Holding Your Nerve!

A great deal of success, beyond the working your ass off, talent and smattering of luck, is also down to you ‘holding your nerve’. Recognising that moment, that opportunity which could go either way, and making sure you swing the pendulum towards the ‘YES WE WANT YOU’ direction and not the ‘THANK YOU, WE’LL PASS’.

Holding your nerve is a deep breath as you plunge through the ice and hope you don’t drown kind of a moment. It catches your breath and if you play it wrong, you’ll be self-flagellating yourself for years to come, bemoaning that one last chance, that one opportunity you had but messed up.

So, that’s the precarious limbo I find myself in now, trying to swing that pendulum my way.

Shortly after my last post about possibly getting an agent, or at least having an agent interested in me, I hit an unforeseen road block in the shape of posh celebrity funny woman, Miranda Hart!

Yes, the same Miranda Hart that used to have the TV show on BBC 1 called ‘Miranda’ and who, apart from being posh and famous, is also fabulously rich.

Well, like a slew of other celebrities, Miranda Hart has decided to go into the realms of fiction, specifically children’s fiction, after all to write a children’s book is the easiest thing isn’t it? That’s what Madonna did and David Walliams does? Sigh.

Now, normally this wouldn’t elicit much of a response from me, beyond the usual groan that once again here is a celebrity that had never written a book before they were famous and who, now they are a well known name, decide to capitalise on that fame and invade the bookshelves of our local library and bookshop (often at the expense of full time writers who depend on writing as their sole income and who don’t have the celebrity lifestyle, bling, fame, money etc., and do not have the cache of having an instantly recognisable name).

I don’t mean to sound bitter, but it does piss me off. The publishing world is tough enough for all writers, especially those like me from a small press or many of my indie author friends, so to have even well established authors squeezed off the shelves by sparkly, shiny celebrities, seems grotesquely unfair and means we have zero chance of getting there ourselves. I don’t have a problem with the endless celebrity cookbooks and autobiographies, but I do have a problem with them invading the fiction shelves with an automatic get out of jail free card – ie. an unfair advantage that no one else has. Even well established authors will not garner the massive publicity, the huge marketing budgets, the momentum, the TV interviews and media coverage that these celebs get, just for being celebs! If they always wanted to write, then why did not one of them write a book before they became famous?

Our library, like many around the country, reflects this trend. So while I’m doing my job I’m seeing Judy Finnegan, Richard Madeley, Fern Britton, Dawn French etc., etc., etc. It’s depressing tbh. Perhaps some of them are good writers, but they have used their celebrity status to get huge publishing deals most authors could only dream of, and remember, they hardly need the money!

Well, on this occasion, this latest celeb to go into fiction has made a huge and direct impact on me personally, in all the worst ways.

A few days after my last post I received a very sweet email from the interested agent giving me a head’s up. It was terrible news.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/miranda-hart-turns-childrens-book-author-499821

The children’s book I wrote back in 2013, when after 16 years of teaching I suddenly lost my job and career through a nasty long term illness which I have for life, and when, at the same time I also left my dreadful ex-publisher and was utterly heartbroken over how they had treated me and ruined my beloved book, it was fair to say that 2013 was an awful pissing year. As such, I not only lost my way that year but I also lost my smile for a long time. It was those events that inspired me to write my children’s book, ‘The Little Girl Who Lost Her Smile’, in the hope of it helping me to find my smile again and start over.

Well, I wrote the book back then and have been slowly and meticulously designing and drawing the 24 illustrations needed for it (for a normal 32 page layout picture book). It was this same book that these agents were interested in.

What happens? Miranda bloody Hart has written a book with an almost identical title and by the sounds of it an almost identical story! So after 4 years of hard work, writing, drawing and polishing this children’s book, in one swoop it’s all gone up in smoke! Thank you Miranda millionaire Hart! To say I’m gutted and annoyed is an understatement! All that work, all those years, for nothing! 😦

I am now left in the precarious position of having to completely rework my story and illustrations for these lovely waiting agents, and yes, the pendulum has severely swung away from my direction towards the ‘Thank you but no’ side. It is up to me to now ‘hold my nerve’ and produce something amazing out of the hat to show them, something that will allay their fears about another very similar book already heading for the shelves. The only advantage I have, is that my book is aimed at a younger audience than Hart’s.

But boy oh boy, talk about bad timing, bad luck and sheer annoyance.

“Fuckity, fuckity, fuck, fuck, FUCK!”

So, here I am, holding my nerve, grasping the nettle and stepping off into the ether and hoping against hope that I’ll be able to still grab onto that fleeting opportunity.

Wish me luck folks and if you do see or know Miranda Hart, give her the middle finger for me please! 😀

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20 thoughts on “Holding Your Nerve!

  1. morgenbailey says:

    Reblogged this on MorgEn Bailey – Creative Writing Guru and commented:
    A bittersweet lesson to us all… (I’m with you, Sophie, as is my mum.) Never been an MMH fan.

    • Ah, thank you sweetie! Yes, it’s just indicative of yet another squeeze on poor authors and let’s face it, we have enough obstacles as it is. If this worrying trend of celebrity fiction continues, I also fear it will lead to a dumbing down of fiction and a general undermining of literature as an art form. Celebrity culture run amok! 😦 Thanks though honey, really hoping I can turn things around. 😉 xxx

  2. Just one comment – OH BUGGER – that is so unfair! OK life isn’t fair but that is a kick in the crotch too far

    • Ah, thank you Ailsa, yes, a kick in the nuts just about sums it up. I’ll work my ass off on re-working it to sub to those agents, but my gut tells me the opportunity has passed. :/ Thanks hon.

  3. Micki Peluso says:

    Well put and I can identify. Now Amazon KENP is selling our pages rather than who books so we get screwed over again.

  4. sjhigbee says:

    Oh nooo… With you all the way! I, too, feel more than a tad fed up with celebrities crashing into the book world with a following and marketing budget even best-selling authors with a slew of successful books behind them can only dream of. And this is REALLY bad timing! BUT – I think your article title is spot on. You are aiming this at a younger market and those exquisite drawings are an utter delight. AND that clever agent who is interested will – like me – have spotted a major gap in the market. What happens to heartbroken children whose parents have separated? Where are the books that acknowledge they, too, are in pain? Once you get to chapter books, there are the likes of Jacqueline Wilson – but before then? It’s difficult to track down fiction where youngsters are suffering to the point they stop wanting to smile… And children DO lose their smile when their lives are ripped apart. So please persevere, Sophie, I would have LOVED a book like this when my own children were hurting so badly…

    • Ah, thank you Sarah. It’s a bugger isn’t it? And like you said, if best selling major authors are being squeezed out by celebs, where the hell does that leave us? Thank you honey. Yes, I’d like to see more picture books dealing with issues, there are few out there. xxx

      • sjhigbee says:

        Yes, but they tend to deal with specific problems rather than general unhappiness. And there is a real pressure on small children to be happy…

      • You’re right. At some point I’d like to do a series of stories for young children that address some of the emotions and problems/unhappiness they feel. Tbh though, this specific story wasn’t dealing with any issues or general unhappiness though, the lost smile isn’t what you think it is, that was my twist on the story. 🙂

      • sjhigbee says:

        Ah! That’s fair enough…

      • I remember one picture book I read once about bereavement, called ‘Badger’s Parting Gifts’, I had to read that to my class after Izzy, one of the girl’s in my class, had her father die over the Christmas holidays. It was awful. Poor girl. 😦 It’s a lovely sweet book, but while I was reading it trying to keep a calm level voice and not upset the children, my boss was sitting at the back of the room blubbing. I nearly lost it. 😦

      • sjhigbee says:

        I’m not surprised – and huge respect that you kept it together! It is so very difficult when something like that happens to a child…

      • I know, and such a lovely family too, he was a great dad – fighting cancer, dear dear and to pass over the Christmas holidays must have been so tough. The little girl in question, less than 6 months later, developed type 1 diabetes, at the age of 6! 😦 I think it must have been a reaction to the stress and loss. 😦 But what a brave little girl, having to use an epi pen to administer her daily insulin. ❤

      • sjhigbee says:

        Oh yes. I’m sure many major/chronic illnesses are a reaction to major stress and upset.

      • Definitely, especially the auto-immune ones. :/

  5. So sorry, Sophie. I don’t know Miranda or her motives, but here in the US, we’ve got plenty of celebs, who though they already have it all, are always wanting more. It’s so easy to be a bestselling author when you’ve got agents practically begging you to write a book. They do the talk show circuit, effortlessly marketing their new books, while most authors (even those traditionally published) can’t even get a mention in their local paper. So many hardworking authors who have spent years learning their craft find themselves pushed off the bookshelf time and again.

    Hopefully with a few tweaks to the story and title, you will be able to use the basic premise of the tale as well as most of your enchanting illustrations.

    • Ah, thank you Tricia. Sad to hear the US has the same celeb culture overkill infecting your fiction shelves. It’s ridiculous and in some cases a matter of sheer greed. If a celeb finds that their movie, TV etc., career is waning, they write a book and get back on the celeb bandwagon. And you’re spot on, even the biggest best selling authors can’t get half of the publicity, marketing and attention for their latest tome that celebs get automatically. When established authors start getting pushed off the bookshelves, it’s a worrying time for all of us! 😦

      • It seems like every reality star or politician gets a book deal and all the free publicity they could ever ask for. The few bookstores that remain only have so much room on their shelves. Who do you think gets a premium spot? The unknown author or the washed up celebrity trying to make a comeback? Like you said, I’m fine with celeb memoirs and that sort of thing. But why must they delve into fiction when it’s already such an oversaturated market? I wonder if it’s even their idea to publish a book or if it’s a greedy agent or publisher pushing them into it. How long will it be before publishers only publish books by established celebrities? It is definitely a worrying time for writers.

      • Absolutely! Perfectly said honey and yes and very worrying trend for all of us. 😦 xxxx

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