self-published to self-validation: the cardiganed chicken who could

Get with the program, Gertie. You have a book to get out to the world. What will you do with it?

If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you may know that I’ve written a novel called The Here and There. What you don’t know is that, in haste, I sent this book out to publishers in its first draft. Yikes, you say. Well, I see your yikes and I raise you double yikes, with a twist of lemon, right into a paper cut.

I naively sent my little book out, unprepared, into the big bad world of publishers.

I kissed it goodbye and eagerly awaited its return: hopeful – nay – assured it would woo a publisher with its feisty wit. As the months passed, and acceptance windows closed, I awoke to the realisation that my little book had sunk and not swum – rejected by a silent slew of no’s.  

‘Well, don’t let that stop you,’ friends and family would say.

‘Didn’t JK Rowling get 40 rejections or something?’ No lads and ladies. It was 12.

I am coming in a hot second with eight. Having exhausted all the publishers I can find that accept unsolicited manuscripts, I’ve run out of options.

Well, at least I am in good company.

Publishers – am I right? But really…

The Tiger of Ryōkoku,” from the series True Scenes by Utagawa Hirokage (Japanese, active 1860s) (CC0 1.0)

Theodor Seuss Geisel, author and illustrator of Dr Seuss books, was rejected twenty-seven times before he was published. He wrote, ‘if I’d been going down the other side of Madison Avenue, [the day he ran into his old friend and soon-to-be-publisher] I’d be in the dry-cleaning business today.’

Sylvia Plath highlighted her interior design skills when she wrote that ‘my collection of rejection slips would wallpaper several rooms’ (Plath 2017, p. 420).

A rejected writer is not a bad writer. A rejected writer is about as common as a chicken shaped chicken, chickening in Chicken Town.

So, what to do now. I have a story to tell and perhaps, someone somewhere may want to read it. Thinking about that makes me smile.

‘Why don’t you self-publish?’ a fellow writer’s group companion quipped.

‘We’ve all done it.’

Yikes. There it is – that term: self-publish. Why hadn’t I done that? Well, because I am a needy, often self-deprecating, chicken…I mean writer. Validation is my manna (more like fairy bread). I was looking for someone to tell me I am a good, little writer. For only then will it be true.

As I was multi-tasking in the kitchen one day, lamenting the future of my book inside the cutlery drawer, out of nowhere popped into my head:  if Sylvia coulda – she woulda.  With that, I was slapped into reality. I think any Sylvia Plath fan would agree. As a prolific writer of all kinds from an early age, if Sylvia Plath had the tools back then to self-publish, I believe she would have without hesitation. Would that have made her a lesser writer? Not in my opinion. If anything, it would have made her a less censored one.

So why can’t I apply the same logic to me?

Self-publishing means I can send anything out into the world in any way that I want. I could publish my book, chapter by chapter on this blog. I could record myself reading it and upload it on to YouTube. I could record myself reading it while getting my feet massaged and lure in readers with foot fetishes (it’s not that kind of book).

But there is always the risk that my symphony of words will sit listless on an e-bookshelf somewhere gathering e-dust. Thinking of Sylvia has helped me Windex that thought away. There has been many a sloppy book that’s been published, and some no doubt amazing ones that haven’t.

What was my goal when I set out to write The Here and There? It was to capture a feeling. It was to create content that allowed people to dream and to feel good.

If my little book makes someone, somewhere smile, entertains them – then I’ve ticked my boxes.

For someone who so hastily sent the book to publishers, I am now fretting that it isn’t ready, that one more read should do it, one more tweak should nail it.

And maybe it would.

You can decide for yourself – that is, if you choose to read it. And you will have that option soon enough.

I will let you all know on this little blog when it’s out.

My little book: The Here and There.  

featured image:

Chicken by Liz West (CC BY 2.0) modified by Gertie P using PhotoMosh


Plath, S. 2017, Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume I: 1940–1956, Faber & Faber London.

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