Once more with feeling.

I have made the second submission.

Two pinfalls or a submission!  Come out swinging.  I want a nice clean fight and you can take the horseshoe out of your glove, straightaway.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAnd box!

This time it is to a publisher, who appeared in a search engine as accepting online submissions for original novels.  I wonder if I might be better with an agent and I did have quite a list to choose from.  However, having spent an evening perusing the options, when I logged back on to the computer I found that, of all the sites I had visited to have a look, this publisher’s site was the one the computer had left visible on the desk top.  There was a song in the Sixties about casting your fate to the wind, which may or may not have been inspired by constantly eating beans, who can say, but anyway, I did.

Not constantly eat beans. No, submit.

They did say that they were offering two types of contract.  The normal one and what they are calling a partner contract, where you share the costs of publication.  This is what used to be called vanity publishing which no writer worth their salt should touch with a bargepole.   There were publishers who specialised in it in days gone by and probably currently, if you were to look for them.  How this works is you send them your manuscript, they say it’s wonderful and tell you how much, you pay and some months later several boxes of books turn up for you to sell.  This is the essence of vanity publishing.

Nevertheless, this publisher did mention normal contracts in which a publisher takes a chance on a writer writing something good enough to make money for both of them.  That is the publisher’s job.  They earn by being able to pick out the authors who will sell from those who will not.  They have to be well read, or employ people who are, and be able to slog their way through all the submissions to find the needle in the haystack.  I would hate that.  I have an old friend, a great reader, who is a publisher’s reader and gets paid by the number of manuscripts she can get through.  Having spent so many years teaching, which involved reading and marking essays, I don’t think I could do that.  For the right person it’s the working from home dream job, for the wrong person it’s a nightmare.

Life is full of talent shows.  Do you watch those on television?  I have never done so, mostly because I just want everyone to succeed.  The thought that there are ‘celebrities’ happy to make a living by being nasty to hopeful people, is anathema to me.  The foundation of all this unnatural selection, sadly, is money.  One of the reasons I was so readily asked to the party as a magazine columnist was the ability my funny column had to sell magazines.  I made thousands upon thousands of pounds for the publishers at twenty pounds a page for me.  When I got sufficiently famous I went on strike and managed to up it to twenty-five pounds a page for all the writers, which was still peanuts compared to what the publishers were raking in.

It takes a lot of people to make a magazine. There are the people at the paper mills, taking trees, waste paper and rags and turning them into paper, figuring in the cost of the rag collectors, tree fellers, tree planters and others into the selling price of the huge roll of paper their machines turn out.  The huge roll of paper goes to the printers who have the printing machines, ink and these days, the computers, to figure into their costs.  I was working in a language college in the Seventies just as newspapers were changing from typeface to digital.  I used to take parties of students to the local newspaper at the time that journalists were cutting out typed columns with scissors and gluing them next to a monochrome photograph to make a page to be photographed in one room. In the next, on the other side of a glass screen, journalists were carefully ‘typing’  stories into a new fangled device called a computer, which would organise the words on to a page that only existed in the electronic brain of the computer until it was sent to the press.

By the time I was writing for the magazine it was all digital.  The people who got paid plenty were those who could work the powerful new computer programme that arranged the words and pictures to make a page.  Once the pages had been composed they could be sent to a printing press wherever in the world the costs were cheapest.  By this stage there were still a lot of office workers on the payroll.  One newspaper has become famous for failing to employ enough proof readers. Elsewhere, despite automatic spell checkers, they are still highly paid individuals because ‘making sure we are not printing rubbish’ is a continuing concern of all publishers.

Which is, of course, where the readers make their appearance.  If enough of them are engaged by the story and the way of telling it, it will get passed up to more important people who will have meetings about it and finally someone quite senior will decide if they are all going to have a flutter on having picked a winner.

The author cannot expect to make much at first, mostly because they are paying so many people, from the person who plants the pine seed in the nursery to the boy who makes the tea in the print works.  Eventually, if everyone in the food chain keeps their end up, especially the writer, the writer’s name alone will be enough to invoke the god of money who will smile upon all the toilers at the word face.

I did it once before.  Can I do it again?


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