Hazel Gaynor On Not Giving Up. Ever.
There’s something delicious about the start of a new year. Blank pages in the diary. Blank pages on the screen. A fresh start. Enthusiasm and motivation in abundance. The joy of discovering a forgotten box of After Eights at the back of the cupboard (or is that just me?). There’s so much promise and potential with a brand new year, and none of the disappointment to spoil it all. Quite frankly, it’s bloody brilliant.
Of course, none of us can ever know what the year will bring. But we can hope. And we can always, always believe that this is ‘the year’. You know – the year when all the stuff happens, when the dreams come true, when the lifelong goals are achieved and somebody finally says yes to your manuscript. Okay, we believed all that last year, and the year before, and the year before that … blah, blah, blah, and none of it happened. But, 2015 is different. 2015 will be ‘the year.’ Right?
For me, 2013 was ‘the year.’ The year when crazy magical things happened and all the rejections and tears turned into publishing contracts and champagne. Of course, as I scribbled the words ‘The Year I Get Published’ in the front of my 2013 diary, I had no way of knowing what was ahead. In fact, a week after writing those words, my agent and I parted company on the back of a dozen rejections of a second novel she had submitted to publishers and a general sense that she wasn’t going to be the one to make it happen for me. To say January 2013 started off fairly crappy would be an understatement. I was tempted to scratch those words of foolish hope from my diary, and chuck the bloody thing in the bin. And yet, by June of 2013, I had an agent in New York and a two-book publishing contract with HarperCollins. In a matter of weeks, several years of NO had turned into a massive moment of YES. And that is why you should never give up. Ever. Ever. Ever. EVER. It’s the law.
Let me rewind because, believe me, there were plenty of times when I wanted to pack it all in and crawl into a hole. I’d had enough of the rejection and the polite emails and the ‘bad news’ phone calls. It was doing nothing for my confidence, my self-esteem or my belief in myself as a writer. Writing sucked, to be perfectly honest, but here, for posterity, is what led to YES.
2010 – my first real attempt at writing a book, loosely based on my parenting blog ‘Hot Cross Mum’, was offered a very dubious publishing contract which my agent at the time strongly advised me to walk away from. I did. I wept. The book was subsequently taken as far as a sales meeting with Little Brown, but was ultimately rejected. I wept.
2011 – I started writing a women’s fiction novel, but in the April I had an epiphany and started work on a new novel, set around the Titanic. It was called THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME and, when, finished, was submitted to two publishers – and rejected. I was told that the market for Titanic books was saturated in the wake of the forthcoming centenary event in 2012. But on the basis of my writing, the publishers asked to see anything else I’d written. My women’s fiction novel was submitted to several publishers in the UK and Ireland. It was rejected. Starting to see a pattern?
2012 – More than a little crushed, but undeterred, I took the decision to self-publish THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME to coincide with the Titanic centenary in the April. The book quickly became a Kindle best seller. This was amazing. With renewed confidence, I continued to write a novel I’d started a few years previously, based around the lives of flower sellers in Victorian London. In the September, I pitched that novel to an editor at the Historical Novel Society Conference. She was intrigued and asks for the whole manuscript. By the end of 2012, the novel was submitted to around a dozen publishers in the UK and Ireland. It was rejected by all. THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME was still a Kindle best seller. Yay, but still not yay. I wanted a publisher. I had always wanted a publisher.
2013 – In January, I parted company with my agent. Things were not going to plan. I started to query new agents – all of whom turned me down. I continued to edit my novel about the flower sellers with the intention of self-publishing, then, in the March, I was contacted by an editor at HarperCollins in the UK who loved my flower sellers novel, but had taken a long time to get to it. Yay, again. We talked on the phone (I am now without an agent, remember). Two months pass. I hear nothing further, despite following up. I throw stuff in frustration and start working on a new novel. I still can’t find an agent to represent me. Sigh.
April 2013 – THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME features in a Kindle Daily Deal and shoots back up the best seller charts.
May 2013 – I receive a Facebook message from an agent based in LA. She has read THE GIRL and is interested in talking to me about representation. A week later, I receive a Facebook message from another agent, based in New York. She has also read THE GIRL and is also interested in talking to me about representation. Both agents are sent my novel about the flower sellers and I ultimately sign with Michelle Brower from Folio Literary Management in New York. Within a matter of weeks she has secured interest from several publishers for both THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME and the flower sellers novel.
June 2013 – An auction is held and I sign a two-book deal with William Morrow, HarperCollins. It is agreed that THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME will be re-published as a paperback and ebook in April 2014, followed by the flower sellers novel, A MEMORY OF VIOLETS, in February 2015.
And that is how it happened. It’s certainly not been a straightforward path to publication, but it has all been so worth it. I’ve learned a lot about myself from the lows and the nos and I’ve collected some very interesting dinner party stories from the experience!
The post script to this incredible turn of events is that THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME went on to be a New York Times and USA Today best seller. A MEMORY OF VIOLETS will be published in a matter of weeks and I have subsequently signed a deal for a third novel with William Morrow for publication in 2016. I still consider myself to be a fledgling writer. I’m still learning. Still doubting myself. Still wondering how on earth I’m going to get the next book written – but hurrah for all of that, because I’m doing the thing I love the most.
So, the answer to the question, ‘should I just give up’, is a resounding NO. It is a painful, hurtful, oh-so-agonising process at times (most of the time), but who knows what is waiting around the corner. I’m not really sure why I kept plugging away in the face of all that negativity, but I did believe that I had written two novels that would find a readership – either through my own self-publishing efforts, or hopefully with the support of a publisher behind me.
It’s easy to say it comes down to luck, to being in the right place at the right time. And yes, there is a little bit of fairy dust required somewhere along the path to publication. But, I don’t believe it is as simple as being lucky. Getting that ‘yes’ comes down to so many things: believing in yourself, writing a great book, putting yourself in the best possible position to be read. Ultimately, it is about continuing to do what you do: to keep writing, to keep trying, to keep hustling and to keep believing that THIS is the year. Because, it actually might be. But, of course, you’ll never know if you don’t try.
So, what are you going to do in 2015? Give up on this crazy publishing dream, or dust yourself off, make a cuppa, sit at the desk and crack on.
I know what I’d do.
p.s. Good luck. See you on the other side of no.
(c) Hazel Gaynor
Hazel Gaynor runs writing.ie‘s Carry on Writing blog and is an author and freelance writer. Her writing success has been featured in The Sunday Times Magazine and Irish Times and she was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers. She has also interviewed many authors for writing.ie, including Philippa Gregory and Sebastian Faulks. Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband, two young children and an accident-prone cat. Hazel’s debut, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME (William Morrow/HarperCollins) was a USA Today and NYT best seller. Her second novel, A MEMORY OF VIOLETS, will be published in February 2015. To keep up-to-date with Hazel’s news, visit her website www.hazelgaynor.com or her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/
Hazel is represented by Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management, New York.