The ones who actually read my submissions had more or less the same response: ‘we like your writing but it’s not commercial‘. Of course, I took this personally initially. I read books by authors with agents. Some of them have been utter crap. But – and here’s a spoiler for ya – those crap books have been commercially successful. You can’t criticise agents for wanting to make money. That’s why they exist. They have families and hobbies to finance too, just like us. The takeaway from this sprawling paragraph is this: don’t take rejection personally. I no longer do.
(A slightly dispiriting side-note for you non-women: “women read women” is an actual comment by a real agent, the sub-text being ‘men need not bother submitting’ – a commercial reality missing from the submissions guidelines pages.)
Which brings us to self-publishing. On the one hand, it’s a truly marvellous way for unrepresented authors to bring their masterpieces to the attention of literally some people. On the other hand, a cynic might suggest it is a conduit for a torrent of otherwise unpublishable dross. I will suggest both of these positions are valid. That’s why I’m going to give it another rattle.
Read the mildly illuminating progress reports: