Who Doesn't Really Love You, Baby? - A Writer's Rant For The New Year

Loving and liking.
As most aspiring novelists will know, the rejection letter from a publisher or agent will often include the statement 'I liked your book, but I didn't fall in love with it.'

It happened to me more times than I can remember before I found my present publisher, Saraband, whom, I have to say, I do kind of love or at least like very much. No other publisher in my entire career - and I've been writing for a very long time - has been quite so proactive or willing to treat me as though we were professional partners in some mutual enterprise.

Rejection letters, mostly from men.
I often wish I'd kept all my rejection letters, including the one from the elderly male agent who not only didn't 'fall in love with' my book but went on to tell me it was a 'library novel fit only for housewives.' But at least he was honest about his feelings. And while I'm on the subject, is it only women, young, old and everything in between, who have their wrists routinely slapped by older men in a professional capacity? But I digress.

Falling in love is a kind of madness.
I don't know when this loving/liking thing started to be used, but let's come clean here. It's a way of letting people down gently. If you look up 'falling in love' in the OED it will tell you that it means 'A strong feeling of affection and sexual attraction for somebody.' People very seldom fall in love with novels or plays or collections of poems. They fall in love with each other. And sometimes with their dogs or cats. Since words are my business, I should also point out that there is a big distinction between falling in love and loving. Falling in love is a kind of madness. Love persists through thick and thin. As does friendship.

Mind you, there are exceptions!
I'm willing to admit that I've been in love with - and loved - Wuthering Heights since the age of about twelve when I first read it, but there are exceptions to every rule. Some books are special.

All the same, we're grown-ups, and publishing is a difficult business. We need all the friends we can get. I like my current publisher very much indeed and trust her and would hope that even if she wasn't publishing me, we could be friends. I think she's talented, efficient and immensely hard working. One of the good guys. I don't have an agent at the moment. If I had one, I would expect him or her to be one of the good guys too.

But I'm not at all sure that I want a publisher to fall in love with my novels. Apart from anything else, they are going to have to do a whole lot of loving if they fall in love with every single book they publish. Literary promiscuity? Not sure about that one.

Partnerships are the key.
On the other hand, I want them to like the work very much indeed, perhaps even to love it, to be on the same wavelength as me, to appreciate the hard work and - as my publisher does - to make a brilliant job of the actual physical book and its publication. I want them to be realistic with me as well and to do their best for me, if I try hard to do my best for them. It's a partnership, and there's a whole lot of mutual respect going on, but it's not a love affair, because love affairs, in my experience, tend to cloud your judgement.   

Not only is love blind, but you can fall out of it as swiftly as you fall in. And that kind of rejection is probably the worst rejection of all.







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