Writing can be a thankless pursuit. I don’t talk about it that much, but I actually work at it pretty seriously in my spare time. (Admittedly, at some times more intently than others.) Most of my friends know about these pursuits on some level, but few people know any details of my pet projects.
There is one in particular, a travel guide, that I have been working on for 2 years. Working very hard, I might add, because I felt sure it was a good idea. The nature of the writing business is that basically you have to do a lot of work for free in order to even get someone to consider even listening your idea. A lot of work. Granted, the requirements are so stringent because there are a lot of people who clog the wheels with crappy work. But the only way to shine through the noise is to labor over professional presentation – which means extensive research and obsessing over the right word. (That’s how I do it anyway.) This means I am good, but I am not fast.
With this particular travel book, I had the luck of scoring an agent on my first send-out (one with a swank, glass-walled high-rise office in Manhattan at that). I couldn’t believe my luck – but then again I had worked really hard to go it right. Unfortunately, about the time she was shopping the project, a family situation caused her to leave the industry indefinitely. But hey, those are the breaks. Back to square one, she recommended I pitch the book directly to publishers. I was heartened she thought it was that good. A couple have turned it down, but that’s to be expected. It’s all about hitting the right mark.
Then today, I’ve had two crushing defeats at once. The first came from a huge travel guide publisher which recently posted a call for new book proposals. I was psyched for this perfect opportunity and spent weeks (with the patient help of my sis and husband) tailoring my proposal to the particular publisher, fitting my work into their specific format guidelines. Ready to send it in, I emailed them requesting the name of the editor-in-charge of these submissions (I bristle at sending bland “Dear Editor” letters); they took a week to reply, only to tell me that this was a mistake. “Our website will be corrected shortly; we can accept no submissions…” blah blah blah. I am pretty furious at this publisher’s complete lack of professionalism in this matter. Not so much as an apology for wasting my time (and that of countless other authors). What the hell is that about? I am fighting the urge to burn some serious bridges.
Then came #2 – even worse: I was at a book store killing some time before an appointment. I went to their computer to see what new books had come out about my topic since I last looked and – stab to the heart – “my” book is coming out under a publisher I had not yet pitched (though they were newly on my list) on September 1st.
Oh! Oh, the pain! How dare someone else have my idea and get to the right person first? It’s beyond deflating. What do I do with over 2 years of work now? Tailor my proposal to carve out the differences between my book and this new one, or take it like a (wo)man and start investing in another idea? I just don’t know yet – I’m too busy cursing the gods and mourning defeat to decide just now.
Sometimes I wish I had grown up with an avid interest in elevator repair. I hear it’s one of the most under served professions, meaning the most in-demand and well-paid. Couldn’t I have found that fascinating instead?
Cheer and advice welcome here.