected as follies, but years later they each became hot stuff when other people took them up. This man could have directed me, helped me, but that's the game of life - you never know what will happen.
And that's the rub. To give up means you'll struggle to get out of bed in the morning. To try, even knowing you might fail, is better than slumping in misery upon the sofa with only a warm cup of tea to inspire you. To try, with enthusiasm tempered by practicality, is to live.
... and my next blog will explore 'hope'.....