Y’know that thing people say to unpublished writers who want to be published? That old chestnut about needing to have a thick skin? Well, there’s a lot of truth in it. When you’re sending stuff away to agents and publishers and the ‘we like it but don’t LOVE it’ letters are coming back, having a thick skin really does help.
What they don’t tell you, though, is that your skin has to get a whole lot thicker. Even after publication. In fact, you need rhino skin.
I sent some new writing to my agent the other day and when she called me and finished telling me how much work I need to do on it, I put the phone down with a sigh. It can always be better, see? It doesn’t matter who you are or what you write, it can always be better. It occurred to me that everyone involved in the publication process is there to tell the writer what’s wrong with their book and what they can do to improve it.
Part of an agent’s job is to find fault with the work. Then, of course, the editor is there to help reshape what the author has done – tell them what’s wrong with it, in other words. The copyeditor’s turn comes next; they get to pick out all the grammatical and continuity errors. They might even suggest a change or two. After that, the proof reader gets to pick out more mistakes. Then, of course, after the book is finally published, the writer has to face the wrath of the reviewer – which, these days, means anyone who reads the book. And sometimes people who don’t.
So, yeah. Thick. Skin. Required.
But then there are those moments . . . the moment your agent tells you it’s good. Or when your editor steps away from doing their job of scrutinising your writing and tells you it works. Best of all though, is when a letter drops through the post box, or an email pings into your inbox and it’s from a happy reader who enjoyed your book so much they took the time to write to you. And that . . . well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Well, next year’s going to be a busy one, and I’m very much looking forward to it. I have my rhino skin all prepped and I have a good line up of publications. There will be two new books in the UK next year, a couple in the US, and there might even be a little surprise, but I can’t tell you about that or I’d almost certainly have to kill you; my lips are sealed. You’ll just have to wait and see.
I hope you all have a great Christmas and a fantastic New Year.