Writing, hunting Agents, surviving Rejections, reaching Readers

Ruth HartleyBook Launch, Digital Publishing, Self-Publishing, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing ProcessLeave a Comment

All that happens before the book launch

This post will be published the morning after the book launch of The Tin Heart Gold Mine. I had to write and schedule it before the launch and so can’t report on that event. I’ll do that the following week and then I’ll give all my loyal readers a break and only post fortnightly.

The photo shows a laptop on the right, a large screen in the centre, blue and white mug of tea, yellow post-it notes and pens in front of a sunny window and full bookshelf.

Ruth’s work station with large screen, mug of tea and post-its.

This time I thought that it might be interesting if I wrote a brief post about writing, being rejected, and eventually self-publishing  The Tin Heart Gold Mine and my first book The Shaping of Water.

Writing my first book

I was fifty before I was able to sit down and concentrate on writing. Writing was, in part, a mechanism for surviving the rupture of divorce. It was also simply what I had always wanted to do. I had been forced to squeeze that desire into foolscap pads, sketchbooks and notepads kept in a bedside drawer for those ‘nuits blanches’ – sleepless nights – when I wrote mad and secret poetry.

Once I was back in England, semi-employed and alone, I had my evenings to do as I pleased and I spent them writing.

A bookshelf showing writer's handbooks.

A shelf of how to write and publish books in my study. Photo Ruth Hartley

My first manuscript was a fictionalised memoir of the year when I learnt about politics in South Africa after graduating. I called it The Love and Wisdom Crimes. The title was suggested by the Chinese proverb that says it is impossible to love and be wise at the same moment. It contains many of the notes, poems and scribbles about life that I had made as a young woman.

The publishing market

I was pleased with what I had written and I began the process of finding a publisher and an agent.

J K Rowling had just published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and every writer knew about the number of rejections that she had suffered.

It was simple. I would go on writing to agents until I had passed the number of rejections that J K Rowling had.

Sheaves of paper lie on the floor next to boxes of books and by shelves of files and folders

When the work pressure builds up papers get filed on the floor temporarily

I did, and I surpassed her with both submissions and rejections.

I approached publishers and agents. I took classes in how to do it. I was told my book was good, but not easy to market.

Neither was I. There are many middle-aged and older women who write. Which of us could make a celebrity author? The publishing world was in rapid change, but it hadn’t yet become a digital world.

It is salutary to think how different it was then. Every submission was on paper and posted with a covering letter. Every submission had to be lugged down to the post office and weighed.

Then one waited and waited and waited. No instant email rejection bounced back with a standard response as happens today. All those stamps, envelopes, hopes and disappointments!

Digital publishing, self-publishing, the advent of independent writers

A jumble of USB sticks for storing work lie on a scrap of paper

USB drives for storing books and writing digitally

There is a continuing technological revolution. The publishing world is digital. Keeping up with the changes is like surfing waves. One gets dumped rather often.

All a writer really wants is you, the reader. Book sales? Yes, of course — but the median earnings of writers are far below the poverty line. As writing is an addiction, all we really care about is readers reading what we write.

I decided my only choice was to be an independent author. It was fast becoming acceptable and new publishers appeared offering professional services to writers like me. Matador, my publishers who specialise in Indy authors, are excellent. My website gives me great publicity — thank you, Tia and Eyal, at Get It Write International.

I’m happy to swap stories and tips regarding independent publishing. Feel free to comment below, and I will respond. But I’d be especially happy to know that people want to read my book! If you haven’t ordered a copy yet, you can click this button to buy it on Amazon:

BUY The Tin Heart Gold Mine

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