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Paddling Like Mad and Getting Nowhere

by Judith Barrow

 Part Three of Judith’s journey towards novel publication………


At this point I have to admit a thought creeps unwanted into my mind. If the publisher had only posted that envelope a couple of days earlier I wouldn’t have needed an agent – or, speaking truthfully, I wouldn’t need to pay an agent.

It’s a fortnight since I signed contracts with her. Carried away with her enthusiasm for my writing, her promises to make me into a ‘brand name’ and her assurance that she had many contacts in the publishing world that would ‘snap her hand off for my novel’, I had signed on the dotted line.

Now she telephones, summarily dismissing the offer. ‘We can do better than this.’

What? What’s better than getting this novel published? Than seeing, holding, a book in my hand that I’ve actually written? I get an offer, perfectly acceptable to me, but according to this agent, it’s not enough.

‘Tell them no,’ she says.

So I email the publisher and explain; I now have an agent, she’s suggested we try other publishers, bigger publishers.

I’m worried. But she knows the business.

 Doesn’t she?


 I’ve now been waiting a month. So far, four rejections from publishers. Couched, mind you, in encouraging remarks:

‘Believable characters … strong and powerful writing … gripping story … Judith has an exciting flair for plot … evocative descriptions.’

And then the death knell on my hopes:

‘Unfortunately … our lists are full … we’ve just accepted a similar book … we are only a small company … (what? The agent rejects one small publishing company but then sends the manuscript to another?) … I’m sure you’ll find a platform for Judith’s work …’

Yes, yes, we did, we did find ‘a platform’, as they put it. Or rather I did. I found a company, one I was happy with.


The self-doubt, the frustration, floods back. I’m never going to get the (bleep, bleep) book published.


Then the call from the agent; ‘I think it’s time to re-evaluate the comments we’ve had so far. Parts of the storyline need tweaking. I’ve negotiated a deal with a commercial editor. It’s a realistic charge by today’s standards,’ she says. ’Think about it. In the end we’ll have a book that will take you to the top of your field.’


I think about it. Reject the idea. Listen to advice from my various acquaintances. Think about it some more.


And then I ring the agent. ‘Okay,’ I say, ‘I’ll do it.’


I feel I have no choice; after all she’s the expert. What do I know?


I feel like I’m paddling like mad and getting nowhere.

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