Articles and reviews

WRITER’S MISERIES AND NIGHTMARES: BOOK PUBLISHING By John Chizoba Vincent

Written by Editor


Lord of the Flies by Williams Golding was once rejected 20 times before it was published, the Legendary: John Le Carre’s book; The Spy Who Came In From The Cold was rejected because the publishing house said his book “Hasn’t got any future”. Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchel was rejected 38 times by publishers before it was finally published. Sanctuary by William Faulkner was called “Unpublishable” but later was published by Signet Books.

 Gertrude Stein submitted poems for 22 years having one published. Anne Frank the Author of The Diary Of A Young Girl was rejected 15 times before it was published. Beatrix Potter had to do her own publishing of The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself after many rejections from publishers. What of Carrie by Stephen King which was rejected 30 times before it was published? What about Louisa May Alcott, the Author of Little Women whom Publishers told to stick to teaching? What of Marcel Proust who had to pay for his own publication after much rejection of his book “Remembering of Things Past”? I hope we won’t forget Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig that was rejected 121times before it was published? What of E.E Cumming’s No Thanks? What of Rudyard Kipling who was told he didn’t know how to use the English Language properly? 

Furthermore, J.K. Rowling’s book “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was rejected 12 times by publishers. Dubliners by James Joyce was rejected 22 times before it was published. Agatha Christie’s book ‘And Then there were none’ had to wait for years before it was published. Dune by Frank Herbert was rejected 23 times by publishers before it was finally published and George Orwell’s book Animal Farm was rejected. They told him: “There is no market for animal stories in the USA”. I wish you know what that means to you as a writer. It will definitely break you and leave you hopeless but the question is: will you give up as a writer because of what they say about your work?  

In all these, we can not fault the publishers or blame them in any way because they know the market too well and they are also looking for their own market and how to sell the book when it is published.    

Book publishing is one of those things writers find very difficult in their career. It is not really easy to become a published Author now we no longer have the formal traditional publishing outfit. These days, a writer has to be financially buoyant to be a published Author. Once he is not financially buoyant, he finds it difficult to publish his work. And sometimes, some of these publishing outfits don’t really have a strong market or channels through which an author can sell his book after publication. Hence, the writer or the author is left at the mercy of himself. He sells the book himself, he does the advertisement of his book and promotes it himself. Sometimes he ends up not meeting up with the money he used to publish his book and he would end up giving those books away freely. This is one of the reasons why most writers you see out there not published; not that they don’t have it in mind to publish but the finance is not there to back them up. And some of them that are published independently don’t have the market to sell their books. It is frustrating after spending a huge sum of money as a writer to publish a book and you end up giving it out freely because if you don’t, no one will buy it especially when you don’t have the name out there. 

The first man I met in 2011 to help me publish my book in Shomolu area of Lagos told me that he could have loved to invest his money in my book but he was afraid that the book would end up not selling. Then I wanted to be published by all means. I was in so many publishing houses in Lagos. I was in Lantern House, I was in Oceanic Books, I was in Evans in Jericho, Ibadan. I went to University Press, Macmillan, Learn rates, Apex Books, Start-Right Books and so many other publishing houses here in Lagos and outside Lagos just to make sure one of my books was published but it did not happen. I became more frustrated and devastated. The more I walked around Lagos looking for a publisher, the more experience I get from one editor to the other. The more terms and conditions I had to learn from them. It was fun but miserable. Then I would go to the market, buy books, those I like and those I don’t like, those I would read and those I would not; they were books written by Nigerians. I would call their lines after writing them down on my jolter. We would fix an appointment and later I would be disappointed by them.

It was a horrible experience but I didn’t give up because what I was looking at was also looking at me eyeball to eyeball. I knew I could be published one day. I could remember one editor who threw my manuscript on my face. He said I was disturbing his peace. I submitted the manuscript to him after I called him and he said I should come to Shalom Street in Shomolu/Palmgroove, Lagos, to meet him. As I got there, he said I should submit the manuscript and come back in a month time after he must have finished reading it. I called him after two months and he said he was not in Lagos that I should call back in three days’ time and that was exactly what I did. I called and called and called but he wasn’t picking until the next day when I called him again, he said I should come to his office and I went there. I can’t really tell who annoyed him that morning, he was barking at everybody in his office, from the secretary to his graphic Designer and Assistant Editor, when I entered. Next thing I saw was that he lifted my manuscript and hurled it on my face and walked me out of his office. 

I swallowed hard, and made my way to the bus stop and board a bus to my house. That night I dreamed about the man also. I had a dream that he chased me out of his office again. But in that dream, I fought him. I told myself that he can’t frustrate me physically and still keep me in a miserable state spiritually. 

No writer finds it easy whenever he or she wants to publish a book especially these days even then. Things have changed and you as a writer need to buckle up and know how to convince wherever or whosoever you want to submit your book to. Don’t get frustrated by the daily rejections from publishers. Keep trying, keep writing. If it is possible, push it with your money and wait for the turn-up. Don’t just relax and wait for manner from above. Writing is not a child’s play there are many miseries and horrible nightmares involved. 

About the author

Editor

Bada Yusuf Amoo holds B.A in Literature in English from Obafemi Awolowo University, he is the publisher of thespeakingheart.com. He started the website in 2015, he has published both his works and other budding writers and poets on the website. He is a public commentators and his articles are on different websites.