Writing a book page 44 - the end of the beginning

Since part 43 of this series, I have heard back from all of the agents to whom I submitted my finished manuscript. All of them have rejected the novel. As things stand, my progress with Drinking History is at an end.

I got close. Two agents requested the full manuscript, and one of them started a dialogue with me. Her main reservation was that selling a novel about wine (not just to the public, but to publishers and booksellers) was ultimately just too hard. It is no surprise to me that wine is a highly niche interest, so I can’t disagree with her point. My response would be that several novels about wine have been published in the past, but ultimately the commercial realities are that it was too much of a long shot.

When she finally rejected the manuscript I was absolutely gutted. After five years of work, I was faced with abandoning my first novel. Self-publishing was never something I wanted to pursue (besides, 13 publishing professionals have told me that my book isn’t commercially viable, and I believe them) and there is no point in rewriting the book or submitting to other agents. Instead, I must admit it: my book will not be published.

However, all is not lost. The agent I was in touch with said ‘I really do think you are a talented writer, and if you don’t find representation elsewhere, please do query me again with any new projects.’ Several other agents also said my writing was good (although some of them may have been stock replies) and that has given me enough encouragement not to give up completely.

What I need to do is write another novel - one which is much more commercially viable, and therefore nothing to do with wine. I’ve got two ideas in development and my intention is to write one within a year so that I can re-submit. That way, if nothing comes of it, I will have not spent five more years working on something to no avail; and furthermore, my new life in Singapore currently allows me to devote more time to a second novel.

My first book took me five years to write and the best outcomes were that I learned how to write, how to submit and found out what agents are looking for. If I can capitalise on that, it won’t have been wasted time.