55th time lucky…

In this week’s Extraordinary Business Book Club podcast episode I interview Orna Ross, head of ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors. But Orna didn’t start off as an indie author. She went the traditional route, posting off her proposal to publisher after publisher. Finally, on the 55th submission, she got lucky. I asked her how she coped with what must have seemed like endless rejection. 

‘I had a method, which was to expect rejection, and… I had two or three of the next people that I was going to contact lined up, so when I got the inevitable rejection, as soon as it came in the door, I just put it in the drawer where I was collecting the rejection slips, and sent off the next one. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t let it depress me. I just sent it off.

Every Monday afternoon, for two hours, I used to call it Marketing Monday: I would look at who might be interested in a book like that, doing all the research myself. I was just determined. I was going to find somebody. I was reasonably confident that the book was getting better with these rejections as well, because sometimes, I would get feedback from somebody, and they would say something, and at the beginning, I was changing in response to that.

As time went on, I was feeling more and more confident that the book actually stood fairly solidly as it was, and wasn’t changing it, and yeah, then suddenly I got a call from, as I said, a fabulous publisher, and a very nice offer, and I really felt I’d won the literary lottery.’

I think that’s an amazing and inspiring approach to what so many authors find utterly soul-destroying. I remember Tibor Fischer, author of Under The Frog, the first debut novel ever to be shortlisted for the Booker prize, had a similar experience before he was accepted by Polygon. ‘I was going to try Gay Men’s Press next,’ he told me, ‘and it had absolutely no homosexual content in it whatsoever.’

So if you’ve had a knockback or two, take heart. 

But also, don’t let the rejections get you down. As Orna goes on to say, these days, you have options. 

‘There’s no excuse today, sitting around, saying, “Oh, I can’t get a publisher.”… You must do the most creative thing that’s possible for you for that book, so you can keep moving.

Because one of the things that happened to me was, even though I did have this method of dealing with it, and I was moving on and writing the next book, and I would have gone on to write the third book, there is no doubt that your energy, your enthusiasm, is leaking away, no matter what you do to try and keep yourself bolstered, and stay resilient, and all of those kinds of things. It does have an effect.

I can’t think of how many wonderful books we’ve lost, because people just became disheartened.’

Indie publishing – whether you go it alone or with a partner like me – might just be the most creative thing possible for YOUR book, too.

You can hear the full interview here