By Grant J Everett
It may have taken a million words, but an small publisher in Katoomba has agreed to publish my science-fiction comedy novel Scum of the Universe. Black Cockie Press have provided editing and cover design services at no charge, and will take care of all those things I’m not very good at: marketing, promotions, lining up interviews and reviews…pretty much everything besides writing the book. Like any reputable publisher, they will only make money if I make money.
But this milestone didn’t happen straight away: it took nine novels spread over thirteen years of hard work.
While I’ve dreamed of being a published author for most of my life, I’ve hit a lot of speed bumps along the way. This is normal, because just like musicians, artists, athletes and actors, finding success as a fiction author is very rare. Generally, a handful will do quite well, and the other 99% rely on day jobs to keep food on the table. So as appealing as it sounds to devote all my time to cranking out books like a fiction dispensing machine, I don’t fancy living on two-minute noodles while I wait for a big break that may never come. This is why I’m glad to be writing about your recovery stories in Panorama, as it allows me to earn a living wage while honing my skills. The downside of full-time employment is that I’m rarely in the right frame of mind to work on my manuscript when I come home, leaving Saturday as the only day of the week where I have the right headspace to put words onto paper.
A little-known-fact about writing novels is that authoring a manuscript is the easiest part to accomplish, with every following step getting more and more difficult. I’ve faced around 50 polite form rejection letters from almost every agent and publisher out there (not counting the ones who simply ignored my submissions), lost a lot of money to the empty promises of vanity presses, and my own doubts have caused many anxious, sleepless nights.
Oversaturation is another major issue for us would-be authors, because successes like Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, Twilight, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and so on and so on have planted dreams of mega-super literary stardom into the heads of a millions of people. As a result, every publisher is flooded with half-baked manuscripts, making it even harder than it used to be to see the gems shining out from the mud.
Admittedly, some hiccups have been my fault, such as choosing science fiction comedy as my genre. Unless you count the golden years in the 1980s when The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf were mainstream sensations, it’s not the most marketable of styles. Despite this, I continue to write stories that I’d personally want to read, rather than selling out to what’s in vogue for the next five minutes.
The mark of a true writer is that they NEED to write. If I was writing books purely for financial reasons, I would have given up ages ago. I’ve always spent large parts of the day creating little worlds in my head, which didn’t do me any favours when my trigonometry homework was overdue. During any quiet, calm time, whether I’m traveling to work on the train or halfway asleep, I’m usually having conversations between my characters, choreographing action scenes, or tying together plot points. If I don’t put these ideas down on paper, they’ll just continue swirling around my head. This might sound frustrating, but once I open that Word file (which can be far more difficult than it sounds), it’s cathartic, exciting, satisfying, mentally stimulating and infuriating all at once, and I can’t see myself ever giving it away.
After a lifetime of being put through the wringer of the mental health system, I’ve discovered that it’s very important to remember that a lack of success doesn’t imply you haven’t put in enough effort or don’t have the sufficient skills or talent, and the only time failure becomes guaranteed is if you decide to give up. After charting my own (sometimes slow) progress in the pages of Panorama, I’m aware that there’s no guarantee my novel will sell a single copy, let alone be a big success. It could be a total failure. But I can’t let my worries stop me from reaching for my dreams, can I?
Scum of the Universe by Grant J Everett was released on SmashWords in October. You can get it here: