The Frustration Game

To succeed as a writer requires an ability to cope with a lot of frustration, but Sir Terry Pratchett can help with that.

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On the wall of my office is a letter from the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett, whose Discworld novels sold in excess of 70 million copies worldwide. I had been having a really bad time and was wallowing in self-pity, crushed by the hundreds of rejection letters I’d received. Terry’s reply to this was very simple and straightforward:

‘No excuse! How much of a successful market for funny fantasy was there when I wrote ‘The Colour of Magic’? None. It’s hard to be successful…but the ones with the Duracell batteries run longer.’

Courtesy of David Grimstone

Many years after this, I would be featured in an international anthology with Terry and I’d have my own headlining deal… but at the time this letter was exactly what I needed to shake myself from my pitiful reverie in order to keep submitting my work.

The theme of this essay is frustration… and it’s no laughing matter. To make it as a successful writer, you have to be prepared for a battle: the old 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration doesn’t quite hold true. The 99% is often frustration, sending out wave after wave of manuscripts, stories and novels like some rankled old general mustering troops for a distant battle it regularly feels like you have no hope of winning.

The thing is, you really do have to persevere. In order to establish your name and build your reputation, those rejections are going to be as important to you as the acceptances. Publishing is a business of opinions and expecting the first editor you approach to love your novel is like walking into a busy nightclub in a new city and expecting the first person you see to fall head over heels in love with you. It’s not simply unrealistic: it’s a pipe dream.

So how do you turn your own pipe dream into a strong and positive reality?

Well… you do it by reducing the chances of failure. You don’t approach the first random person in a new publishing house: you research the market, you become familiar with the company you’re approaching and you make yourself aware of the last few purchases made by an editor you decide to target. Your first book pitch should always be sent under your ‘alpha game’ battle plan: to the right person at the right desk in the right company.

If you’re planning to stay for the long haul and make it in such a competitive industry, you’re going to need to get acquainted with research, especially if your work is niche or known for being particularly difficult to sell.

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David Grimstone (David Lee Stone) from Ramsgate is a bestselling author of series fiction for Disney USA, Penguin USA and Hodder UK.

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